The Old Town of Lijiang is also known as Dayan Town in Lijiangba. It is an intact ancient city inhabited mostly by Naxi ethnic people and covers an area of 1.5 square kilometers.
The Old Town of Lijiang was first built in Southern Song Dynasty and in 1253, Kublai (the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty) was stationed here on his march into the south. In Ming and Qing dynasties, it became much larger. Lijiang is world renowned as an ancient city built in a simple and artistic style and scientifically laid out. There is a square in its center. It was listed as a national historical and cultural city in 1986.
The Old Town of Lijiang is surrounded by Lion Mountain in the west and by Elephant and Golden Row Mountains in the north. These mountains in the northwest shelter it from the cold wind. In the southeast, there are fertile fields, which are dozens of kilometers long. The city is favored with plentiful sunlight, an east wind and clear spring water which flows in three streams and reaches every family.
The streets are paved with the local stone slabs, which do not get muddy in the rainy season and are free of dust in the dry season. Many stone bridges and arches in the city were built during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Orderly roads and lanes extend to four directions from the central square. Residential houses are made of timber; most have a screen wall in front and some have a quadruple courtyard. Local people plant flowers in their courtyards.
The ancient traditional culture of the Naxi ethnic group is the Dongba culture, which is based on the Dongba religion. Most believers are skilled in medicine and the culture is passed on through literature and art.
The Dongba language has more than 1,300 separate words, which are written in primitive pictographic characters. There are more than 1,400 types of Dongba scriptures written in these characters and they take up 20,000 volumes. The scriptures cover religion, philosophy, history, local customs, literature, art, astronomy, medicine, the calendar, geography, flora, fauna, dancing, painting and music.
Lijiang has many historical relics. The Old Town of Lijiang is the most complete ancient town in China. Black dragon Pool, Wufeng Building and Lijiang mural paintings are very famous in China. Lijiang is the home of murals which were painted by people from Han, Tibetan and Naxi ethnic groups in the Ming Dynasty. They cover a total area of 139.22 square meters on 55 walls of Dabaoji Palace, Liuli Hall, Dabao Pavilion and other buildings. The largest is 2.07 meters by 4.48 meters and contains 600 figures.
There are many traditional festivals for Naxi people, such as Sandu Festival, Torch Festival and Stick Festival on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar year, etc.
The most delicious traditional food is called Lijiang round cake.
The Old Town of Lijiang was included in the UNESCO world heritage list in 1997.