Situated in the northwest plateau in Yunnan, Lijiang (the Beautiful River) got its name from its position at the middle reaches of the beautiful Jinsha River. The Naxi Autonomous County is the seat of the administrative commission of Lijiang Prefecture. Scattered on an area of 7,648 square kilometers, the population of 320,000 is made up of the Naxi, Bai, Lisu, Pumi, Yi, Tibetan, Miao, Hui, Han and other ethnic groups. Among them, the Naxi people constitute 57% of the total. Affected by the plateau wind from South Asia, Lijiang has two distinctive seasons, the dry and the wet. The temperature range of the four seasons is narrow. The annual mean temperature ranges from12.6 C to 9.9 C. The Dongba religion, a primitive religion, is the common belief of the Naxi people. In addition, some of them believe in Lamaism. These two religions have greatly influenced the ideology of the Naxi people and their social activities and life
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. Lijiang lies 199 kilometres away in the northwest of Dali.
The history of the town dates back to the South Song period (1127-1279). In 1253, Kublai, in his expedition to conquer the state of dali, came to what is now Lijiang after his troops crossed the Jinsha river by using inflated bags of animal hide. That explains why many names of places in the Naxi languages are transliterations of "army camps," "drilling grounds," etc. for the Mongolian language.
Lijiang Town is officially called "Dayan Town"-- "Dayan" literally means a "great inkstab", a graphic description of the town's location on a piece of rich flatland fed by a river and surrounded by green mountains. There is no other town in China like Dayan which incorporates the folkways of so many people and the architectural styles of both north and south China.
Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.The flow is diverged into the city
through three channels. Taking a stroll in the town, you find water your constant companion, flowing merrily either in a stream at your side or in tunnels beneath your foot. To the human race, water means life. To Dayan town, however, it brings not only life, but also beauty. Unlike those asphalted roads in big cities which are straight, streets here wind naturally along streams and around hills. On the West River in the town, there is a sluice-gate which, when lifted, allows water to pour into the city for street washing.
The Ancient town of Lijiang
The Ancient town of Lijiang was built in the middle of a flatland at the foot of the Yulong Snow Mountain. It got its name "Dayan Zheng" (the Town of Big Ink Slab) because the town is surrounded by tree-covered mountains on all sides with crystal clear water running in the middle of it. It has the appearance of a big jade ink slab. The town covers an area of 3.8 square kilometer at an elevation of 2,400 meters.
The town was built in the late Song dynasty and the early Yuan dynasty. Since then, it has been the political, cultural, and educational center in this area. For a time, it had been an important trading center for business between Yunnan and Tibet, China and India. And now ,the town is a Historical and Cultural Heritage in China and it has been included in the World Cultural Heritage. The roads in the old town radiate from Sifang Street (Square Street) to form a network connecting every corner of the city. Small squares are scattered along appropriate sections of the main streets. Houses have been built on the mountain slopes tier upon tier. "The city depends on water for existence and water comes along with the city" has become one of the main features of the old town.
Culture is the soul of Lijiang ancient town. Dongba culture is an integral part of Naxi culture, referred to as the ancient culture of the ethnic Naxi. It is called so because it is mostly found in the Dongba religion, which is believed to be one thousand years old. It chiefly consists of scriptures, paintings, music, dances, ritual implements and religious services.
Lijiang of today is no longer the "forgotten realm". The warm-hearted and hospitable Lijiang people of different ethnic nationalities cordially welcome friends from both home and abroad, and the magnificent and mysterious Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is opening its arms to the world.