Cangyuan Cliff Painting, Lincang

Cangyuan Cliff Painting

Cangyuan Cliff Painting, Lincang

Cangyuan Cliff Painting (沧源岩画), the oldest cliff painting of China, enjoys the history of 3000 years. It is painted with red paint with fingers or feathers. Pigments may be made from animal blood and hematite powder. The cliff paintings mainly describe the hunting activities, production activities and entertainment activities etc. There is also a war triumph, a picture of the bamboo house and the people who hold the weapon and get back with victory. The rough and simple painting is an important material for studying the history of the ancient nationalities of south of China.

Why is Cangyuan Cliff Painting so special?

Cangyuan Cliff Painting is the oldest cliff painting of China, which is the important materials for studying on ancient ethnic groups. Nowadays the paintings have already been designated as the key historical relic protection unit at the provincial and national level. The cliff paintings in Cangyuan County are known for the long history, dense distribution, rich content, complete memorabilia system, and majestic promenade-style cliff-like pictures.

How to get to Cangyuan Cliff Painting?

Cliff Painting Valley is a developed place for appreciate cliff painting. It takes about 30 minutes to drive to it from Cangyuan County. Travelers had better to rent a car or drive to it since there  is no shuttles.


The cliff paintings of Cangyuan is said to take on different colors as the time, weather and humidity change. According to the proverb of the local Wa and Thai people that the cliff painting changes three times a day: in the morning the color is red, at noon lighter and purple in the evening. Nowadays the paintings have already been designated as the key historical relic protection unit at the provincial level.

Up to now, eleven painted cliffs have been found to scatter in the villages of Menglai, Dinglai, Mankan, Heping of Cangyuan County and the village of Mangguang of Dima County etc. Called Randianmu which means the paintings on the rocks in the local Wa language, these reddish brown ancient paintings were basically drawn on the grey limestone at the elevation of about 1, 500 meters. Measuring somewhere between one to thirty square meters, these primitive masterpieces are normally two to ten meters above the ground and include the images of animals, architectures, trees, boats, heavenly bodies like the sun or the moon, mountains and many abstract symbols etc.

Cangyuan Cliff Painting, Lincang

Human figures and lively life scene are also the important themes of these artistic works on the sharp cliffs. The eyes, nose and other facial details of the human face are normally omitted; the painters instead paid more attention to the depiction of the human body and limbs. Apart from artistic meanings and value, many important life activities of these human ancestors such as hunting, dancing, recreation and sacrifice rituals and suchlike are vividly displayed and recorded, which seems to bring the viewers back to those mysterious and remote prehistoric ages.

Purpose of Painting

The creative motives of Cangyuan Cliff painting are not single, and various genres may have different creative purposes. In summary, there are two aspects, religious and the original notes.

Religion Belief

  1. Witchcraft: People believed that the painting can make their wish come true like the hunting picture giving them the successful hunting.
  2. Pray for a good harvest: The picture of the flock of herds stands for the wishes for the reproduction of animals. A big party means their celebration for good harvest.
  3. Worship and Sacrifice: The figures of god and goddess are the symbols of their believes.

Record of Life

  1. Record of big events: The paintings of the second place are not serious, reflecting the sights of daily life.
  2. Record of legendary: The legendary carries on their best wishes to life.

Recommended Tours

1 Day Cangyuan Wa Ethnic Culture Tour

5 Days Wa Ethnic Minority’s New Rice Festival Tour

Nearby Attractions

Wengding Wa Ethnic Village

Wengding Wa Ethnic Village(翁丁佤寨) is an over 400 year-old Wa ethic village. Wengding means where the clouds are floating since mists often cloak the mountains throughout the year. People who live there have been called“ the last tribe of China’’,it has preserved the typical style of Wa residential architecture and primitive folk customs. Surrounded by lush trees, the village consists of 98 households with over 400 residence Of Wa people. The local elder stated that the woods protect the safety of the village. Inside of village has the best preserved cottages, totem, the woods, Village pillars and worship places, which reflects the splendid history and culture of Wa people. Black is auspicious color of Wa people. The elder, men and women, prefer holding tobacco pipe when they are free.

Sigangli Cave 

Sigangli Cave in Cangyuan (沧源司岗里溶洞) is 3 km from Menglai Village of Cangyuan County. Sigangli means coming from the cave in Wa language. Geological evolvement for numerous years forms plenty of hall in the hole, stalagmites in the hall, stalagnate in different poses and with different expressions, and rich spectacle combination. Some of them seem petty monkey playing around, lion squatting, tiger looking for food etc. Especially, there is a stalagnate, about 20 m high, 1.6 m root thick, standing upright between heaven and land. The stalagnate is small at the upper part but big at the lower part, decorated with stone pattern on it which looks like one by one stone towers, clean and white, acclaimed as the acme of perfection.

Cangyuan Cliff Painting, Lincang

Useful Travel Tips

Please take care of yourself when discover the cliff painting.

Do not climb the cliff for appreciating or taking photos.

Protect the cliff painting and do not paint on the cliff.