Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang Old Town
A Bird's View of the Old Town
 Pictures  Video
The Old Town of Lijiang, a well-preserved old city of ethnic minorities with brilliant culture, is a central town of the Lijiang Autonomous County of the Naxi Ethnic Minority in Yunnan Province. Located on the plateau which is 2,400 meters (7,874 feet) above the sea level and embraced by the tree-covered Lion Mountain in the west, Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north, vast fertile fields in the southeast and crystal clear water running through, the old town looks like a big jade ink slab, therefore got the alias the Town of Big Ink Slab (Dayanzhen).

Lijiang Old Town which occupies an area of three point eight square kilometers (912 acres) was firstly built in the late Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) and the early Yuan Dynasty (1271 - 1368) and has a history of more than 800 years. Since Kubla Khan who is the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty set his reign here, Lijiang was on a fast developmental way and became the political, cultural, and educational center in this area, playing a very important role in the trading activities among Yunnan, China hinterland, Tibet, India and many other Asian countries. Till now, when walking on the streets of the Lijiang Old Town, one can feel the prosperity and flourish from the shops with fancy and superb collections of handicrafts.

The Lijiang Old Town is built along the lie of mountains and the flow of rivers, providing a very precious sample of the research on the old-time architecture. The unique geographical location, historical background and multiracial inhabitants make it one of the most special.
Narrow Lanes
Narrow Lanes
Lijiang Old Town, Yunnan
Lijiang Old Town, Yunnan

The Lijiang Old Town is the only old city built without a city wall and there is an interesting story telling the reason. Lijiang had been under the reign of the hereditary Mu family for more than 500 years. If the Chinese character 'Mu' (represents the governor of Lijiang) is put into a frame (represents the city wall), you have the character 'Kun' which means 'siege' or 'predicament'. This would mean that the governing Mu family and their descendants would always be trapped like a rat in a hole. Because of this symbolism, the Lijiang Old Town was never given a city wall.

As a result of the combination of the multinational culture and the progress of Naxi ethnic minority, the buildings here incorporate the best parts of the architectural traits of Han, Bai, and Tibet into a unique Naxi style. The layout of the town is free-style and flexible, the houses are close and diverse, and the lanes are narrow and meandering. Naxi people pay much attention to the decoration, the commodious and applied houses are mostly timber and tile structure compound with a garden, each has engraved vivid figures of people and animals on doors and windows, beautiful flowers and trees in the garden.Living in such a beautiful and comfortable environment is a real pleasant thing.
Lijiang locals
Local Naxi People
Mu Family Residence
Mu Family Residence

The old Town of Lijiang is a city depends on water for existence and water is just like its blood. Black Dragon Pool (Heilongtan) is its main water source and subdivides into many streams which can reach every family and every street there. Due to the reticular aqueducts, willow trees grow everywhere and there are almost 350 varied and inimitable bridges in the little town, some of which were built in the Ming (1368 - 1911) and Qing (1644 - 1911) Dynasties. The usage of the water created by the local people is very scientific. They build three mouths every well from the upriver to the downriver. The water in the first mouth is for edibility, the second one is for cleaning of the vegetables and fruits, and the last one is used to wash the clothes. The water not only meets the need of the dweller, but also gives the town a beauty of gentle. The Lijiang Old Townreputed as the 'Oriental Venice' and 'Suzhou in Highland', but it is much, much more than this. Once you have visited this Old Town, it will capture your heart for the rest of your life.

The center of Lijiang Old Town is the Square Street (Sifangjie). Four main streets radiate from Square Street and extend to the four different directions. Countless lanes extending in all directions form a network and connect every corner of the town. Streets are paved by the local bluestones which are neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season. The massive and fine-grained stones add a sense of antiquity and mystery. The sluice at the center is opened late in the night and the resulting current of water flushes and washes all the streets to keep the town clean. This practical use of water is part of the daily life of the residents in Lijang Old Town.
Cycle in Lijiang
Cycle in in Old Twon
Lijiang Square Street
Shops along the Square Street

On December 3rd, 1997, the Old Town of Lijiang was put in the list of the World's Relics by the World Cultural Heritage Commission of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization). The charming Old Town is now a famous tourist attraction for its traditional ethnic culture and customs, inimitable buildings and the wonderful natural views.

Maintenance Fare of Lijiang Old Town

For visitors in a tour group organized by travel agencies, they need to pay CNY 50 as the maintenance fare; for individual visitors, some hotels inside may charge the fare. They receive a receipt once they pay, which is checked when going to some attractions in Lijiang like Jade Spring Park and Baisha Mural. The fare can also be paid when it's checked on site.

