When we arrived and walked through the old town in search of a guesthouse, we were amazed by the amount of Chinese tourists. They were everywhere; the narrow streets were so full that at times you could only shuffle ahead - no cars are allowed into the old city. Nevertheless, the town quickly won our hearts, also because the tourist area is just a small, concentrated part of the much bigger old town of Lijiang. Dayan, as the old town is correctly called, has lots of charm left: narrow cobblestone streets, canals, wooden and stone bridges, willows, courtyards, small squares, stone city gates... Moreover, the Naxi people are still very present and still seem in charge of the old town. Still, it was absolutely amazing to see the vibrant city which must have one of the highest concentrations of hotels, restaurants, and souvenir shops in a confined space of the world.
Historically, the Naxi started settling in this area around 800 years ago; their capital was Baisha which now is not more than a small town. Lijiang prospered as a crossroads city for trade routes in this part of Asia, with a convenient location right east of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. In fact, the Naxi are related to the Tibetans; in their authentic dongba script, you can find references to typical Tibetan themes. As for trade, tea found its way west, while Tibetan horses were traded and taken east from Lijiang: the famous Tea-Horse Road. It became part of the Silk Road which further strengthened its position.
Apart from wandering the alleys and streets of the old town of Lijiang, it is a good idea to go up the Lion Hill and climb the Wan Gou Lou Pagoda for good views of the old town as well as Jade Dragon Snow mountain to the north. While the some of the streets fill up during the day, waking up early to catch the first rays of sunlight on the cobblestone streets certainly is worth the while. We spent quite some time watching the traditionally dressed Naxi women walking down the old streets on which the early morning light was casting long shadows, while delicate rays of sunlight seemed to fall off the roofs of the houses, onto the pavement.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Lijiang Old Town (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Lijiang Old Town. Read more about this site.