Old Town of Dali – Ticket, Opening Hours, Location, and Highlights

dali old town

The Old Town of Dali (大理古城), also known as Yeyu City or Purple City, is situated in the western part of Yunnan Province, China. Its history dates back to the Tang Dynasty, serving as the capital of the ancient kingdoms of Nanzhao and Dali. The present-day Old Town was constructed in the 15th year of the Ming Hongwu era (1382), covering an area of 3 square kilometers. For over 500 years during the Tang and Song Dynasties, Dali Old Town was the political, economic, and cultural center of Yunnan. Within the ancient city, there are 14 key cultural heritage sites at the municipal level, embodying the historical, religious, and ethnic heritage of Dali, making it the core area for tourism.

Dali Old Town is renowned for its relaxed lifestyle and vibrant nightlife. At night, visitors can join locals in gathering around Foreigner Street and People’s Road, where numerous unique bars and cozy cafes are located. Some establishments feature live performances by resident singers or impromptu acts by tourists, creating a lively and bustling atmosphere.

Table of Contents

Basic Information

Estimated Length of Tour1 day
Ticket PriceFree
Opening Hours24 hours a day throughout the year
Telephone Number0086-0872-2512899

Location and Transportation

Dali Old Town is situated in the northwestern part of Yunnan Province, at the southern end of the Hengduan Mountains. It is nestled beneath Cang Mountain and lies along the shores of Erhai Lake. The central coordinates of the old town are approximately 25°41′26″N latitude and 100°9′45″E longitude. To reach Dali Old Town:

  1. If arriving by train, take bus route 8 directly from Dali Railway Station. The final stop is near the East Gate of Dali Old Town. If arriving by plane, take the airport shuttle bus to Cangshan Hotel (苍山饭店), then transfer to bus route 8 at the nearest “Hospital” stop (市医院站).
  2. From Xiaguan (下关) to Dali Old Town, take bus route 4. The final stop is near the South Gate of Dali Old Town.
  3. From Xiaguan, there are minibusses available on Jianshe Road and Wenhua Road that go to Dali. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes, and the fare is around 50 yuan.

Highlights of Dali Old Town

Ancient Architectures

wuhua building in dali old town

Wenxian Tower: The Wenxian Tower, constructed during the Kangxi era of the Qing Dynasty, features a distinctive Bai architectural style. Its name originates from a plaque inscribed with “文献名邦” by the Yunnan Governor in 1701. This two-story wooden and stone structure embodies typical characteristics of Bai architecture.

Wuhua Building: The Wuhua Building, originally a royal guesthouse during the Nanzhao Kingdom, was later transformed into the Bell and Drum Tower during the Ming Dynasty. Despite its diminished scale compared to its Nanzhao predecessor, it remains a significant historical site within Dali Old Town.

southern gate tower in dali old town

Southern Gate Tower (Shuanghe Tower or Cheng’en Tower): Also known as the Shuanghe Tower or Cheng’en Tower, the Southern Gate Tower stands as the oldest and grandest structure in Dali Old Town. Erected in 1382 during the Ming Hongwu era, it serves as both a symbol and landmark of the ancient city. The city walls, approximately 1500 meters in length, 6 meters in height, and 12 meters thick, enclose Dali Old Town. The inscription “大理” on the gate was personally penned by Guo Moruo in 1961, signifying the aspirations for the city’s governance and prosperity.

Northern Gate Tower (Anyuan Tower): Also known as the Anyuan Tower, the Northern Gate Tower was built in 1382 and is one of the four gates of Dali Old Town. Its roof design adopts the double-eave gable and hip roof style, typical of higher-grade Chinese palace architecture, preserving the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty.

Ancient Academies

xiyun academy in dali old town

Xiyun Academy: The Xiyun Academy, located within Dali Old Town’s urban area and now part of Dali First High School, was built during the Qing Dynasty. Originally the private residence of Yang Yukui, it later became an esteemed educational institution. “Xiyun Academy” not only boasts a rich history as a center of learning but also represents typical Dali-style architecture, holding significant value for the study of Dali’s educational history, late Qing Dynasty history, and ancient architectural gardens.