How to get to Lijiang Old Town

From Kunming

By Bus:
Departure Time Ticket Price Duration
West Bus Station 09:30 - 21:00 CNY 184 / CNY 202 / CNY 217 8 hours

By Train: Kunming Train Schedule
Take bullet trains from Kunming Railway Station. It takes around 3 hours to Lijiang Railway Station. Then change bus no. 18 to Dayan Middle School Station. Walk northeast around 900 meters to arrive at South Gate of this old town. If by taxi from the railway station, it costs around CNY 40.

By Air: Kunming Flight Schedule
Take plane from Changshui Airport. It takes around 40mins. Upon arrival, visitors can take airport shuttle bus to reach Lantian Hotel in the downtown area. Bus fare is around CNY 20. It takes around 30 minutes. Then they can walk around 1 kilometer (1,100 yards) to reach there. Or they can take bus no. 27 and get off at Zhongyi Guangchang. If taking a taxi from Lijiang Airport, taxi fare should be around CNY 80 to 100.

See also: How to Travel between Kunming and Lijiang

From Dali

By Bus:
Take bus from Tourist Bus Station near the South Gate of Dali Ancient Town, Dali North Bus Station or Dali Express Bus Station to Lijiang Bus Station in the Lijiang Old Town.

By Train:
Take fast trains from Dali Railway Station. Train ticket prices are CNY 34 for a hard seat, CNY 69.5 for a hard sleeper and CNY 104. 5 for a soft sleeper. It takes around 1.5 to 2.5 hours. After arriving, use local public bus to reach the old town.

 Further Reading:
Top 10 Things to Do in Lijiang

Top 10 Things to Do in Yunnan

Top 10 Ancient Cities in China

In-depth Guide to Top 10 Yunnan Destinations

10 Famous Places in China with Rising Popularity over the Web

- Last updated on Apr. 13, 2021 -
Questions & Answers on Lijiang Old Town
Asked by Shaun Lim from MALAYSIA | Dec. 20, 2019 05:05Reply
I have planned a one week trip with my sister to kunming and lijiang.
I have settled most accommodations, however i cant estimate how much budget is expected for souvenirs and food expenses because i cant really find any approximations online. What is a healthy amount to bring so that i can have a good time here?
Answers (1)
Answered by Debbie from SINGAPORE | Dec. 23, 2019 16:45

I think CNY2000 to 4000 per person will be good.
Asked by Constance from HONG KONG | May. 05, 2019 23:10Reply
Is there a bullet train from Kunming Railway Station South to Lijiang?
I will be taking a high speed training from Shenzhen to Kunming Railway Station South. Will there be a connecting training from Kunming Railway Station South or I have to go to Kunming Railway Station for the train to LJ?
Answers (1)
Answered by Emma from USA | May. 08, 2019 01:34

You have to take Metro Line 1 from Kunming South to the Kunming Railway Station since there is no bullet train departing from KM South to LJ.
Asked by Laowai from CHINA | Mar. 10, 2019 22:25Reply
Are there any good recommendations for hotels in lijiang?
Close to the old town, as well as close to the bus station that takes us to Blue Moon Valley/Snow mountain
Answers (1)
Answered by Harper from UNITED KINGDOM | Mar. 14, 2019 23:20

Oh, I see. Xinyi Hotel is recommended. It costs CNY150 to 200 per night. It provides clean environment and warm service. The address is No.35, Jixiang Shangcun, Ancient Town Area.
Hope helpful!
Asked by Pornchan from THAILAND | Feb. 22, 2019 06:06Reply
็From Lijiang Railway station, how can I go to ancient town?
I plan to travel by train from Kunming and I know that the ancient town is somewhat far away. Is there any bus from the LJ Railway station to the ancient town?
Answers (4)
Answered by Connor from USA | Feb. 27, 2019 00:06

You can take bus no.4/18 from the airport to Dayan Middle School first. Then walk north around 900 meters to find the ancient town. Or just take a taxi from the railway station. In general, the cab fare is CNY40 to 50.
Answered by pornchan from THAILAND | Feb. 27, 2019 22:42

Thank you very much
Answered by nadjescha from GERMANY | Mar. 08, 2019 04:33

What is the Bus number from the railway station to the city if i don't wanna take a taxi?
Answered by Connor | Mar. 10, 2019 19:36

Well, what do you mean the city center? Do you have the exact destination? Then I can find the public bus no. for you.
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