||Dali is located at the foot of the Cangshan Mountain by Erhai Lake, Yunnan Province.
It is an ancient city of the Bai Autonomous Region, is widely acclaimed as the
"Oriental Switzerland" and the "Chinese Geneva". Situated
at the foot of Cangshan Mountain and on the bank of the Erhai Lake, it covers
an area of 1,800 square kilometers, and has a population of 432,000 million. It
has an average annual temperature of 15.1 and an annual rainfall of 1,079 mm.
The rainy season comes from May to October.
Its name is originated from that of a local regime in history called Kingdom
Dali, meaning "a state of great order". Many of the architectures
of the city were built of marble from the ore nearby, and that is why it is
also called a city of Dali stone (marble). (Both Chinese writing and pronunciation
of "great order" and "marble" are the same.) Marble buildings,
marble streets, marble wall foundations and marble wells make the city so bright
and limpid as if it is a tranquil fairyland. Each family loves door carving
and wall-decoration; every household has a flower garden. While it is freezing
season in the north, hundreds of flowers are in blossom here. Among them, camellia,
azaleas and orchids are the most fascinating and enchanting ones.
Dali is also celebrated for its scenic beauties of Cangshan Mountain and Erhai.
Lake. And also, Dali enjoys a very high fame for its "Four Grand Scenes",
namely, Xiaguan's wind, Shangguan's flowers, Cangshan's snow and Erhai's moon.
Especially Xiaguan's wind, which impresses people so deeply, makes Xiaguan such
a place that you should go if you pay a visit to Dali.
It is the greatest delight to you to admire the full moon on a boat at the
Erhai Lake. Under the moonlight, you can have an exceptional charming picture
of Cangshan Mountain looking at the handsome shadow of itself. When the moon
is hazy, the reflection of the Buddhist Temples looks even more mysterious,
set off by the dark blue canopy of the heavens in the still of the night. When
the moon is clear and bright, Erhai turns to be a unique fairyland, an integral
whole of moonbeams, mountain pose and crystalline ripples. But, unless you are
personally on the scene, you would not have any idea of its splendor.
In spite of all, the summit of Cangshan Mountain, 4,000 meters high, perennially
covered with snow offers a beautiful sight. Though it is in winter, you could
feel the spring in the air, at the same time enjoy the translucent snowy summit,
glittering under the moonlight!
The Bai nationality having lived there for generations, is the chief inhabitant.
Bright and cheerful in disposition, amiable and easy of approach, the Bai people
are very hospitable and conversational. Their national costume looks neat and
graceful. Both sexes have partiality for white color. A Bai man usually wears
a short black gown over his white jacket with buttons down the front, whereas
a woman, coiling up the hair over head, often wears a black or blue gown over
her white jacket. The daily attire for a maiden is very attractive, i.e., a
red close-fitting jacket without sleeves. The Bai girls like to wear one pigtail
tied with red string with a colourful towel wrapped round and snowy teasels
waving to and from on the right. Their artistic tradition is quite distinctive,
too. They like carved doors and windows, and delicately whitewashed walls. Their
national music sounds very sonorous, showing the nation's bold and uninhabited
March Street (Avalokitesvara Market), which has a long history of over a thousand
years, is a place of trading. Every year a fair is held from March 15th to 20th.
Minority nationalities from seven provinces gather at a piece of grassland at
the foot of Cangshan Mountain, in the west of the city with rich array of goods.
All the people dressed in their holiday best, go to the market in a continuous
stream. Singing, dancing, and horse-racing are being shown simultaneously in
the fair. What a distinguished gathering of trade and culture!
Besides, in Dali there are many other beautiful resorts worth of visiting.
They are Butterfly Springs, Chickenclaw Mountain, Grottoes of Stone Bell Mountain,
the Snake-bone Pagoda, the Natural Bridge, the Mass Tombs, the Nanzhao Stele
and the ancient rostrum.
Cangshan Mountain, two kilometers west of Dali, comprises nineteen peaks with
eighteen rivulets. It is best noted for its snow, clouds, rivulets and peaks
regarded as the four great wonders of Cangshan Mountain. It is where Dali marble
is quarried. Stretching some 50 kilometers from south to north, the mountain
is fully covered by woods, enveloped in drifting clouds and hung with springs
on its steep cliff sides. The top of the peaks, the highest being 4,122 meters
above sea level, is clad in snow all the year round.
Erhai (literally, Ear Lake), just as its name implies, is similar in form of
an ear. Two kilometers east of Dali, it is a fresh water lake, and in the middle
of it, there are islets and sandbars. Covering 250 square kilometers, the blue,
rippling lake and the snow-covered Cangshan Mountain add radiance and beauty
to each other. The scene is, therefore, described as "Silver Cangshan and
Three main islands and several temples and villages along the lake's dry eastern
shore are worth visiting. About an hour by boat from Xianguan is Golden Shuttle
Island ( Jinsuo Dao), with a small fishing community on the east side and a
cave for exploring. On the shore, directly north of the island, is a rocky peninsula
crowned by a pavilion and temple. Sacred Buddhist buildings, destroyed and rebuilt
many times, have stood on this spot for nearly 1,500 years. Luoyuan Temple was
badly damaged during the Culture Revolution but has been put back together and
has great charm. Visitors can have their fortunes told by an old priest who
guides them in shaking and selecting a single bamboo stick from a bundle of
100. The numbered stick corresponds to a specific fortune.
A tiny, picturesque temple island, Xiao Putuo Dao, dating from the 15th century.
