Old Town of Lijiang

Old Town of Lijiang

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.

Vieille ville de Lijiang

La vieille ville de Lijiang, harmonieusement adaptée à la topographie irrégulière de ce site commercial et stratégique clé, a conservé un paysage urbain historique de grande qualité et éminemment authentique. Son architecture est remarquable par l'association d'éléments de plusieurs cultures réunies durant de nombreux siècles. Lijiang possède également un système d'alimentation en eau extrêmement complexe et ingénieux qui fonctionne toujours efficacement.

مدينة ليجيانغ القديمة

تكيّفت مدينة ليجيانغ القديمة مع تقلّبات طوبوغرافيا هذا الموقع التجاري والإستراتيجي المحوري وقد حافظت على منظر حضري تاريخي متميّز وأصيل كلّ الأصالة. تنفرد هندستها بالمزاوجة بين عناصر ثقافات عدّة اجتمعت على مرِّ قرونٍ عدّة. كما تملك ليجيانغ نظام إمدادات مائيّة معقّد ومبتكر لا زال يعمل بفعالية.

source: UNESCO/ERI



source: UNESCO/ERI

Старый город Лицзян

Старый город Лицзян, который превосходно адаптирован к сложному рельефу этой важной в торговом и стратегическом отношении местности, отлично сохранил свой подлинный исторический облик. Его архитектура достойна внимания из-за смешения элементов нескольких культур, развивавшихся совместно на протяжении многих столетий. Лицзян также имеет древнюю сложную систему водоснабжения, основанную на большой изобретательности, которая эффективно действует и в настоящее время.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Ciudad vieja de Lijiang

La ciudad vieja de Lijiang, que estí¡ perfectamente adaptada a la topografí­a irregular de un sitio importancia comercial y estratégica, ha conservado un paisaje urbano histórico de gran calidad y autenticidad. Su notable arquitectura integra elementos de diversas culturas que se fueron fusionando a lo largo de los siglos. Lijiang posee también un antiguo sistema de abastecimiento de agua, sumamente complejo e ingenioso, que sigue funcionando con eficacia.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Oude stad van Lijiang

De oude binnenstad van Lijiang is perfect aangepast aan de ongelijke topografie van deze belangrijke commerciële en strategische locatie. De Lijiang regio (in het noorden van de provincie Yunnan) wordt al sinds de steentijd door mensen bewoond. In de 13e eeuw na Christus werden aan de voet van de Shizi bergen huizen gebouwd, omringd door een stadsmuur en gracht. Deze historische kern is prachtig bewaard gebleven. De architectuur is opmerkelijk vanwege het samengaan van elementen uit verschillende culturen door de eeuwen heen. Lijiang heeft ook een oud ingenieus systeem voor watervoorziening dat tegenwoordig nog steeds functioneert.

Source: unesco.nl

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Old Town of Lijiang (China) © Fiona Starr
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

The Old Town of Lijiang is located on the Lijiang plain at an elevation of 2,400 meters in southwest Yunnan, China, where a series of strategic passes give access through the surrounding mountains. The Yulong Snow Mount to the north-west is the source of the rivers and springs which water the plain and supply the Heilong Pool (Black Dragon Pond), from where waterways feed into a network of canals and channels to supply the town. The Old Town of Lijiang comprises three component parts: Dayan Old Town (including the Black Dragon Pond), Baisha and Shuhe housing clusters. Dayan Old Town was established in the Ming dynasty as a commercial centre and includes the Lijiang Junmin Prefectural Government Office; the Yizi pavilion and Guabi Tower remaining from the former Mujia compound and the Yuquan architectural structures in the Heilongtan Park. Numerous two-storeyed, tile-roofed, timber-framed houses combining elements of Han and Zang architecture and decoration in the arched gateways, screen walls, courtyards and carved roof beams are representative of the Naxi culture and are disposed in rows following the contours of the mountainside. Wooden elements are elaborately carved with domestic and cultural elements - pottery, musical instruments, flowers and birds.

