Dali City, formerly known as Tali, is the county-level seat of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in northwestern Yunnan,
Similar to Carlisle in England, Dali City is not a single city but a county-sized area called a city for administrative purposes. Transportation to "Dali" usually arrives at the modern industrial city called Dali but locally distinguished by its former name Xiaguan. Travelers to and discussion of "Dali", however, usually refers to the old town located about an hour away. The old town is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Yunnan, known for its natural scenery, historical and cultural heritage, and vibrant nightlife.
The Dali area was formerly known as Jumie (苴咩, Jūmiē). The old town was the medieval capital of both the Bai kingdom Nanzhao (fl. 8th and 9th centuries) and the Kingdom of Dali (937–1253). That city was razed and its records burnt during its conquest by China’s Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. The present old town was organized in the late 14th century under the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The area became significantly Muslim (Hui) under the Yuan and Ming and was the center of the Panthay Rebellion against the Qing from 1856–1863. It was severely damaged during a massive earthquake in 1925.
Rail and then air transport have permitted the area (particularly Dali Old Town) to become accessible to tourists in the 20th century. It is now one of China’s official tourist cities and, along with nearby Lijiang, one of the most popular. To preserve the appeal of the old town, industrial development is restricted to areas such as Xiaguan while building codes mandate new construction the old town and surrounding countryside must conform to the traditional Chinese style, with tiled roofs and brick, plaster, or white-washed walls.
Dali City is northwest of the provincial capital, Kunming: about 40 minutes by air or 7 hours by train.
Dali is located on a fertile plateau between the Cangshan Range to the west and Erhai lake to the east. It has traditionally been settled by the Bai and Yi minorities. It is also the capital of the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.
SITES OF INTEREST
Dali is one of Yunnan’s most popular tourist destinations. Sights include:
– Dali museum
– Chong Sheng Temple
– Guanyin Palace of Copper Rain (rebuilt in 1999)
– Jianji Great Bell of Nanzhao (recast in 1997)
– Three Pagodas
– Butterfly Spring
– Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils film city
Xizhou: a historical town famed for its architecture and woodwork
– Shaxi: a historical town in Jianchuan County on the ancient tea route
– Shuang lang: on the opposite side of the lake, once a small fishing village, now a rather high-class tourist destination, most buildings and businesses having overtaken the village since 2012. The coast is now completely built up by tourism estates.
Much of the local economy now centers around tourism and services catering to travelers.
Historically, Dali was able to control some of the trade between India and China and independently famed for the woodworkers of Xizhou (喜州, Xǐzhōu) and for its high-quality marble, used both for construction and decorative objects. It was so prominent in the latter that the modern Chinese word for marble is literally "Dali stone" (大理石, dàlǐshí).
There is also local tea
Local transport includes busses, taxis, bicycles, and boats on Erhai Lake. Local busses 4 & 8 provide service from Xiaguan to the old town (1 hr).
Dali Airport (DLU) is a domestic airport about 13 km (8.1 mi) east of Xiaguan on Weishan or Airport Rd. Taxis run about 60 RMB to Xiaguan or 90 RMB to the old town. It services (as of 2014) Kunming (20 min), Xishuangbanna (25 min), Chongqing (70 min), Chengdu (80 min), Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Guiyuan.
Dali (i.e., Xiaguan) is connected to Kunming and points east by the Hangrui Expressway (G56), which also runs west to Ruili on the Burmese border. The Dali Expressway (G56₁₁) is a spur connecting it with Lijiang. The road to the old town is China National Highway 214, which connects to the expresseway to Lijiang north of the lake. It also runs south from Xiaguan to Menghai near the Burmese border.
Long-distance busses run from the old town’s west gate to Kunming (about 4½ hrs), Lijiang, and Shangri-La. Every Monday, service is also available to Shaping for its market.
Long-distance busses run from Xiaguan’s stations on Jianshe Road.
Dali (i.e., Xiaguan) has rail connections with daily service to Kunming via the Guangtong-Dali Railway and Lijiang via the Dali-Lijiang Railway. Service to Kunming usually consists of one train during the day and two trains running overnight, with sleeper cars. As the railway network expands in Yunnan, train service will become available to Shangri-La County and Ruili.
Its low latitude tempered by its high elevation, Dali has a mild subtropical highland climate (Köppen Cwb) with short, mild, dry winters and warm, rainy summers. Frost may occur in winter but the days still generally warm up to 15 °C or more. During summer, a majority of the days features some rainfall and daytime temperatures rise to 24 °C. A great majority of the year’s rainfall occurs from June to October. December 2013 was particularly marked for its high snowfall.
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