Dali Old Town - the old capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom and Dali Kingdom
Last Update: 19th October 2020
Originally built in 1382, Dali Old Town worked as the old capital of Nanzhao Kingdom (738 – 902) and Dali Kingdom (937 – 1094 and 1096 – 1253). It was the political, economic, and cultural center of Yunnan during the periods of time. The old town is scattered with tens of old buildings in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) and Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1912).
Dali Old Town Fast Facts
- Chinese Name: Dali Guzhen (大理古城)
- Area: 3 x square kilometers
- Things to do there: Photography, Architecture, History of Nanzhao Kingdom
- Who visits: Photographers, Adventure Enthusiasts, Cultural Lovers of Chinese Ethnic Minorities
- Time required: 3 – 4 x hours
What to expect at Dali Old Town
Dali Old Town is dotted with old buildings. You will find 4 old gate towers. Originally built in the Kangxi Period (1662 – 1722) in the Qing Dynasty, Wenxian Tower is typical of Bai ethnic minority building. Originally, Wuhua Tower was the state guest house of Nanzhao King. In the early Ming Dynasty, it was destroyed in the war. During the Hongwu Period of time (1368 – 1398) when Dali Old Town was renovated, new Wuhua Tower was built in the old spot of the original one. But the new tower is smaller than the destroyed one. Originally built in 1382, Nancheng Tower is the oldest building in Dali Old Town. The city wall is around 1,500 meters long, 6 meters tall and 12 meters deep. Beicheng Tower originally built in 1382 as well is in the Ming Dynasty style.
There are two academies in the old town. Xiyun Academy (西云书院) was originally built in the Qing Dynasty. It is located in Dali No. 1 Secondary School. The original one was situated in the northwest of Dali Old Town. The later one was removed to the school in 1871.
The Catholic church was built by a pastor of Parisian foreign missionary church whose Chinese name was called Yan Meizhang (严美璋) between 1927 and 1932. Part of the building is typical of Bai images, such as lion, elephant, dragon and phoenix. You could also explore the Christ church built in 1914 by the pastor Han Chunzhong (韩纯中). Chongsheng Three Pagodas features the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) style. The stone fences of the pagodas are carved with statues of lions.
If you are a museum lover, it is suggested that you visit Dali Museum offering around 10,000 pieces of cultural relics from the Neolithic Age throughout the Feudal Age to the modern times in Dali Region. Dali Rural Film History Museum offers a great chance to get acquainted with the development of the rural film in China. It is the first one of its kind around China. Dali Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum is the best-preserved and most representative of Bai minority’s building art in Dali. The museum is a complex of Bai’s ancestral hall in the Qing Dynasty.
Dali Old Town is home to Bai people for hundreds of year. You could enjoy the unique culture there, such as Dongji Music, Baiju Opera, Whip Dance, and Raosanling Ceremony which is more than 1,000 years old in Dali.
If you are planning to visit Dali Old Town for photography purposes, the best time to visit is in the evening.
The best months to visit are from April to October.
A few buses get to Dali Old Town. Therefore, there are a few options.
- Rent a vehicle to the entrance of Dali Old Town. This is the quickest and most direct option.
- Take Bus 8 to the West Gate of Dali Old Town (大理古城西门).
- Opening hours: 24 hours
- As at 19th October 2020, the entrance ticket to the town is free of charge.
- Please wear the sunscreen scream and sunglasses during the daytime even in winter as the sunshine is very strong in Dali.
- Please take care of your valuables in the town especially in the peak season.