Category: Lijiang.

World Heritage Site #811 :: Old Town of Lijiang

WHS#811 | Lijiang | Tourist Map | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

Lijiang world heritage site#811

State Property: China
Location Lijiang’s old town (including the Dayan old town, Basha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster) of Yunnan.
GPS: N26 52′ 0.012″, E100 13′ 59.988″
Date of Inscription: 1997
Minor modification inscribed year: 2012
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Property : 146 ha
Buffer zone: 582 ha

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The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.

Lijiang, which is noted for its long history and its simple style, has the beauty both of a waterside town and of a mountain town. As an ethnic city with a long history, Lijiang is a typical ilhtstration of the unique style of the Naxi ethnic group and a condensation of the architectural modes of China’s Han, Bai, Yi, and Zang ethnics in terms of both overall layout and specific buildings. Its designation in 1986 as a national historical and cultural city further confirmed its importance among Chinese cities.

Unlike other imperial cities in China, the old town of Lijiang bears no evidence of the regulations governing the building of cities in the Central Plains. It possesses neither a regular street pattern nor city walls. With three mountains as its backdrop, it is traversed by a system of streams bringing water to every street comer. Its street pattern,land use, and architectural coordination are unique among Chinese towns.

Cities and architecture are essentially manifestations of social life. Compared with government offices and temples, dwellings can better reflect the economy, culture, customs, and religions of a specific ethnic in a given region. In terms of layout, structure, and design, the houses in Lijiang incorporate the fine tradition of the old houses in the Central Plains and of the Bai and Zang ethnics.

They have, however, developed their own unique style to suit to local conditions and tradition. They are innovative in aspects such as design, resistance to earthquakes, protection from the sun, precautions against flooding, ventilation, and decoration. However, the most striking feature is the lack of any uniform pattern: by taking advantage of the terrain, each house is unique in itself, simple yet creative. This style has strongly influenced the Naxi minority over a long period. The houses in Lijiang are important for the study of Chinese architecture and culture.

Built up against three mountains, Lijiang represents perfect organic integration with nature. The tile-roofed houses are disposed in rows on the mountainside. Their simple patterns and exquisite decorations are an epitome of Naxi culture and techniques, demonstrating the wisdom of the Naxi people and their deep understanding of life. They constitute an important component of the architectural heritage of the Chinese nation.

The old town of Lijiang has prospered for more than eight hundred years. It has become an economic and cultural centre in north-western Yunnan Province, providing an excellent environment for the development of ethnic culture. The Naxi and other ethnic groups living there have created a glorious culture. The city’s streets, squares, arches, water system, bridges, dwelling houses, courtyards, inscribed boards, and carved tablets all embody the cultural and artistic accomplishments of the Naxi people and the rich cultural heritage of the ethnic religion. The Baisha murals of the Dongba culture in particular constitute a brilliant chapter in the history of human civilization.

Lijiang is an old town in which the town plan, the pattern of domestic housing, the building materials, the artistic decoration, and the protection of the environment are well preserved. The street pattern and water system remain unchanged. The stone pavements, bridges, and the Siangfe market square are all preserved. Houses have been rehabilitated and rebuilt using traditional techniques and materials.

The local government has made every effort to protect the landscape and strictly controls all building. The old town of Lijiang was built by the people who will continue to ensure that elements that clash with the style and features of the old town will be demolished or modified so that the town’s artistic and historical values are properly acknowledged.

In the World Heritage List

The old town of Lijiang was inscribed on the basis of cultural criteria (ii), (iv) and (v). Lijiang is an exceptional ancient town set in a dramatic landscape which represents the harmonious fusion of different cultural traditions to produce an urban landscape of outstanding quality.

Heritage zones: Dayan old town, Baisha and Shuhe villages

The Lijiang Junmin Prefectural Government Office and Mujia Compound were established in 1368, during the Ming dynasty, in the eastern part of the city. The 286 m long government office was a complex of halls, towers, bridges, terraces, pavilions and palaces. To the north was the official residence, known as the Mujia Compound. It was largely destroyed by war during the Qing dynasty and only the Yizi Pavilion, the Guagbi Tower, and a stone archway survive. The group known as the Yuquan architectural structures is in the Heilongtan Park and date from the Ming and Qing dynasties. Most notable is the Wufeng Tower (1601), moved from the Fugue Temple, of which it formed part, and now designated as one of the major historical sites in Yunnan Province.

In addition to the Dayan old town, established in the Ming dynasty, the earlier Baisha quarter, the centre during the preceding Song and Yuan dynasties, survives 8 km to the north. The houses here are arranged on a north-south axis, with a terraced square in the centre from which four lanes flanked by shops radiate. Among the important historic buildings in the Baisha religious complex are the Liuli Hall (1417), the Dabaoji Palace (1582), the Dading Pavilion (1573, rebuilt 1743), and the Jinjang Hall (1573). They are especially important because of the murals that they contain. Over forty of the paintings executed in the early 13th century survive, depicting religious subjects relating to Buddhism and Daoism; they also contain valuable information relating to the life of the Naxi people.

There is another small urban settlement 4km north-west of the Lijiang old town known as Shuhe, now an educational and craft centre.

Category: Lijiang