Located in Yunnan Province, Dali Ancient City is located 13 kilometers (about 8 miles) away from Dali City. The city's history can be traced back to the early Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Dali Ancient City was traditionally settled by the Bai and Yi ethnic minority groups and is the capital of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture. The city is a beautiful example of an ancient Chinese city and has remained relatively untouched. Beautifully located on a fertile plateau nestled between the Cangshan Mountains to the west, and Erhai Lake to the east, the ancient city has been attracting visitors for centuries.
The ancient city of Dali was the capital of two ancient kingdoms. In 738AD, the Nanzhao Kingdom was founded with Dali as its capital and covered large areas of Yunnan and northern Burma. The kingdom lasts almost 200 years until it was overthrown by the Duan. They named their kingdom the Dali Kingdom and ruled until conquered by the Mongols in the 12th century. According to ancient literature, Dali Ancient City was a gateway to the ancient Silk Road in Southwestern China. Because of its history and wealth, Dali Ancient city was surrounded by an ancient protective wall which is over 6 kilometers in length, 7.5 meters high and 6 meters thick. Due to centuries of erosion, and conflict, only the base of the city wall can be seen today. In 1982, the northern and southern city wall towers were rebuilt to offer visitors a glimpse into the ancient wall's grandeur.
The architecture of Dali Ancient City is built in the traditional Bai ethnic minority style and gives the city a very distinct feel. Each house has a main room and two wing rooms and facing the main room is a large screen. In the afternoon, when the sun shines on the screen, its light is reflected back into the courtyard keeping the area lit well into the evening. Special attention is paid to each house's main gate tower and the building's windows, and doors. The gate tower is the symbol of the home, and it is covered with carvings that represent the house's owner's status, religion, and occupation.
Dali Ancient City is well known for its traditional arts and crafts. It is particularly famous for its marble and hand-woven handicrafts. The marble from Dali is used in construction and decorative objects. Dali is so famous for its marble, that the Chinese name for marble is literally Dali Stone. Many unique items can be found along the streets by the artisans who created them. The new "Foreigner" Street is filled with shops selling traditional Bai ethnic snacks and the famous Three Course Tea ceremony. The ceremony is used for receiving guests and includes three courses of teas. The first course is very bitter, the second is sweet, and the third is normal tea.
Located 1 kilometer northwest of Dali Ancient City at the base of Cangshan Mountain, is three ancient pagodas. With a history of over 1,800 years, the three Tang Dynasty (618-907) pagodas were built forming a symmetrical triangle, which is unique in China. These three beautiful pagodas should not be missed by visitors to Dali Ancient town.
Visitors walking along the cobble-stone streets of the ancient city will be impressed by the city's elegance and simplicity. It is a beautiful place that is unique because of its Bai ethnic cultural aspects.
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