It is devoted to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. The outside walls have been
restored with pointed caves is especially nice. On the shore nearby is the fishing
village of Haiyin, whose boatmen are steeped in the lore of the lake. One of
their specialties is night fishing for the huge 40-kilogram ( 88-pound) 'green
The three elegant pagodas arise on the Cangshan Mountain slope overlooking
the Erhai Lake, known as Chonhsheng Santa, the Three Pagodas of Saintly Worship.
The outstanding Landmarks of the region, they were once part of the greatest
temple complex on the Dali plain.In recent times the Three Pagodas site has
become extremely popular with tourists, the inevitable result being that it
is overrun with stalls selling marble wares.
The tallest of the three, Qianxun Pagoda, has 16 tiers that reach a height
of 69.13 meters ( 230 feet). Its structure, similar to the Small Wild Goose
Pagoda in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province, is in an architectural style typical
of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The two smaller pagodas to its west and north,
each 42.19 meters ( 135 feet) high with ten tiers, have a luxurious appearance
with their exquisite carvings. They were built in the Five Dynasties (907-960).
More than 600 rare relics of the states of Nanzhao and Dali were discovered
in the three pagodas during the 1978 reconstruction, making them even more famous.
Pagodas are among the most ubiquitous structures throughout the Buddhist world.
Their Sanskrit name is stupa, originally a mound or round dome or cylinder on
a square base with a shaft emerging upward.
Stupas probably evolved in India from prehistoric times as burial mounds for
local rulers and heroes. Legend says that in the fifth century BC Shakyamuni,
the historical Buddha, asked to have his ashes interred in a stupa. Since that
time stupas have become symbols of the Buddha, reminders of his earthly existence,
cult objects and places of devotion.
As Buddhism spread through Asia the shape of stupas adapted itself to local
architecture, giving rise to the huge variety of styles. Generally speaking
there are three types of stupas, or pagodas, in China.
The Storied style: This results from traditional Chinese storied architecture
and is marked by panoramic views form large windows and outer railings at each
The Pavilion style: This is also known as the 'single-layered stupa', with
one story only.
The Close-eaved or ( Miyi) style,, or multi-eaved style: These pagodas are
characterized by a spacious first story, low subsequent stories and all eaves
spaced closely to one another. Windows are small or nonexistent and the interior
space is cramped and dark. Colse-eaved pagodas are an early style whose popularity
rested on the extreme simplicity and gracefulness of form. They are best viewed
from a distance where their lines can be seen in relief against a mountain or
the far horizon.The Chongsheng Santa are clearly of the third type.
The pagodas were founded for two main reasons. First, they were holy structures
that invoked the Buddha's protection against the frequent disasters of floods
and earthquakes. A carved marble inscription in front of Qianxunta bears the
four Chinese characters yong zhen shan chuan, subdue Forever the Mountains and
the Rivers. Secondly, the pagodas were reliquaries for the ashes and bones of
saints and a storehouse for scriptures and precious objects.
Butterfly Spring, 25 kilometers north of Dali, has ancient camphor trees beside
it.By hiking under the last of Cangshan's 19 peaks and exploring the northern
end of Erhai Lake, a visit here can be turned to good advantage. In spring,
when the trees put forth fragrant flowers, thousands of butterflies' flutter
among the branches and over the spring water forms a dazzling "Kingdom
of Butterflies". The spectacle has become a real wonder known far and wide.The
inevitable legend associated with the spring is that two lovers committed suicide
here to escape a cruel king. After jumping into the bottomless pond, they turned
into two of the butterflies which gather here en masse during May.
The spring, in a shady grove on the lower slopes of the Cangshan, was justifiable
famous for centuries because of a breathtaking convergence every springtime
of tens of thousands of butterflies at this spot. The phenomenon was documented
The annual Flower Festival of Dali falls on the fourteenth day of the second
month of the lunar calendar. Every household places many potted plants in front
of the house on the morning of the festival, and the whole town becomes a sea
of colorful flowers. Villagers from surrounding areas come to the town I their
Sunday best to see the flowers. The noted Italian traveler Marco Polo came to
Dali in 1287 and described the flower festival in his Travels of Marco Polo.
Three Pagodas of Worshipping the Sage Temple (Chongshengsisanta)
These three pagodas are arranged in a triangle on the slope of Cangshan Mountain
to the northwest of Dali. The largest of the three, Qianxun Pagoda, was built
when the area was ruled by the State of Nanzhao during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
It has sixteen levels and is sixty-nine meters high. A golden bird cast in bronze
hangs on each of the four corners at the top of the pagoda; according to legend,
these birds ward off the demons in Erhai Lake. There is a Buddha statue in the
shrine on each level of the pagoda. On the front wall of the pagoda, a panel
of a marble bears the inscription Yong Zhen Shan Chuan (Rule over the Mountains
and Rivers Forever). The two smaller pagodas on the north and south were built
during the Five Dynasties (907-960). These are solid brick octagonal structures
with ten levels, measuring forty-two meters high.