Dali China has existed since the 8th century, born first as a capital to the Bai people and later as the Kingdom of Dali. Located in the northwest region of China’s Yunnan province, Dali is a 40-minute flight from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. The city is renowned for producing marble, used in both construction and adornment, with most commerce revolving around marble sales. Dali is most interesting for its history but also its urban planning; Dali Old Town and the new city are distinctly separate; traveling between the two presents a feeling of traveling back and forth in time.
Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town
About 4,000 years back in Chinese history, the Bai people settled Dali. It became a part of the Han Dynasty central government’s territory in the second century AD and was a gateway to southwest China’s Silk Road. Dali Old Town, built during the reign of Emperor Hongwu in the Ming Dynasty, is north of the new city. City walls and gates, an old moat, ancient homes with darkly tiled roofs, and other centuries-old buildings line paved roads creating a scene right out of a poem. Bai folk houses reflect the uniqueness of the cultural and add major appeal for tourists. Arts and crafts are a big part of Bai culture, evident in the many neatly lined stalls within Old Town selling all kinds of hand-made paraphernalia.
Dali Bai Festival
Dali Bai Festival
Dali Bai festival is called Third Month Fair or March Fair. It kicks off at the base of Mount Cangshan in the third lunar month between the 15th and 20th day. Originally religious in purpose as well as an opportunity for trade between regions, the Bai people now enjoy a celebration filled with activities, from traditional dancing to sports and other customary theatrical performances. The festival continues for 7–10 days and also includes many horse racing events.
The Bai people of Dali China are part of 13 ethnic groups in Yunnan’s western region. Bai, or Baip as they’re also called, literally translates to “white people," which they were officially named by authorities in 1953. They live mostly in Dali China and also in Hunan and Guizhou provinces; speaking a language originating from the family of Sino-Tibetan they also borrow more than 50% of their words from Chinese language. Christianity, Daoism, and Buddhism are a few of several religions they believe in. Most also believe in the god Benzu, a “village” god. The Bai are famous for cormorant fishing; a style of fishing using cormorant birds, and are also considered master artists, musicians, sculptors, painters, and so on. These people have lent their particular twist to the kind of Chinese food to be found in the region.
Erhai Lake and Cangshan Mountain are lauded as top scenic attractions sitting in Dali Old Town’s west side. They comprise 19 towering, snow-capped peaks, creating a natural protective barrier for Erhai Lake. Amid the peaks, 18 streams rush down into the lake. Locals call it the Nineteen Peaks and Eighteen Streams of Mt. Cangshan. Hiking up Cangshan Mountains in Dali China is a perfect expedition for adventure tourists with tours easily arranged in the city. The mountain is home to eight natural wonders identified in the Qing Dynasty including Rosy Clouds at Sunset and Spring Snow on Cangshan. A gondola takes visitors up and down the mountain for those who can’t make the hike.