Erhai Lake, also known as Yeyu Pond, Xi'er River and Kunmi River in old times, is named after its shape and expanse. "Er" in Chinese means a human ear and "Hai" means a sea, hence its name Erhai. It is one of the seven biggest fresh water lakes in China and the largest highland lake next to Dianchi Lake (in Kunming). So it was called "Plateau Pearl". The dimension is 41.5 km. by 6.9 km. It starts from Jiangwei of Eryuan County in the north and ends at Xiaguan in the south. The total storage capacity is 3 billion cubic metres and its elevation 1,972 metres.
Erhai Lake is a barrier lake formed after a fault foundering of the earth's crust. It originates in Heigushan Mountain of Er'yuan. The water mainly comes from the Miju River and Luoshi River in Er'yuan County, the 18 brooks of Cangshan in the west, and the Boluo River, Fengwei Brook, Yulong Gully and Shitou Brook in the southeast, which converge into a mighty torrent and then flow into Erhai Lake. After that, it again flows into the Lancangjiang River by passing through Tianshengqiao (Natural Bridge) of Xiaguan, where a multistage power station of medium size stand, and the Yangbi River in the west over a distance of more than 20 km.
The beautiful scenery and limpid waters of Erhai Lake are charming and attractive. On the boundless expanse of the lake, there are steamers, sailing boats, flying birds, the Three Islets, the Four Sand Bars, the Five Miniature Lakes and the Nine Curvatures, with their reflections in the placid water, accompanied by Bai girls in bright-coloured costumes on the shore or in fishing boats singing the praises of their life. The picturesque scenery makes you feel relaxed and happy. The white snow over the green Cangshan Mountain and the limpid water of Erhai Lake have earned Dali the fame of "Jade Erhai and Silver Cangshan." During a clear night, the moon is mirrored in the lake and people call it the "Erhai Moon" which is one of the four best sights of Dali. It would be a great pity if people travelling to Dali do not go for a boat ride in the lake, just like people travelling to Kunming without having a glance at the scenery of Xishan (the Western Hills).
The Scene of Shuanglang Shuanglang (double Corridors) locates at the northeast shore of Erhai Lake. It is famous because of two beaches. Lianhua and Luoshi. This two beaches look like two corridors so that they are named after their shapes. Sand here is bright and clear, as soft as a piece of cotton. Looking at the lake from here, one can see the endless lake surface, so green and so clear, with wave reflecting sunshine. The white clouds are above the lake with white sails coming south and going north. The most beautiful islands, Yuji Island (or Tianshengying) and Shuanglang Jinsuo Island, look like a pair of mandarin ducks, floating still on the surface of the lake. If one looks up, one can see 19 peaks of Cangshan Mountain with green trees, standing erect, as high as if they touch the sky. Their shadows are reflected in the lake, looking so stately and solemnly. A picture so charming , so grandiose that one will not want to leave.
Erhai Park is located at Tuanshan Mountain, 2.5km away from Xianguan. It was once a royal deer ranch of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Built in 1976, the park covers 1700 mu of land. Climbing along the path up to the mountain, one can see green pine trees, famous flowers like camellia, magnolia primose, michelia alba and azalea. On the top are the Observation Pavilion and the Long Corridor overlooking the lake, the zoo and the garden. Standing high on the top, one will have a pleasant view of the jade-like Erhai Lake dotted with sails here and there and the silvery Cangshan Mountain. At the shore, there are entertainment facilities such as the aqua park, swimming area, etc. On a clear night, when the moon is mirrored on the lake, one will enjoy one of the most magnificent sights (Wind, Flower, Snow and Moon)-the Erhai Moon in Dali.
