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Lijiang Old Town

Lijiang Old Town, located in the southwest of Yunan Province, is a well-preserved old city of Naxi ethnic minority with brilliant culture. It is 2,400 meters high above the sea level at a plateau and embraced by Lion Mountain in the west, Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north, vast fertile fields in the southeast. These mountains in the northwest shelter the old town from the cold wind.

The Old Town, occupying 3.8 square kilometers was firstly built in the late Song Dynasty and the early Yuan Dynasty and has a history of more than 800 years. Since Kubla Khan, the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty set his reign here, Lijiang became the political, cultural, and educational center in this area, playing a very important role in trade among Yunnan and Tibet. Till now, the shops with fancy and superb collections of handicrafts still give people the idea what the prosperity and flourish of the town was.
The Old Town of Lijiang is the only old one without a city wall among the most famous four old towns in China. The interesting story says: The hereditary Mu family had ruled Lijiang for 500 years. If the Chinese character “Mu” is put into a frame (represents a wall), it comes into being the chatacter “困”,means “siege”. It implies that he governing Mu family would be trapped in a wall. Because of this symbolism, Old Town of Lijiang was never built a city wall.
The old Town of Lijiang depends on water for existence. Black Dragon Pool is the main water source of the town and subdivides into many streams which can reach every family and every street in the town. There are almost 350 varied bridges in the little town, some of which were built in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Local people build three mouths every well from the upriver to the downriver. The water in the first mouth is for edibility. The overflow water flows into the second mouth in a lower position for cleaning vegetables and fruits. The last one is used to wash clothes. The water not only meets the need of the dweller, but also gives the town a beauty of gentle. The town has a reputation as the 'Oriental Venice' and 'Suzhou in Highland'.
Four main streets radiate from the center, 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 and lanes 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 to the Old Town. The sluice at the center of town is opened late in the night and the resulting current of water flushes and washes all the streets to keep the town clean.
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 are attentive to decoration, the commodious 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.
Lijiang has many historical relics. The Old Town of Lijiang is the most complete ancient town in China. Black dragon Pool, Wufeng Building and Lijiang mural paintings are very famous in China. Murals were painted by people of Han, Tibetan and Naxi ethnic groups in the Ming Dynasty. They cover a total area of 139.22 square meters on 55 walls of Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Hall, Dabao Pavilion and other buildings. The largest is 2.07 meters by 4.48 meters and contains 600 figures.

In 1997, the Old Town of Lijiang was put in the list of the World's Relics by the UNESCO.
The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.


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