Shaxi Old Town, Dali
Chinese name: 沙溪古镇
English Name:Shaxi Ancient Town
Keywords:The Tea Horse Road Site, Ancient Town, Shaxi Old Town Travel
Type: Ancient Market Town, Horse Caravan Town, Old Buildings
Best Seasons: All Seasons
Recommended Visiting Time: 1-2 days
Opening Hours: 24 hours (some attractions open: 8:00-18:00)
Permission: Free, except 10 RMB for Xingjiao Temple & 10 RMB for Ouyang courtyard
Location: Jianchuan County, Dali Prefecture, Yunnan Province, China, located between Lijiang Ancient Town and Dali Ancient Town
Shaxi Ancient Town (沙溪古镇)
Shaxi Ancient Town is a pleasant surprise between Dali and Lijiang. Shaxi Ancient Town is a famous attraction once played an important role as a bustling trade point on the Tea Horse Caravan Road. With the decline of the ancient Tea Horse Road, the town seems to have been forgotten. But this helps retain the original appearance of the small town. Many of the historical sites have been well preserved including Sifang Street, Xingjiao Temple, Yuxi Bridge and Ancient Opera Stage. Compared with other commercialized ancient towns in China, the undeveloped Shaxi Ancient Town is a better place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis and experience the quaint lives of local Bai People.
Why is Shaxi Ancient Town so special?
Shaxi Ancient Town, located between Lijiang Old Town and Dali Ancient City, used to be an important and prosperous hub along the ancient Tea Horse Road which refers to the international trade route with the caravan as the main means of transportation. The original appearance of the small town has been protected well. In 2001, its Market Square was added to the World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.The Friday Market of Shaxi is the only surviving market along the Ancient Tea Horse Road.
It has been put into the protection list of World Endangered Architecture.
Where is Shaxi Ancient Town?
Shaxi Ancient Town is located between Lijiang Ancient Town and Dali Ancient Town, which was a important hub of the ancient Tea Horse Caravan Road.
How to Get to Shaxi Ancient Town?
1.Get in Shaxi Ancient Town
For Shaxi is situated about 32km away from its center Jianchuan County, Dali Prefecture, Yunnan province, there is no straight bus from Lijiang, Dali and anywhere of Yunnan except Jianchuan. So, if you are planning your tour to visit Shaxi Ancient Town from somewhere of Yunnan, you have to go to Jianchuan first.
A.Jianchuan to Shaxi:
When you arrived at Jianchuan, there is a minibus station on the right side out of Jianchuan Bus Terminal. The minibus in green color will drive you to Shaxi Ancient Town, which coasts you 13 yuan. Though the service time of the minibus is from 6:30 am to 7:00 pm, the bus departs whenever it is full with passengers. So try not to arrive in Jianchuan too late or else there may not be enough passengers to fill up the bus.
B.Lijiang to Jianchuan:
Shaxi is situated 96km around away from Lijiang. There is no straight bus or train available between the two places. Long distance bus service from Lijiang to Jianchuan runs every 40-60 mins from 8:20am to 5:30pm.
C.Dali to Jianchuan:
Shaxi is situated 118km around away from Dali. There is also no straight bus or train available between the two places, but long distance bus service from Dali to Jianchuan runs every 15-30 mins from 6:45am to 6:00pm.
Lijiang Bus Terminal
Jianchuan Bus Terminal
Dali North Bus Terminal
Please Note: (1) The above information might be slightly changed according to practical situation, feel free to contact our professional travel expert for the detailed and newest information. (2) Due to the uncertainty and complexity of taking long distance bus, I will recommend our private car service for you, which will be arranged according to your need.
2.Get around Shaxi Ancient Town
It can be easily toured by walking at the main village of Shaxi (Sideng Street), While Hiking and Horseback Riding are the main options for a visit into the mountains around Shaxi.
History of Shaxi Ancient Tow and Tea Horse Caravan Road
Shaxi Ancient Town
In Tang Dynasty around 700 AD, Shaxi was founded as a trading point at the Tea Horse Road. People of the town not only sold a wide variety of homemade items at that time, but also opened their house and offered food to the passing caravans. Due to the prosperity of their business, the families renovated their house. The improving of living conditions then attributed to the flourishing of arts and centuries-old traditions. The meticulously kept houses decorated with family motto plaque and exquisite wooden carving products witnessed the affluence of Old Shaxi and Shaxi people. However, with the decline of the trade along the Tea Horse Road, Shaxi vanished from the sight of public, only the surviving Friday Market continued its vigor.
Tea and Horse Caravan Road
Tea Horse Road (茶马古道) earned its name from the large-scale commerce in tea and horse between tea-growing regions of China to places with plenty of horses. Tea was traded to Tibet and India while horses were brought to south of China at that time.
The development of large-scale commerce between the Chinese dynasties and Tibet probably dates to the Song dynasty (960-1279). And during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), the tea trade between Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet continued to develop. Today there are still many people come to the Tea and Horse Caravan Road, not for business or trade, but for the culture and spectacular old buildings of the region. Friday market of Shaxi Ancient Town, for instance, has attracted numerous visitors around the world every year.
