The world famous Old Town of Lijiang (Dayan Town) is located in Lijiang City. Lijiang City comprises one district, the Old Town District and four counties, including Yulong County,Yongsheng County, Huaping County, Ninglang County.
The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.
Any traveller coming to Lijiang is almost always coming to visit the old town of Dayan, which was declared a World Heritage Site in 1998. After a 7.2 Earthquake in February 1996, the Old Town was extensively renovated, concrete buildings pulled down, and much of the original 'authenticity' of Lijiang restored.
The old town of Lijiang has become a hotbed for domestic tourism, making baseball cap donning Chinese tour groups a common sight. Still, Lijiang, with its functioning canals that line the narrow winding alleys and the hundreds of years old Chinese architecture, retains much of its charm and is one of the more impressive stops in the entire region.
The dominant local ethnic minority in Lijiang is Naxi, with many Yi and Bai in the area. The Naxi are reputedly 'matriarchal' and hence the subject of much interest among Chinese and foreign tourists, though what this means is subject to much dispute. Naxi are matrilineal, insofar as property is traditionally inherited down the female line, and men move into their wife's family home after marriage.
Lijiang history and culture is not as rich and complex as nearby Dali, but it has been much more successful in attracting tourists. Prior to the Mongol invasion in the 12th century, Dali was the functioning capital and the 13th largest city in the world, while Lijiang a minor regional town.
Lijiang is also a very useful base for exploring the rest of Yunnan. From here you can travel north towards "Shangri-La" Zhongdian or Deqin, or take the trek on the Tiger Leaping Gorge in one of the most naturally beautiful areas of China.