The Baisha housing cluster established earlier during the Song and Yuan dynasties is located 8km north of the Dayan Old Town. Houses here are arranged on a north-south axis around a central, terraced square. The religious complex includes halls and pavilions containing over 40 paintings dating from the early 13th century, which depict subjects relating to Buddhism, Taoism and the life of the Naxi people, incorporating cultural elements of the Bai people. Together with the Shuhe housing cluster located 4km north-west of Dayan Old Town, these settlements nestling in mountains and surrounded by water reflect the blend of local cultures, folk customs and traditions over several centuries.

The vivid urban space, the vigorous water system, the harmonious building complexes, the comfortable residences of appropriate size, the pleasant environment, and the folk art of unique style combine to form an outstanding example of human habitat.

Criterion (ii): From the 12th century onward, the Old Town of Lijiang was an important goods distribution center for trade between Sichuan, Yunnan and Tibet, and is where the Silk Road in the south joins the Ancient Chama (Tea and Horse) Roads. The Old Town of Lijiang became an important center for the economic and cultural communication between various ethnic groups such as the Naxi, Han, Tibetan and Bai. Cultural and technological exchanges over the past 800 years resulted in the particular local architecture, art, urban planning and landscape, social life, customs, arts and crafts and other cultural features which incorporate the quintessence of Han, Bai, Tibetan and other ethnic groups, and at the same time show distinctive Naxi features. In particular, the murals in the religious architecture and other buildings reflect the harmonious co-existence of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.

Criterion (iv): The three parts of the Old Town of Lijiang: Dayan Old Town (including the Heilong Pool), Baisha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster, fully reflect the social, economic and cultural features of the different periods, following the natural topography of mountains and water sources to form an outstanding settlement combining the residential traditions of Naxi, Han, Bai and Tibetan people.

Criterion (v): The Old Town of Lijiang has integrated the mountains, rivers, trees and architecture to create a human habitat featuring the unity between man and nature. With mountains extending to the plain as the protective screen in the north and the plains in the east and south, the Old Town enjoys a sound geometrical relationship and ecological layout. A forked water system originates from the snow-capped mountain and runs through the villages and the farmland. Heilong Pool and the scattered wells and springs constitute a complete water system, meeting the needs for fire prevention, daily life and production in the town. Water plays an important role in the Old Town’s unique architectural style, urban layout and landscape as the main street and small alleys front onto the canals and some buildings and numerous bridges are constructed across the canals. As an excellent example of human habitat showing a harmony between man and nature, the Old Town is a remarkable tribute to human ingenuity in land use.


The mountains in the surrounding area of the Old Town of Lijiang have been well preserved, and the time-honored water-supply system is still functioning today. The property boundaries and buffer zone are in the process of being modified to better protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property.


The property area of Dayan, Baisha housing cluster and Shuhe housing cluster of the Old Town of Lijiang have retained the overall layout, urban morphology, street landscape, and architectural style of the Ming and Qing dynasties, in spite of numerous earthquakes including a big earthquake on February 3, 1996. The intangible heritage including Dongba culture, Naxi character, and the building skills of traditional residences in the Old Town of Lijiang have been inherited and promoted with the development of Naxi society.

Protection and management requirements

For the protection and management, the Old Town of Lijiang has strictly abided by the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Regulations for the Implementation of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on Protection of Cultural Relics and Regulation on the Protection of Famous Historical and Cultural Cities, Towns and Villages. In recent years, World Heritage protection and management organs at various levels have taken additional measures. They have positively responded to the reactive monitoring carried out by the World Heritage Committee, carefully implemented the decisions of the Committee, and organized professional institutions and experts to enhance the research on the Outstanding Universal Value of the Old Town of Lijiang; they have prepared the Conservation Master Plan for the Old Town of Lijiang as a World Cultural Heritage Site, Manual on Repairing Folk Residences, Manual on Environment Protection, Plan for Business Development, and Management Plan; they have strengthened the control and management over tourism and commercial development in the surrounding area of the property by adjusting the area of protection.

In the future, the preparation, examination and implementation of the Conservation Master Plan for the Old Town of Lijiang as a World Cultural Heritage Site will be accelerated. Monitoring will be enhanced during the implementation to ensure that the measures will be effectively taken. Moreover, the capacity of the World Cultural Heritage Management Bureau of the Old Town of Lijiang, the local protection and management institution, will be further built to improve heritage protection and management.