Lijiang, a mystical and beautiful old town in the northwestern Yunnan Province, lies between the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Jinsha (Gold Sand) River in the center of the Lijiang Valley. Splendid landscapes, the exotic ways of the Naxi ethnic group and the precious Dongba Culture make up the unique city of Lijiang.
It started to take shape 800 years ago and the original name was Dayan because the whole city is shaped like an immense ink-slab. The inhabitants of Lijiang are mainly of Naxi minority. As a result of the combination of the multi-ethnic culture and the progress of the Naxi ethnic minority, the buildings in the town incorporate the best parts of the architectural traits of Han, Bai and Tibet into a unique Naxi style.
Unlike most ancient cities in China, the layout of the town is in picturesque disorder. The center of the town is the Square Street. Four main streets radiate from Square Street and extend to four different directions. Streets are paved with local blue stones which are neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season. Countless lanes extending in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town. Most houses are two-storey compounds with wooden frameworks, brick walls and tile roofs. Naxi people pay much attention to decoration. Each house has vivid figures of people and animals engraved on doors and windows. Beautiful flowers and trees can be seen in every courtyard.
Water is Lijiang’s soul. Once in the city a sense of water is everywhere, which gives the town a gentle beauty. Willow trees grow everywhere and traffic across the river is facilitated by a large number of stone bridges. There are about 350 varied bridges here, some of which were built in the Ming and Qing dynasties. Standing at Square Street, you will be deeply impressed by the charming town and the locals’ quiet life.
Lijiang is very tranquil and breathtakingly exquisite, displaying the charm of oriental civilization. If you are fed up with the monotonous life in the concrete jungle, the best way is to take a trip and Lijiang definitely ranks among the most worthwhile destinations. It is a cool oasis away from the mad rush of commercialization and industrialization. The best way to savor the essence of this town is to settle down for a few days, slow down your steps and immerse yourself in a fairyland on earth. Be awakened by the singing of the birds, then spend a day listening to a Naxi grandpa telling age-old stories while having a cup of coffee at a roadside bard. Or wander off on a stone path, then take a nap under a willow in the warm sunshine. This is the life I have been dreaming about……
At last, make sure to spare enough time to visit the souvenir shops which have a wide selection of handicrafts.