Old Town of Lijiang

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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Old Town of Lijiang
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Old city Channels in Lijiang
Type Cultural
Criteria ii, iv, v
Reference 811
UNESCO region Asia-Pacific
Inscription history
Inscription 1997 (21st Session)

The Old Town of Lijiang (simplified Chinese: 丽江古城; traditional Chinese: 麗江古城; pinyin: Lìjiāng Gǔchéng) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Lijiang City, Yunnan, China.


Shops along the street with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background

The town has a history going back more than 800 years and was once a confluence for trade along the old tea horse road. It is famous for its orderly system of waterways and bridges. It differs from other ancient Chinese cities in architecture, history and the culture of its traditional residents the Nakhi people, therefore people there are called 胖金哥 and 胖金妹 (male and female respectively).

The town (including Dayan, Baisha and Shuhe) was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List on December 4, 1997.[1] Since then, the local government has taken more responsibility for the development and protection of the old city. Lijiang's tourism also boomed, and travellers from around the world flooded in; although many locals fear that due to much of the development, the old town of Lijiang will lose its appeal.

Recently, the government has started to develop additional "old city" sections adjacent to the site of the original old city. This is to accommodate the large number of tourists who walk the cobblestone streets (cars are not allowed in the old city), typically as part of package tours. Evenings in the old city can be particularly rowdy, not least due to the many outdoor bars, where boisterous groups of tourists try ousting other groups.

Lijiang is also home to the Jade Water Village, a Dongba cultural centre and Lugu Lake, a lake which is a tourist attraction.


A Nakhi old woman in the town square

The Nakhi perform Dongjing Music, an ancient form of Taoist ritual music, in Lijiang. Lijiang is also the site of the Lijiang Snow Mountain Music Festival (丽江雪山音乐节), which features Chinese rock music. The festival was created by Chinese pop musician Cui Jian.

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Panorama of the old town as seen from Wan Gu Lou

The influx of tourists that followed the inscription of the Ancient town of Lijiang onto UNESCO's World Heritage list has had dramatic effects. Many of the former inhabitants of the ancient city have had to move away due to rising costs of housing and food items, only to be replaced by tourist establishments.[2] The growth of these tourism businesses is largely uncontrolled.[3]



  1. ^ "Old Town of Lijiang". UNESCO. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  2. ^ "Reconciling Tourism and Conservation: The Case of Historic Towns". China Heritage Newsletter, China Heritage Project, The Australian National University, ISSN 1833-8461, No. 2, June 2005. June 2005. 
  3. ^ "UNESCO WHC-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Old Town of Lijiang, China". UNESCO WHC-ICOMOS Reactive Monitoring Mission to the Old Town of Lijiang, China. 10–19 January 2008. 

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Coordinates: 26°52′00″N 100°14′00″E / 26.86667°N 100.23333°E / 26.86667; 100.23333