THE SCENE OF SHUANGLANG Shuanglang (double Corridors) locates at the northeast shore of Erhai Lake. It is famous because of two beaches. Lianhua and Luoshi. This two beaches look like two corridors so that they are named after their shapes. Sand here is bright and clear, as soft as a piece of cotton. Looking at the lake from here, one can see the endless lake surface, so green and so clear, with wave reflecting sunshine. The white clouds are above the lake with white sails coming south and going north. The most beautiful islands, Yuji Island (or Tianshengying) and Shuanglang Jinsuo Island, look like a pair of mandarin ducks, floating still on the surface of the lake. If one looks up, one can see 19 peaks of Cangshan Mountain with green trees, standing erect, as high as if they touch the sky. Their shadows are reflected in the lake, looking so stately and solemnly. A picture so charming , so grandiose that one will not want to leave.
On the boundless expanse of surface, there are steamers, sailing boats, flying birds. And there are three islands, four Sand Bars, five miniature lakes and nine curvatures in the lake.
The picturesque scenery will make you feel relaxed and happy. At night, the moon is mirrored in the lake and local people call it the "Erhai Moon" which is one of the four most beautiful sights of Dali.
Pleasure Boat of Erhai Lake Dali Tourism Group Pleasure Boat Branch has many large pleasure boats including Erhai No.1, Cuckoo, Cangshan and Dayun, on which there are sight viewing points, singing and dancing room and KTV. While enjoying the landscape of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake, the tourists may experience the guest reception manners of Bai Nationality. In addition, the tourists can taste the three teas, “the first bitter, the second sweet and the third for aftertaste, enjoying the primitive folk singing and dancing performance of Bai Nationality.
There are two routes to get to Erhai Lake,
20 yuan each person for large-scale pleasure-boat and 10 yuan each person for small-scale pleasure-boat.
One of the travel highlights is said to be a boat ride. People can ride boats and visit temples and small islands in the lake, and they may enjoy the local cuisine and the Bai tea ceremony while they are doing so. In the simple ceremony, three different kinds of Bai tea are served. Islands in the lake include Guanyin Ge (Guanyin Pavilion), Jinsuo Island, Nanzhao Fengqing Island and Xiao Putuo Island.
The lake is an important source of food, and the Bai fishermen catch fish in an interesting way. They train cormorants to catch fish and return it to them. The cormorants can’t swallow the fish because they have constricting rings around their necks. Imagine a dinner of cooked carp that was caught in the clean water by a cormorant on the banks of the lake.
The lakeshore can be explored by hiking and bicycling. Bikes are available for rent. Nearby are many historic sites such as the Three Pagodas and the ancient city of Dali and Xizhou. There are many villages you may visit. Some are mainly Bai villages and some have a mixed population.
The nearby high mountains can be explored by hiking, on horseback, or by car. There is a road linking the various sites on the 19 peaks. But the mountain is a good hiking area, which waterfalls, forests, and high peaks to climb. You can bring tents. A cable car that passes high over a forest connects the ancient city of Dali and one of the central peaks.
Highlights around include Erhai Lake Park and the Butterfly Springs on the western bank of the lake. Erhai Lake Park is on Tuanshan Peak at the southern end of Erhai Lake, and it is about two and a half kilometers away from the modern sector of Dali. It is a good place to enjoy the sights of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake. The park has an arboretum, a zoo, and a public swimming pool, and there is a path through the park to an observation area on the mountain.
It only cost 5 Yuan by taxi from any place in Dali town. So what can prevent you from enjoying the unpolluted and 'immaculate jade' waters of Erhai?
When you are at Erhai Lake, it is advisable to visit the fishing villages of Bai people nearby, which is the few fishing villages on the altiplano. The famous movie of 1950s, the Five Golden Flowers, reflected the life here. Erhai Park in Xiaguan was designed and built for tourists to sea Erhai Lake. You can get there from any place in the city proper by taxi and that will only cost you 5 yuan. If you are interested, you can take ships there to visit Erhai. There are wooden ships and yachts. Remember to bargain before you get aboard. Ordinary boats do not go to the Nanzhao Love Islands. They usually come back after arriving at Golden Shuttle Island, Small Putuo Island and Kwan-yin Pavilion. If you rent boats, safety is the most important. When it is summer and autumn, especially when Husband Awaiting Clouds turn up on the Cangshan Mountain, it is better for you not to go on the sea.