Facts About The Old Town Of Lijiang: A UNESCO World Heritage Site | Kidadl


Facts About The Old Town Of Lijiang: A UNESCO World Heritage Site

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Lijiang, often called Likiang, is a township city in Yunnan Province, China.

It has an area of 8,193 sq mi (21,219 sq km) and has a population of 1,253,878 people, of which 288,787 reside in the Gucheng District built-up area (metro). Lijiang is well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old Town of Lijiang, which has a variety of historical building types as well as a complicated, old water-supply system.

Lijiang is in the northwestern part of Yunnan, bordering Sichuan. It is located inside the Hengduan Mountains, where the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau meet. It is bounded to the east by Sichuan Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Panzhihua City and to the south by Jianchuan, Heqing, and Binchuan, all of which are part of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.

County of Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture Dayao and Yongren counties are near Lanping County of Nujiang Yi Autonomous Prefecture and Weixi County of Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, to the west and north, respectively. The city oversees the historic cities of Huaping County, Yulong Naxi Autonomous County, Yongsheng County, and Ninglang Yi Autonomous County, which have a total area of 7,954 sq mi (20,600 sq km).

History & Cultural Significance

Lijiang began in the Yuan Dynasty and continued until the 13th year of the Yuan Dynasty (1276), when it established the administrative district, Lijiang Road. The Lijiang people of late Paleolithic sapiens were active here 100,000 years ago. The finding of cave paintings in the Jinsha River Valley, as well as a plethora of new stone tools, bronzes, and ironsmiths, demonstrate that Lijiang is an important center of early human activity in southwest China. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was ruled by local chieftains of the Mu family.

From 658 to 1107 AD, the Baisha Old Town served as the political, commercial, and cultural hub for the local Naxi tribe and other ethnic groups. The Baisha Fresco Dabaoji Palace, which is quite near the Baisha Naxi Hand-made Embroidery Institute, was erected in the Tang Dynasty in 658 AD. The Baisha Old Town was formerly the hub of silk embroidery in southwest China, as well as the most significant stop on the Ancient Southern Silk Road, also known as the Ancient Tea and Horse Road or the Ancient Tea Route.

The Ancient Southern Silk Road began in Burma and traveled via Lijiang, Shangri-La County, Tibet, Iran, the Fertile Crescent, and finally to the Mediterranean Sea.

Lijiang City was founded in 2002, to replace the old Lijiang Naxi Autonomous County.

World Heritage Site

Lijiang's Old Town, encompassing Dayan Old Town, Shuhe Old Town, and Baisha Old Town, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Along with Pingyao Ancient City in Shanxi, Langzhong Ancient Town in Sichuan, and Shexian Ancient Town in Anhui Province, this is one of China's four best-preserved ancient cities.

The ancient streets are the old town's network, the flowing river is its blood, the bars and stores are its temperaments, and the Naxi folk traditions and culture are its soul. You can not only tour the beautiful historical town with hundreds of years of history, but you can also feel the spirit and romantic, soothing beauty of the town outside the city walls.

The architecture throughout the whole town is unique in comparison to the rest of China, since it represents the native Naxi style. Naxi architecture is heavily inspired by a variety of ethnicities, including Han, Bai, and Tibetan. Lijiang houses contain roof tiles constructed of soil and wood or soil and stone. There are two main types; a courtyard surrounded by three sets of apartments and a wall; and a large courtyard surrounded by four sets of apartments and five wells. Lijiang Old Town now has around 6200 homes and 25,000 residents. Naxi ethnicity accounts for around 30% of the population.

The ancient town's focal point is Sifang Square. Sifang Square is surrounded by four square streets; Xinhua Street, Wuyi Street, Guangyi Street, and Qiyi Street. These square streets are tourist spots in themselves. Numerous highways flowing in all directions create a network that connects every part of town. There are around 354 bridges, including wind and rain bridges, stone arch bridges, slab bridges, and plank bridges. These bridges provide a lyrical and exquisite touch to the ancient town.

Approximately 1,000 households lived in Lijiang Old Town during the formative days of the Yuan Dynasty.

Protection & Management

The Old Town of Lijiang, located on the Lijiang plain, at the height of 7874 ft (2,400 m), in China's southwest Yunnan province, is one of the country's few remaining old settlements. It has been properly fitted to the uneven terrain of this major economic and strategic center, preserving a high-quality and original old townscape. The architecture of Lijiang's Old Town is notable for its fusion of features from several civilizations and its ancient water-supply system of tremendous intricacy and inventiveness still operates well today.

The Yulong Snow Mountain to the northwest is the source of the rivers and springs that flood the plain and feed the Black Dragon Pond, from which waterways pour into a network of canals and channels that supply the town. This town is made up of three parts; Dayan Old Town, which was established as a commercial center during the Ming Dynasty (including the Black Dragon Pond); Baisha housing cluster, which was established earlier during the Yuan and Song dynasties; and Shuhe housing clusters, which are located 2.4 mi (4 km) northwest of Dayan Old Town. These communities, nestled in the mountains and surrounded by water, reflect the centuries-long blending of local cultures, folk customs, and traditions. Numerous two-story, tile-roofed, timber-framed dwellings symbolize the Naxi culture and are arranged in rows following the slopes of the hillside, including aspects of Han and Zang architecture and design in the arched gates, screen walls, courtyards, and carved roof beams. Wooden items, such as pottery, musical instruments, flowers, and birds, are intricately carved with household and cultural aspects.

