Hello and welcome back once again to this week’s edition of ‘Bajan,’ Chinese Style! I hope you have been enjoying our travels throughout Yunnan and, just to give you an idea of how much there is to do and appreciate in this province, we find ourselves here at our 10th Yunnan edition and quite frankly, we’ve only just gotten a little more than halfway! With that in mind, let’s take our first precursory look at yet another Yunnan UNESCO world heritage site, The Kingdom of Dali.
Historically known as the Kingdom of Dali, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture or simply Dali, is the traditional seat of the Yi ethnicity. This differs from the neighbouring ancient towns of Lijiang and Shangri-La, of which the major (traditional) ethnicities consist of the Naxi ( Re: Naxi Ethnicity )and Tibetan principally. There are many reasons for this, of which geography undoubtedly plays an influential role. Situated 2090 meters above sea level, Dali is the lowest lying of the ancient highland metropolises and is bordered on the West by Lake Er Hai (China’s third largest fresh later lake) and Red Lake beach, while on the East by the magnificent Cang Mountain, which is, in my personal opinion, the most beautiful mountain range in all of China…but that’s just my personal opinion.
Protected on two sides by extensive water and mountain systems, as well as being situated in an already elevated topographical landscape, these factors all acted as a form of protective alcove or nursery of sorts, which allowed for the development of the Yi.
At this point you may be wondering, hmm, it’s clearly called the Bai Autonomous Prefecture, so why is this guy repeatedly calling it Yi? Fear not, it isn’t a typo, but is in fact a very subtle aspect of the local culture.
In the eyes of the legislature and indeed the layman traveller, the local ethnicity is called the Bai. This more as a form of quick reference for in actuality the Bai only account for one part of the total ethnicity. The traditional name of this ethnic group is, have you guessed it, yes, the Yi, and the entire ethnic group is divided into two main branches. These two branches are-if you’re keeping up with all of these plot twists then yes, you have it-The Bai Yi ( White Yi) and the Hei Yi (Black Yi). While they are all Yi, they have in many instances, differences in linguistic, architectural, and culinary culture.
That was a bit of basic information surrounding the Kingdom of Dali and so now we are going to take a quick look at what exactly makes Dali such a ‘vaunted’ getaway. I myself admit that vaunted may be a bit harsh, but I cannot in anyway over exaggerate that almost imperceptible charm, which hangs like a delicate fragrance in the air and makes Dali so…exquisitely appealing. For Dali is intrinsically that, appealing. The entire ancient city and its environs simply fill the soul wth joy and, in my case anyway, you actually feel all your worries and stresses simply melting away. This is turning into quite the puff piece, but Dali is really quite worth it.
In Dali, not only do you have the well maintained Ancient City of Dali but you also have the Imperial Palace of Dali, Cang Mountain, Er Hai and cycling tours to surrounding towns and villages, all set in a lush, well watered landscape. Dali, quite truthfully, closely approximates a veritable paradise.
Join us next week as we begin our exploration of the Kingdom of Dali!
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