Dali: Seat of a Lost Empire
For more than two decades, the city of Dali in northwest Yunnan has beguiled foreign travelers and seduced intellectuals and artists fleeing the tumult of China's teaming eastern metropolises. The reasons are plentiful — a mild climate, stunning scenery, a confident and thriving local culture and sprawling history seemingly taken from a storybook.
It is into this milieu that show host Jordan Porter steps in episode four of Yunnan: The China You Never Knew, available now on our YouTube channel, Destination China. While spending time in Dali, Jordan focuses on the region's history, which, while once dominated by the Bai minority, is actually a melting pot of ethnicities. Below is a trailer, and you can access the full episode, Dali: Seat of a Lost Empire, on YouTube.
Jordan begins his journey by having breakfast in a courtyard and sampling a Bai culinary delicacy — raw pig face. From there, he takes a motorcycle tour around Erhai Lake with Hendrik Heyne, owner of TibetMoto. The two end up visiting the tiny and exceedingly unique Putuo Island and its amalgam of Daosim and Buddhism.
Up next is a trip to what is arguably the most iconic architectural site in the entirety of Yunnan province — the Three Pagodas. Built 1,000 years ago, the towers have endured numerous earthquakes, concealed priceless artifacts and today attract millions of tourists. Wrapping up his trip, Jordan visits a 90 year-old tie-dye factory to learn how the Bai people create their signature indigo-colored batiks.
To watch the entire Dali show, click over to our YouTube channel, where you can also catch other episodes of Yunnan: The China You Never Knew. The first of these centers on the provincial capital, Kunming, while the second and third find Jordan in the ancient towns of Weishan and Donglianhua.
While you're there, check out our behind-the-scenes short films highlighting Spring City barbecue, Weishan's famous snacks and the history of Yunnan's Tea Horse Road. For more information on the entire 12-episode travel show, see our summary article. Enjoy!
See the entire episode of Dali: Seat of a Lost Empire on YouTube!
More about Dali and it's old town
Lying in the middle of a long, north-south plain at around 2,000 meters altitude, flanked on the west by the peaks of the Cangshan mountain range — with some peaks over 4,000 meters high — on the east by sprawling Erhai Lake, the city enjoys a superb geographic location and boasts a plethora of ancient buildings and structures.
Dali was not even part of China until the thirteenth century. At their greatest extents, the Qin, Han, Tang and Song dynasties did not incorporate the area into the Chinese empire. In fact, from the mid-eighth century to its conquest by Kubilai Khan in 1253, the area was the heartland of two successive states — the Nanzhao until the beginning of the tenth century, and the Kingdom of Dali afterwards.
The buildings, gates and walls of Dali Old Town today date from the Ming and Qing dynasties, but monuments prior to the Mongol conquest still stand. The most famous are the Three Pagodas just north of the city proper, the Lone Pagoda near the South Gate and the Skeleton Python Pagoda just north of the city of Xiaguan to the south. All of these date from the Nanzhao era but are far from the only cultural attractions.
The natural beauty of its setting alone would suffice to draw travelers to spend time in Dali, even if it had no relics of its very eventful past. But it does, and these are unique assets. Dali's monumental legacy stretches back 14 centuries, covering each successive stage of its history. No other city in Yunnan can make the same claim.
See the entire episode of Dali: Seat of a Lost Empire on YouTube!© Copyright 2005-2019 GoKunming.com all rights reserved. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without permission.