Main Attractions and Things to Do
1.Stroll at the Main Spot of the Town – Sideng Street (寺登街)
The existing Sideng Street, which was put on the World Monument Watch list of the 100 most endangered sites in 2001, is composed of four parts: old market square theater, Xingjiao Temple, Ouyang Courtyard, and Yujin Bridge.
Among the three parts, the old market square theater (寺登戏台)is in the center of Sideng Street. It is a perfect place for vibrant celebration of folk art that displays the culture and tradition of Shaxi.
2.Xingjiao Temple (兴教寺)
Xingjiao Temple (兴教寺), built in the Ming Dynasty, is the only Buddhist temple of Bai People. At present it functions as a museum that exhibits how the Shaxi Rehabilitation Project (SRP) has contributed to the renewal of Shaxi.
3.Ouyang Courtyard (欧阳大院)
Ouyang Courtyard (欧阳大院), the original homestead of the rich caravan leaders Ouyang family in times of the Tea Horse Road, is a superb example of three-in-one Bai folk architecture. Its wooden window shutters still open and close smoothly despite a century of use. Carving details throughout the residence remain intact and lovely despite their sometimes faded lacquer. People visiting the house are allowed to take photos of most of the common areas after paid a modest ten yuan fee.
4.Yujin Bridge (玉津桥)
Yujin Bridge (玉津桥) spans opposite the east gate of Shaxi Old Town. The ancient Yujin stone arch bridge built in the Qing Dynasty is about 6 meters high and 35.4 meters long. It is a perfect spot for photographers who want to capture a snapshot of Shaxi. This ancient stone bridge carries Shaxi’s history. Its surface is getting bumpy smooth by the touch of countless passing horses and travelers.
5.Attend & Witness the Vibrant Friday Market (星期五市集)
It is said that the market have been held on Fridays since 1415. Originally the market was a modest one. Locals gathered at the square outside of Xingjiao Temple to peddle homemade items to passing merchants who in turn traded goods from distant cities along the Tea Horse Road. But now it has grown into a massive affair.
Friday must be the highlight of the week in Shaxi valley. Nearby residents in traditionally dressed will gather together along the curbside to offer a wide range of local items. Such as freshly made goats cheese, traditional Chinese medicine, drying tofu, wild mushrooms, etc. It seems there is nothing that isn’t for sale on Fridays in Shaxi. Even the hair can be cut and weighed in situ. If you come here on Friday, you should not miss this only surviving market of The Ancient Tea Horse Road.
6.Accept the Blessing of Shakyamuni Buddha during Taizihui Holiday (太子会)
Taizihui is the biggest traditional folk activity of Yi minorities held every year on the eighth day of the second lunar month. Taizi refers to Shakyamuni Buddha and the holiday held in order to get Taizi’s blessing. According to the legend, it is in that day Shakyamuni decided to be a Buddha and began to deliver all living creatures from torment.
7.Enjoy Dancing around Fires during Torch Festival (火把节)
Torch Festival is a major festival for the Bai and the Yi minorities around Shaxi. It is held every year from the 25th day (24th for Yi minority) of the 6th month on the lunar calendar. It is said that Torch Festival is rooted in the local agrarian culture. Farmers originally took torches into the fields in order to scare away birds and insects that might eat the valuable crops. And it gradually evolved into a grand festival for all general people.
During the festival, Yi and Bai people dressed in traditional costumes dancing and singing around big barn fires go on late in to the night. Large torches even up to 20 meters high.
Best Time to Visit Shaxi Ancient Town
You can visit Shaxi Ancient Town between February to May since Shaxi enjoys the favorable climate and tranquil environment. The 8th day of the 2nd month on the lunar calendar can be the ideal time to enjoy the Taizi Festival, which is the grandest featival of Shaxi.
Accommodate at Shaxi Ancint Town
There are many inns, guesthouses and folk houses of various standards in and around Shaxi Ancient Town. For your ease of reference, below are the recommended inns & guesthouses.
Shaxi Old Theatre Inn (沙溪古戏台会馆): A beautiful restored boutique heritage hotel, housed within an authentically preserved eighteenth-century temple theatre courtyard complex. The local partner, Mr. Wu speaks English, French and Chinese.
Landscape Hotel Shaxi (兰林阁颂曲): The hotel has its own bar, garden and restaurant and features a 24-hour front desk and an ATM for guests. Breakfast is available every morning, and includes continental, American and Asian options.
Dali Shaxi Cato’s Inn (大猫驿客栈): Located 30m from the center scenic spot old market square theater, Dali Shaxi Cato’s Inn offers numerous leisure options including hiking and cycling. BBQ facilities, Luggage storage, free parking and laundry are also available.
Shaxi Xiaolazhe Yododo Inn (肖拉者游多多客栈): Conveniently located 500m from the Shaxi Old Town Parking lot, this inn offers public balcony to view the mountains. Shower facility, hairdryer, shampoo and body soap are also provided at this inn.
Shibao Mountain is 25 kilometers southwest of the Jianchuan County, and about 20 mins’ car ride from Shaxi Ancient Town. It is a famous Danxia landform mountain with famous Temples, Buddhist Grottoes and Golden Monkeys. Shibao Mountain earned its name from its turtleback-shaped cracks, which also look like lion, elephant and bell sometimes.