When you get tired of the busy urban life, why not slow down a bit? Lijiang, a poetic place in South China's Yunnan Province, offers a heavenly escape from earthly troubles and anxieties.
The highlight of a trip to Lijiang is a visit to Dayan ancient town. The matrix of the ancient town serves both aesthetical and scientific ends. Town, streets, waterways and architectural structures blend harmoniously in this land.
An expert has presented a vivid metaphor - the network of the waterways are the town's blood vessels; the streets are its sketches; the more than 350 bridges are its joints; the folk buildings are its muscles; the lutes, chess, calligraphies and paintings are its ornaments.
Bounded by no city walls, the Dayan ancient town stretches out freely. It is accessible in all directions and by any means, such as by streets, paths, fields or even narrow winding trails. The waterways are man-made and follow a careful design. Natural rivers and artificial canals crown the town an "oriental Venice".
A town built on water is naturally a world of bridges and this town boasts more than 350 bridges of varying sizes and materials including stone and wood. Linking waterways with streets, bridges are the town's joints.
Almost all the buildings are made of wood, which brings you closer to nature. When you smell the natural flavour, a feeling of security and satisfaction surrounds you.
The buildings here feature an ancient architectural style and flexibility to their surroundings. Some lie on the rivers; some nestle in mountains and some flank the streets. All the buildings are handcrafted. Carvings in wood, stone and brick can be seen on building doors, windows and roof beans. Flowers, birds, fish and beasts are the main topics for carving.
Almost all the buildings on the streets are two storied and function as shops. They sell daily necessities to urban visitors: pastry, herbs, bronze coins, silver wares, sheepskin coats and wooden handicrafts.
Every yard has its own private garden. Trees and flowers with calligraphies and paintings generate particular interest.
The streets are paved by a special kind of stone, which is specially designed for walking. You may find it a treat to walk on the stone. Walking on the uneven streets is good for your health for it massages every part of your feet. So most old women here wear either cloth shoes or go barefoot.
Following Daoism, the harmony between nature and man is the basic principle throughout constructions. Its simple elegance, closeness and peacefulness qualify it as a poetic dwelling place defined by a famous poet. Unlike the city's skyscrapers, its quiet beauty is close to nature. The modern world has recognized the tourist and cultural values of Dayan ancient town in Lijiang. In 1998, the United Nations listed Dayan as one of the most historically and culturally famous towns in the world.
Travelers in Shanghai can take a plane to Lijiang. There is a special shuttle between the airport and the town. The fare is 10 yuan. Or you can take a taxi to the town, which will cost 60 yuan (US$7). A train to Kunming and then a long-distance tourist bus is another option.
There are hotels catering to different demands in Lijiang, such as Lijiang Gongfang Grand Hotel (US$60 for double room), Ah Dan Ge Grand Hotel (US$40 for double room)
( Shanghai Star August 1, 2002)