Global Heritage Fund collaborated with Lijiang Ancient Town Management Committee, UNESCO World Heritage Centre Asia Pacific, and Shanghai Tongji University's Urban Planning and Design Institute to complete Lijiang's first Master Conservation and Site Management Plan, in order to authentically restore this historical and architectural masterpiece with its wing-tipped rooflines while supporting living culture and limiting over-tourism. They provided micro-loans and subsidies to native Naxi families through the Lijiang Conservation Trust, their public-private initiative to resuscitate traditional residences and invest in the historic district's infrastructure, allowing them to remain in the historic quarter by aiding them with costly, authentic restorations. Architectural rules imposed rigorous controls on construction, building codes, and signs, while their historic preservation guidebooks illustrated conservation and restoration procedures for residents, contractors, and builders.

Their protection strategy for structures in the Dayan Old Town Core emphasized architectural integrity, while using contemporary technology to consolidate and allow seismic resilience. Over 400 ancient structures were faithfully restored, including more than 250 traditional Naxi dwelling exteriors, whereas over 300 contemporary concrete buildings were demolished. Comprehensive planning correctly rescaled the historic district's cultural tourist economy, reducing the proliferation of handicraft outlets by three-quarters, to roughly 350 enterprises.

Lijiang Ancient Town received the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award of Merit in recognition of these far-reaching social, economic, and conservation efforts, with UNESCO experts hailing this innovative collaboration as 'a significant step forward in public-private effort to protect vernacular heritage'.

Other Miscellaneous Facts

The massive flood of visitors that arrived, following the Ancient Town of Lijiang's placement on the UNESCO World Heritage List, had significant consequences.

Due to growing housing and food prices, the majority of the Nakhi residents of the ancient town have left, only to be replaced by tourist enterprises that pay the Nakhi owners exorbitant fees.

When the Chinese character 'Mu', which represents the governor of Lijiang, is placed in a frame symbolizing a city wall, the character 'Kun', which means 'siege' or 'predicament', is formed. This would imply that the ruling Mu family and their offspring would be confined forever. Old Town Lijiang was never awarded a city wall as a result of this symbolism.

The Torch Festival, also known as the Fire Festival, is one of the most prominent festivals celebrated by the Yi people of Yunnan Province. Other ethnic groups in the area, such as the Bai, Naxi, Jinuo, and Lahu, also celebrate it. The Torch Festival is famously held on the 24th or 25th day of the sixth lunar month, or August in the Gregorian calendar.

The Lijiang Railway Station is roughly 7 mi (11 km) from Lijiang Ancient Town and it takes about 20 minutes to get there. You can get there via cab, bus 4 or bus 104. The railway station is also close to a variety of other explorable spots in the little town and is a good meeting spot for tourists.

Tourists can also have a tour of the Lugu Lake while visiting Lijiang, as it is an extremely beautiful place.

Lijiang's city center has a moderate subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb) due to its low latitude and high elevation. Winters are temperate, dry, and sunny (>70% potential sunlight), with typical lows barely below freezing in December and January; January is the coldest month, with a 24-hour average temperature of 6.4°C (43.5°F). Spring arrives early and is dry and bright until late May, when the frequency and volume of rainfall increases dramatically and lasts until late September.


How old is Lijiang Old Town?

The ancient town of Lijian has a history dating back over 1,000 years and was formerly a trading hub along the Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail.

Who built the old town of Lijiang?

Lijiang Ancient Town, ruled by the Mu family, was founded in the late Song and early Yuan Dynasties and had a history of more than 800 years. Lijiang Old Town was ruled by the Mu Family, local commanders in Lijiang at the time, from the beginning and throughout the reign of Yongzheng in the Qing Dynasties.

Which province is Lijiang in?

Lijiang is situated in the northwest of Yunnan Province, at an elevation of 7875 ft (2418 m). It is located in an area dominated by the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

What is Old Town of Lijiang famous for?

Lijiang's Old Town (Lijiang Ancient Town) is the city's historical and cultural center and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It retains the architectural style and traditional culture that date back to the city's beginnings as a significant trade center on the Old Tea Horse Caravan Trail a thousand years ago.

Lijiang Old Town is marked by historic cobblestone streets, stone bridges, and flower-adorned water-wheel-driven canals. There are shops, cafés, villages, bars, restaurants, snack stalls, motels, and hostels everywhere. There are also numerous scenic spots, historical and cultural attractions, gorgeous gardens, museums, and other main attractions to explore.

Black Dragon Pool Park, also known as Jade Spring Park, was created in 1737 during the Qing Dynasty. Black Dragon Pool Park, located to the north of Lijiang Old Town and at the foot of Elephant Hill, provides a stunning view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from its white marble bridge. Travelers can witness several spectacular temples, pavilions, and bridges across the pool on a brief visit to the park, including the Moon-Embracing Pavilion, Dragon God Temple, and Five-Phoenix Tower.

Dongba Culture Museum, located at the north end of Black Dragon Pool, is a museum dedicated to the Naxi people's Dongba culture. This museum, which opened in 1984, has around 12,000 Dongba cultural artifacts, such as excavated cultural relics, paintings, calligraphy of all centuries, Dongba scriptures, and religious goods.

What is the significance of the Old Town of Lijiang?

Lijiang's Ancient Town was added to the list of World Heritage Sites in December 1997. Since the 12th century, Lijiang's Old Town has functioned as an important commodities distribution hub for commerce between Sichuan, Yunnan, and Tibet, and it has become where the Silk Road in the south meets the Ancient Tea and Horse Roads.

When and why was the Old Town of Lijiang declared a World Heritage Site?

Lijiang Old Town, also famously known as Dayan Old Town, is a well-preserved historical and scenic spot. Lijiang's Ancient Town, encompassing Dayan Old Town, Shuhe Old Town, and Baisha Old Town, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Along with Langzhong Ancient Town in Sichuan, Shexian Ancient Town in Anhui Province, and Pingyao Ancient City in Shanxi, it is one of China's four best-preserved ancient cities.

<p>With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".</p>

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