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Home Chinese Cities and Province Information Dali, Yunnan Province

China City and Province
Dali, Yunnan Province

Dali Basics
Area:   29,460 square km
Population:   3.29 million
Postal Code:   671000
Phone Area Code:   0872
Local Time  
A Brief Introduction of Dali

About 420 km (261 miles) Northwest of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, the city of Dali is located between Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain. With the population of about 3.3 million (Bai people shares 65% of total population), Dali is the capital city of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. The city was built in 1832 as a city of the ancient states of Nanzhao and Dali. The wind of Xiaguan, the flower of Shangguan, the snow of the Cangshan Mountain and the moon of the Erhai Lake make up the Top Four Scenes in Dali.


Stretching from north to south, the Cangshan Mountain is 3,500 meters above sea level with its main peak at 4,122 meters high. Snow covers the mountain top all year round and the melted water forms streams flowing down the valley into the Erhai Lake. The thicklt-forested mountain always looks green and moist, and in autumn, belts of cloud skirts the mountain side, lingering for days on end. The Clear and Green Stream, the Dragon and Phoenix Cave and the Zhonghesi Temple are the main scenic spots of Cangshan Mountain.

Erhai Lake of Dali is a plateau fault limn. Legend has it that at the bottom of the lake grows a tremendous jade cabbage and the jade juice secreted by it forms the water of the Erhai Lake. In the bright moonlight, the smooth Erhai Lake presents the mirror image of the white Cangshan Mountain snow, creating the famous scene called “Jade Erhai Lake and the Silver Cangshan Mountain”. Erhai Lake is reputed for its three islands, four shoals, eight scenes, and nine bends. A cruise around the lake at night will give you the full taste of its charisma.


The architecture of Dali is still featured with a traditional pattern of the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties, with five east-west streets and eight north-south lanes, all paved with grey flagstone and with brooks flowing along-side them. The first impression left by the houses of the Bai ethnic group is its orderliness and grandiose. Each has three white plastered wall plastered walls and roofs of grey tiles, with the front gate shielded by a screen wall. Decorated with bracket sets and cordons, the front gate never fails to get noticed. The screen wall on the other hand is where the eyes of the visitors linger. In the center of the screen wall usually embeds a big marble stone of the Cangshan Mountain, surrounded by calligraphy and paintings. In front of the screen wall stands a small flower bed. The screen wall, together with the mosaic-covered ground constitutes the living space of the Bai people. As a matter of fact, the dwelling is where a Bai person’s total income went in days gone by.


In ancient times, Dali was mostly known for its countless towers. Among them, the most magnificent ones should be the pagodas in the Chongshengsi Temple. The main pagoda of the three, the 16-tiered Qianxun Pagoda, stands in the middle, and the two adjacent pagodas are 10 stories high. The Qianxun Pagoda was hollow and once equipped with a ladder for people to climb. Seem from the top of the pagoda, the Erhai Lake decorated with white sails and green shoals and the Cangshan Mountain skirted by clusters of clouds are all within clear view.

About 26 km away from the ancient city of Dali lays the Butterfly Spring. The spring water squeezes its way out of white sand and pebbles and then pours into a 2-square-meter pond walled with white marble banister. The pond is surrounded by thick foliage, among which the most notable is an ancient tree called the Butterfly Tree for its shape like the wings of a butterfly. In the season when the Butterfly Tree is in blossom, thousands of butterflies, both palm-big and bee-sized ones, gather at the Butterfly Spring. The butterflies resting on the Butterfly Tree then form a colorful ribbon down to the spring by linking their feelers one by one. When they have reached the surface of the spring, the butterflies then scatter to all sides and start the game all over again.


Dali is the dwelling place of Bai ethnic group. White is the color of honour for Bai people. Men prefer to wear white shirts and women like to wear earrings and bracelets. Maidens have braids and tie bright red strings on their white turbans. Between the 15th and 21st day of the third month of the lunar calendar, the traditional festival of the third Month Street is held annually, with horse racing, singing and dancing and trading activities as the main events.

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Dali Related Article and Report Links
Touring Dali on bike -- Dali City in south China's Yunnan Province has long been a favorite escape for independent travelers, whether they are running away from the maddening crowds or themselves. Among the new generation of backpackers, touring Dali on bike has become an emerging trend.

The most-traveled route is the 40-mile journey from Dali to Xizhou Township along provincial road No. 221. Second to this choice is riding on the deserted old national road, No. 214.

Hoping for adventure, we decided to take road No. 214. Without much traffic, all you can see is patches after patches of green fields and clusters of farmhouses. Seduced by the idyllic scenery, my friend and I stopped several times at the roadside villages. The local farmers were unexpectedly accommodating. At this leisurely pace, it took nearly four hours for us to get to the next stop - Xizhou Township.

Facing Erhai Lake to the east and embraced by Cangshan Mountain to the west, Xizhou is a historical township attracting visitors not only with its entrancing landscape, but also with its Bai ethnic minority culture.

Departing Dali after a short sightseeing tour, we headed for Shuanglang, a lesser-known village 30 miles from Xizhou. The road leading to Shuanglang follows Erhai Lake, and the mesmerizing scenery made us almost forget the tiredness from hours of riding.

The sun was beginning to set when we arrived at Shuanglang. With few tourists visiting the place, Shuanglang is still relatively undiscovered. We were lucky enough to catch the local fair, when all the farmers and fishermen gather at the market, selling the freshest vegetables and local delicacies. If you ever have the chance to come here, don't miss the excitement. After two idle days spent in Shuanglang, we continued our journey.

Thirteen miles from Shuanglang is Wase, another small village. We hardly came across any passengers on the road. Occasionally we would hear the laughter of children playing in the shallow waters of Erhai Lake. The serenity of the place took hold of us throughout the journey. The fishermen were just closing the nets when we arrived at Wase. Silently watching them take stock of the various fish and shrimp glittering under the morning sunshine, we felt an enormous sense of gratitude at being there.

Though our trip ended in Wase, we know there are many other places in Dali worth exploring. To many travelers like us, Dali will linger as a comforting memory long after returning from the escape.

(Source:, 2010_06_06)
 China's Administrative Divisions
4 Municipalities

23 Provinces

5 Autonomous Regions

2 Special Administrative Regions (SAR)

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