The Three Pagodas are pretty much a 'must see' if you visit Dali - the are one of the iconic images of the region. Located approximately 1 kilometer from Dali's Ancient Town, the history of the Pagodas extends back over 1800 years, a time in which they have survived several earthquakes.
Once you have walked past the Pagodas, there are a range of Buddhist temples continuing up the hillside. Each one houses interesting buddhas and other items. At the top - which is quite a climb - there is a spectacular view over Lake Erhai.
If climbing to the top sounds a little strenuous, it is possible to hire a golf cart at the bottom to drive you up.
Allow at least a couple of hours to visit the complex - particularly if you plan on climbing right to the top.
Entrance costs approximately 120 Yuan.
The cobbled streets of Dali's Ancient Town are lined with an array of shops in which you can buy just about anything. That said, the area is famous for its silver and marble, as well as Bai minority handicrafts.
Bargaining is a must in most shops, as is checking to make sure what you are getting is the genuine article. If a shop allows bargaining, anywhere between 50-80% off the original price is common. Foreigner's Street is the area most frequented by visitors, but prices in this crowded street can be higher than in other parts of Ancient Town.
We recently returned from a trip to Dali. Zhao was our guide and he did a great job. He took us to some great places, was very caring and an excellent guide. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dali Museum is located on the main street that runs north-south through the old town, just inside from the South Gate. It was originally the mansion of the Qing governor and later served as the headquarters of Du Wen Xiu, leader of the Muslim Uprising of 1856. Inside are Buddhist figurines from the Nanzhao Kingdom, statues of serving girls and an orchestra excavated from a Ming-dynasty tomb. There are also small stone stele outside.
Open: 8.30am-6pm. Admission: RMB5.
These are the views over Dali from Zhonghe Shan in the Cangshan Mountain range. You can see everything in the old town itself such as the walls, gates and reservoirs, the three pagodas and Chongsheng Temple and Er Hai Lake.
This temple lies on Zhonghe Shan which is a mountain peak in the Cangshan Mountain range, to the west of the old town. It was originally built in the Ming dynasty and serves both Taoists and Buddhists. I was virtually the only visitor at the temple so it's a nice peaceful spot and the views over the town are superb.
Take the chairlift if you don't want to climb up - just follow the road that leads up the hill from the West Gate of the old town.
This market is located outside the West Gate of the old town on a road that leads up to the chairlift that climbs Zhonghe Shan. The market is a great place to come to and witness everyday local life with Bai women dressed in traditional minority clothes and carrying baskets on their backs. The market sells all sorts of things such as food, clothes, reed baskets and brushes.
A chairlift ascends up Zhonghe Shan, which is the easiest way to get to Zhonghe Temple. Just follow the road that leads up the hill from the West Gate of the old town. I reached the chairlift station and had to register in a book as there had been some robberies in the hills on paths up high. I got on the chairlift and climbed up past tombs and through pine forests to the sound of a Chinese woman announcing some message along with the instrumental version of "Take My Breath Away" by Berlin, for some reason, which was used in the film Top Gun. The trip up took about 25 minutes and I was the only one on the chairlift. It gets much cooler up at the top so take something warm to wear.
Admission: RMB60 return. Then RNB32 to enter the Zhonghe Park.
The Palace of Eleven-face Kwan-yin is a Ming style building of five open rooms with double eaves, in which was there is a nine meter high statue of Eleven-face Kwan-yin and eight embodiments of Kwan-yin (standing and seated statues of 4 meters high).
The Hall of the Guardian Kings contains, in the middle, a 5.7m high Mahakala Buddha, on both sides of who stand four 5m high Guardian Heavenly Kings. Mahakala Buddha is very important Guardian King in the Secret School. And he is the reincarnation of Siva and Mahesvara and Creation Buddha, Happiness Buddha and also Destruction Buddha. The statue of Mahakala was made based on the portrait of Mahakala Buddha found in Qianxun Pagoda - the largest of the Three Pagodas. The statue is a single-faced, six-arm furious body, with a snake around his arms, death’s-head jade-like stone around his neck, a spear in his right hand and a bronze bell in his left.
One of the first buildings you'll come to inside the Chongsheng Temple is that which houses the Nanzhao Jianji Bell. It was cast in 871 A.D. and is 3.86m high and weighs 16.3 tons. Its sound is said to be heard some 40km away.
Behind the Three Pagodas lies a small museum housed in two halls, either side of the main path that leads through the Chongsheng Temple complex. The museum features several exquisite golden Buddha statues and the original bronze top off the main large pagoda. The exhibits were uncovered during renovation works on the Three Pagodas during 1979 where some 640 items were found.
Chongsheng Temple, built in the Kaiyuan era of the Tang dynasty (618-907), was the famous loyal monastery during the period of Nanzhao and Dali kingdoms. Its scale was "seven-li-square" with 890 rooms, with 11,000 Buddha’s, three pavilions and seven towers. The whole temple complex covers a total area of 20,080 square meters and stands against the stunning backdrop of Cangshan Mountain. The whole temple was recently completely rebuilt and is stunning to walk round and very large, so allow yourself plenty of time to see it.
Open: 7am-8pm. Admission: RMB121 (includes The Three Pagodas).
These three pagodas are perhaps the most famous in China and feature on many postcards. They are, in fact, part of the Temple of the Exalted Holy One (Chongsheng Si), also known as the Temple of the Three Pagodas (Santa Si). The largest of these, the Pagoda of the Thousand Searches (Qianxun Ta), a rectangular building of sixteen stepped storeys, stands 69m/226ft high and is very similar to the Pagoda of the Little Wild Goose in Xian. There are some doubts as to when it was built, although most experts now think it was in the third decade of the 9th century. In the centre of the front of each storey there is a niche containing a marble statue of the Buddha. Other Buddhist relics were found during a renovation in 1979 and are in a museum behind the pagodas.
The two smaller pagodas (which stand 138ft/42m high) are to the north and south of the large one. Both are octagonal, of ten stepped storeys and date from the time of the Five Dynasties period (907-960). All three are beautiful buildings and were some of the best that I saw during my 3 month trip in China. The admission price is rather hefty but this does include the large temple complex. Think of these as, sort of, China's Taj Mahal. More photos can be found in one of my travelogues.
Open: 7am-8pm. Admission: RMB121 (includes Chongsheng Temple).
This is a lovely idea. Why not have a stream running through the middle of a pedestrian street? Well this particular spot is very popular with people having their photos taken as it is very picturesque. My guesthouse was right outside it.