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The Ancient Town of Lijiang - " World Cultural Heritage "

    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 kilometers at an elevation of 2400 meters. It has a population of 25379, among whom there are 16999 Naxi people.

    The town was huilt 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 Tibet, China and India. The town is full of shops with a superb collection of handicrafts made of brass, fur, leather and textile, most of which are run by shrewd Naxi women. The Naxi houses have been built in close order. From time to time, one can see Naxi old men walking leisurely under the eaves and in the narrow lanes. The town embodies rich traditional Naxi culture and fully reflects the prosperity and progress of the Naxi ethnic group. The buildings in the town have incorporated the best Han, Tibet, and Bai styles into the unique Naxi style so it is one of the rarest and best preserved ancient towns of the minority ethnic people in China. The geographical features and the Helongtan (Black Dragon Pool) river system were taken into account by the builders while selecting the site and planning the layout of the town. 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.

    The roads in the old town radiate from Sifang Street (Square Street) to form a network connecting every cornet of the city. Small squares are scattered along appropriate sections of the main streets. All the streets and lanes of the town are paved with red breccia, which is neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season. These fine-grained stones cohere perfectly with the entire environment of the town.

    Heilongtan (The Black Dragon Pool) is the main source of water where three rivers rise: the West, the Middle and the East and then they subdivide into many streams which flow through the town. Supplemented by wells and springs here and there, the entire water system meets the needs of people in the town. Flanked by willows, streams of water run by each house, making the town a "waterside village on the plateau."

    The more than 350 bridges built on the rivers in the town are varied and unique in styles. Among them, Suocui, Dashi, Wanzi, Nanmen, Maan, Renshou bridges, which were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties, are considered to be the best.

    The houses in the old town are a typical manifestation of the architectural art and style of the Naxi nationality. Based on its original "jingganshi" timber structrure, the Naxi people developed a unique architectural art and style by absorbing some merits of the architectural styles of the Han and Zang nationalities. Most of the Naxi houses are two-storied wooden structures with "chuangdoushi" (a style of mortise and tenon joints in ancient Chinese architecture) wooden framework, mud-brick walls and tile roofs. The typical fayouts are Sanfangyizhaobi (houses on three sides with a screen wall opposites the main house) and Sihewutianjing. The Sanfangyizhaobi pattern consists of a main house, two side houses and a screen wall facing the main house. The four houses form a closed compound, in which there are five courtyards, the main one in the middle and a small one in each of the four corner of the compound. Residents in Lijiang pay great attention to the decoration of their houses. Carved decorations are often used on wooden doors and windows. Screen walls are inlaid with marble and the heads of the main beams are often carved into beast heads. Courtyards are paved with cobbles or variegated stones. All the decorations are a combination of function and art with distinctive minority styles. Now, 32 residences have been listed among the cultural relics under the state protection.

    In 1997, the UNESCO put Lijiang on a list of the world's major cultural heritages.

    The Yangzi River and the Yellow River are well-known as the two longest rivers in China and are noted as " Giant Asian Rivers". Situated between 99o 30' E to 100o 50' E and 26o N to 27o 50' N, Lijiang can be easily located by every tourist from abroad when they trace along the Yangzi River from its mouth in Shanghai back toward its source. The ajncient town of Lijiang is a traveler's wonderland which has been classified as a World-class Cultural Legacy by UNESCO, "Nationallevel Scenic Zone" and a "National Town of History and Culture".
    Lijiang is a beautiful shining jewel on the Northwest Yunnan Plateau neighbouring the southeast side of the Tibentan Plateau which is considered to be the "Roof of the World" . It covers an area of 20,600 square kilometers with a population of 1,030 ,000. The whole district is comprised of four counties: Lijiang, Yongsheng, Huaping and Ninglang. LiJiang's weather is remark-ably pleasant. Spring there lasts as long as 241 days and there is no hots ummer. Lijiang is 603 kilometers away from Kunming and 280 kilometers from the JingJiang Railway Station on the Kunming - Chengdu line. The airport in LiJiang had been opened in 1994.

    Lijiang boasts of breath - takingly wonderful sights such as Jade DragonSnow Mountain (Yulong Xueshan) and its modern maritime glacier,the only one of its kind in the southern end of the Northern Hemisphere; Tiger Leaping Gorge ( Hutiaoxia ); the world - famous grand canyon; Lugu Lake, the culturalcradle of the "Matriarchy" of the Yongning Mosuo people in Ninglang; the Old Town of Dayan Lijiang, which is referred to by European and American tourists as the "Oriental Venice" .All these natural sceneries and these cultural treasures of the minority peoples, such as Dongba Culture, Naxi Classical Music,Baisha Murals and Mosuo Customs, have been continuously drawing tourists from all over the world and have recently vote Lijiang as one of the favorite destinations in China.

    In 1989, Lijiang was ranked as a Level - 1 Tourisrn Hot Spot of China by the yunnan Tourism Bureau. In 1992, it was rated as one of the four provincial - level travel zones of Yunnan by the provincial government. There is a saying which goes: "Visit not Lijiang, visit not Yunnan !" Lijiang is now opening its gate ready to heartily welcome guests from all over the world and show off its exotic and alluring scenery as well as the rich and colourful ethnic customs of its people.

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