Dali Prefectural Examination Institute: Situated on the eastern side of the northern section of Boai Road in Dali Old Town, the Dali Prefectural Examination Institute served as the examination site for scholars in the northwest region of Yunnan during the Qing Dynasty. Originally constructed during the Ming Dynasty, it was relocated to its current site in 1871 during the Qing Dynasty.

Ancient Temples

Catholic Church of Dali Old Town

Catholic Church of Dali Old Town: The Catholic Church of Dali Old Town serves as the central church for the Diocese of Western Yunnan. Constructed from 1927 to 1932 by the Paris Foreign Missions Society under the leadership of Father Yan Meizhang (Chinese name), the church is oriented east to west and consists of a gate, passageway, two gates, and the main worship hall. The front gate is a two-story structure with a Bai ethnic-style wooden arch adorned with mythical creatures like lions, elephants, dragons, and phoenixes.

Christian Church of Dali Old Town: Established by missionary Han Chunchung in 1914, the Christian Church of Dali Old Town, formerly known as the “Chinese Christian Chapel,” is oriented north to south. It features a stone arch gate leading to the east and west wings, the main worship hall, prayer room, and a rooftop bell tower. The church is constructed with wooden structures and a four-sloped tile roof, with stone walls enclosing the building.

three pagodas of chongsheng temple in dali old town

Three Pagodas of Chongsheng Temple: Also known as the “Three Pagodas of Dali,” these pagodas are renowned Buddhist structures located 1.5 kilometers north of Dali, beneath the Cangshan Mountains’ Yingle Peak. The foundation of the Three Pagodas is square-shaped with stone railings surrounding it, adorned with stone lions at the corners. In the center of the eastern side stands a stone tablet inscribed with the characters “永镇山川” meaning “Eternal Guardian of Mountains and Rivers.” The main pagoda, called the Qianxun Pagoda, is a 16-story square tower with eaves, measuring 9.9 meters wide and 69.13 meters tall. It features a copper-encased spire and a finial, resembling the architectural style of the Tang Dynasty, akin to the famous Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an.

Famous Streets

famous streets in dali old town

Fuxing Road: Fuxing Road is the main thoroughfare and busiest street in Dali Old Town, spanning 1500 meters and linking the South Gate to the North Gate. Its surface is paved with cobblestones, making it the longest north-south main road in the ancient city. The shops lining both sides of Fuxing Road retain the architectural style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, making it the primary commercial street in Dali Old Town.

Foreigner’s Street (Yangren Street): Formerly known as “Huguolu,” Foreigner’s Street was named in honor of the Yunnan people’s opposition to Yuan Shikai’s imperial ambitions during the early Republic of China period. Running east to west, it stretches for 1000 meters with a width of 7 meters, paved with bluestones. Its most bustling section, spanning 185.6 meters, is one of the earliest and most famous foreigner’s streets in China.

Honglongjing Street: Spanning 408 meters, Honglongjing Street is located in the heart of Dali Old Town. Its main landscape extends from west to east, divided into upper and lower sections by Boai Road, named after the well it surrounds. The architectural charm of Honglongjing Street lies in its well-preserved Bai ethnic residences, exuding an ancient and nostalgic ambiance.

Museum Complex

museum complex in dali old town

Dali City Museum: Established in 1986, Dali City Museum serves as a comprehensive institution for the collection, research, and exhibition of cultural relics in Dali. It is located within the former site of the Yunnan Provincial Governor’s Yamen and the old residence of Du Wenxiu, the Muslim leader during the Panthay Rebellion. The museum’s collection encompasses nearly ten thousand precious cultural relics from Dali, spanning from the Neolithic period to modern times.

China Dali Rural Film History Museum: Located west of Fuxing Road and north of Yueru Road in Dali Old Town, this museum is the first thematic film museum in Yunnan Province and the first specialized museum on the history of rural films in China.

Dali Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum: Situated at 123 Yueru Road in Dali Old Town, this museum is housed within well-preserved Qing Dynasty ancestral hall buildings, representing the quintessential Bai ethnic architectural style. It is the first specialized museum for intangible cultural heritage in Yunnan Province, boasting a collection of 535 exhibits related to intangible cultural heritage.

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