What to See in Lijiang
Lijiang is in north western Yunnan Province.
Lijiang has the best preserved ancient town in China - the Old Town was listed as a World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO in 1997, and has a history going back more than 800 years.
It is home to the Jade Water Village, a Dongba cultural centre and more.Read More
Baisha Village is one of the oldest in the Lijiang area and was the earliest settlement of the Naxi people. This small but fascinating village is about 10km north of Lijiang.
First Bend of the Yangtze River
The First Bend of the Yangtze lies by Shigu Town, Yunnan. From Tangula Snow Mountain on the Northern Tibetan Plateau, the Yangtze River's source, it performs a spectacular about-face at Stone Drum.
First flowing south, then north, the river has shaped a dramatic triangle at an area of about 50 square kilometers, forming a rare and impressive 'V' shape, called the First Bay of the Yangtze.
As an important town on the trade route for tea and horses between inland and Tibet, Shigu Town has a flourishing trading fair held every three days.
Jade Dragon Snow Mountain
The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is the southernmost glacier in the northern hemisphere, rising 5,600 metres above the plains. It was first climbed in 1963, however access to the summit is now provided by cableway from the foot of the mountain to Yunshanping (Dragon Spruce Meadow).
About one fourth of all plant species in China can be found here and the mountain offers a number of fantastic natural spots which are outstandingly beautiful. The far side of the mountain forms one side of Tiger Leaping Gorge (Hutiao Xia).
About 30 minutes north of the city, you can get there by bus or taxi.
One interesting thing to do in Lijiang is to visit one of the many teahouses located throughout the town. Tea is one of the most important facets of Chinese culture. To make the tea and to drink it can be a very interesting process to participate in.
Many teahouses are decorated in typical Chinese style and some use items from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Many tearooms are located on the second floor of the building, giving visitors a chance to view the beautiful old town from a vantage point.
Lugu Lake and Mosuo Village
Lugu Lake is about five hours by car from Lijiang and covers an area of 52sqkm. The water is so clear, that with good visibility, you can see underwater for about 12 metres. Lugu Lake is probably more famous as home to the Mosuo minority, one of China's 56 ethnic groups, who practice this area's quasi-unique matriarchy.
When a man and a woman fall in love, the man visits the woman in the night and then returns to his mother's home in the morning. They never formalize the arrangement to create a new family group, although some couples remain committed to each other throughout their lives and often have many children together.
In fact, the two never share common property - all property is inherited by women. A child will grow up in the mother's family home and any male influences in childhood come from maternal male relatives, rather than the child's father.
Museums in Lijiang
For a more in-depth look at the area's history and people, visit one of the city's museums—the Visitor Centre for Nature and Culture in Northwest Yunnan, the Dongba Research Institute Museum and the Museum of Naxi Dongba Culture are all excellent.
The Ancient Town
Lijiang has the best-preserved ancient town in China. The Old Town, with a history going back more than 800 years, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At one time a confluence for trade along the old Tea Horse Road, the town is full of shops with a superb collection of handicrafts and all the streets and lanes of the town are paved with red breccia (sedimentary rock), which is neither muddy in the rainy season nor dusty in the dry season.
Lijiang was built on flatlands at the foot of the Yulong Snow Mountain. Surrounded by tree-covered mountains, Lijiang Old Town has crystal-clear water running through the middle of it and it covers an area of 3.8sqkm at an elevation of 2,400 metres.
The Black Dragon Pool
The Black Dragon Pool is one of the more common sights featured on Lijiang’s postcards. It is a public park with a pond, pavilions and bridges plus a small museum of Naxi culture located outside the old town. Some buildings were built in the Qing and Ming dynasties and were moved here for their protection.
There are more than 500 species of plants growing in this park. To get to the Black Dragon Pool you can walk following the canal from the Water Wheel, or take a taxi.
The view of The Jade Dragon Snow Mountain from the pool is cited as one of China's most beautiful.
The Jade Water Village
The Jade Water Village is where the American botanist Joseph Rock had his house, now converted into a museum. Here you can visit some Naxi traditional houses and enjoy Naxi music at the hall in the village. One notable aspect about the Naxi is that the women do all the work while the men take up painting, writing and art. In this area you can also do some mountain climbing and horseback riding.
The Mu Clan Mansion
The Mu Clan Mansion is one of the main tourist attractions in Lijiang. The Mu Residence is a collection of buildings, temples and gardens. The Mu Clan ruled the Lijiang area for more than 500 years, from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) to the early days of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and lived in the buildings displayed here. A visit to the Mu Mansion will take you around two hours and it is recommended to visit the place with an English-speaking guide.
Tiger Leaping Gorge
Tiger Leaping Gorge is less than two hours west of Lijiang. One of the deepest chasms in the world, the Yangzi River flows 16km between the 3,900 metre tall mountains. Tiger Leaping Gorge can be reached on a two or three-day trek.
There is a spectacular hiking trail that runs along the base of Haba Peak. If you want you can get here by taxi too. From the parking lot steep steps will take you to the bottom of the gorge.
Good to Know
Lijiang has become very popular among the Chinese themselves and it is best to avoid visiting it during any Chinese holiday. The busiest season in Lijiang is summer (from July to September). Note that not all shop sellers speak English. A Chinese phrasebook is handy when dealing with them. Bargaining is an absolute must.