Old Town of Lijiang

Lijiang’s old town (including the Dayan old town, Basha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster)
N26 52 0.012 E100 13 59.988
Date of Inscription: 1997
Minor boundary modification inscribed year: 2012
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(v)
Property : 145.6 ha
Buffer zone: 582.3 ha
Ref: 811bis
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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.

The Old Town of Lijiang is located on the Lijiang plain at an elevation of 2,400 meters in southwest Yunnan, China, where a series of strategic passes give access through the surrounding mountains. The Yulong Snow Mount to the north-west is the source of the rivers and springs which water the plain and supply the Heilong Pool (Black Dragon Pond), from where waterways feed into a network of canals and channels to supply the town. The Old Town of Lijiang comprises three component parts: Dayan Old Town (including the Black Dragon Pond), Baisha and Shuhe housing clusters. Dayan Old Town was established in the Ming dynasty as a commercial centre and includes the Lijiang Junmin Prefectural Government Office; the Yizi pavilion and Guabi Tower remaining from the former Mujia compound and the Yuquan architectural structures in the Heilongtan Park. Numerous two-storeyed, tile-roofed, timber-framed houses combining elements of Han and Zang architecture and decoration in the arched gateways, screen walls, courtyards and carved roof beams are representative of the Naxi culture and are disposed in rows following the contours of the mountainside. Wooden elements are elaborately carved with domestic and cultural elements – pottery, musical instruments, flowers and birds.

The Baisha housing cluster established earlier during the Song and Yuan dynasties is located 8km north of the Dayan Old Town. Houses here are arranged on a north-south axis around a central, terraced square. The religious complex includes halls and pavilions containing over 40 paintings dating from the early 13th century, which depict subjects relating to Buddhism, Taoism and the life of the Naxi people, incorporating cultural elements of the Bai people. Together with the Shuhe housing cluster located 4km north-west of Dayan Old Town, these settlements nestling in mountains and surrounded by water reflect the blend of local cultures, folk customs and traditions over several centuries.

The vivid urban space, the vigorous water system, the harmonious building complexes, the comfortable residences of appropriate size, the pleasant environment, and the folk art of unique style combine to form an outstanding example of human habitat.

Criterion (ii): From the 12th century onward, the Old Town of Lijiang was an important goods distribution center for trade between Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, and is where the Silk Road in the south joins the Ancient Chama (Tea and Horse) Roads. The Old Town of Lijiang became an important center for the economic and cultural communication between various ethnic groups such as the Naxi, Han, Tibetan and Bai. Cultural and technological exchanges over the past 800 years resulted in the particular local architecture, art, urban planning and landscape, social life, customs, arts and crafts and other cultural features which incorporate the quintessence of Han, Bai, Tibetan and other ethnic groups, and at the same time show distinctive Naxi features. In particular, the murals in the religious architecture and other buildings reflect the harmonious co-existence of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

Criterion (iv): The three parts of the Old Town of Lijiang: Dayan Old Town (including the Heilong Pool), Baisha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster, fully reflect the social, economic and cultural features of the different periods, following the natural topography of mountains and water sources to form an outstanding settlement combining the residential traditions of Naxi, Han, Bai and Tibetan people.

Criterion (v): The Old Town of Lijiang has integrated the mountains, rivers, trees and architecture to create a human habitat featuring the unity between man and nature. With mountains extending to the plain as the protective screen in the north and the plains in the east and south, the Old Town enjoys a sound geometrical relationship and ecological layout. A forked water system originates from the snow-capped mountain and runs through the villages and the farmland. Heilong Pool and the scattered wells and springs constitute a complete water system, meeting the needs for fire prevention, daily life and production in the town. Water plays an important role in the Old Town’s unique architectural style, urban layout and landscape as the main street and small alleys front onto the canals and some buildings and numerous bridges are constructed across the canals. As an excellent example of human habitat showing a harmony between man and nature, the Old Town is a remarkable tribute to human ingenuity in land use.

Suggested Bases:

Lijiang is a small city in Yunnan Province, China. It was once the capital of a small kingdom and is a busy world heritage listed tourist town today. Lijiang is the main center of the Naxi or Nakhi people, though it is by no means a Naxi-only town: at least half a dozen other ethnic groups are represented. The Naxi number under a million and are perhaps best known for their embroidery; they also have their own language with its own hieroglyphic-style writing system, and their own religion, clothing, art, architecture, music and dance. The Chinese government classifies the Mosuo (found mainly further north around Lugu Lake) as part of the Naxi group, but neither the Naxi nor the Mosuo accept this. Lijiang or nearby Baisha (now a village 12 km north of town) have been important for about 2000 years, when the Naxi settled in the area, and Baisha was the capital of a Naxi kingdom from 658 to 1107 [read more].

Yongsheng County is located in the northwest of Yunnan province, China. It is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Lijiang [read more].

Panzhihua is in the south of Sichuan, a small city by Chinese standards with population only a little over a million. It is on the Yangtze River and on both road and rail routes into Yunnan. This is a mountain town and its economic activity centers on one of China’s largest iron ore mines, which also gives vanadium and titanium, and on steel making. It is a relatively prosperous city and has many migrants from nearby areas, mainly come to seek work. It is also moderately popular as a tourist destination, mainly for domestic Chinese tourism. The region’s attractions include mountains, caves, lakes and canyons. The land transport in the area runs mainly north-south, along the valleys; the few east-west routes are through mountain passes. National Highway G5 runs through the area; the town is on a provincial highway a few km off it. G5 is one route between central Sichuan and Yunnan though highway G85, parallel to G5 and further east, provides a more direct Chengdu-Kunming route [read more].

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