Dali Town (Chinese: 大理镇) is a township-level division in Dali City, Yunnan, China. The town contains the historic centre of Dali and is also commonly known as Dali Old Town (Chinese: 大理古城). The modern centre of Dali City, however, is 10 km south of the old town at Xiaguan. Dali has long been a regional centre of commerce, being located at a crossroads of trade routes between China, Burma, and Southeast Asia. The Bai people first settled the region 3000 years ago. Dali first emerged as the capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom in the 8th century. The old town of Dali has been preserved in a 1.5 by 1.5km wide townsite surrounded by its ancient walls.
The old town has become well-known as a tourist site in part thanks to its picturesque location and historic Bai architecture. It has been preserved in a 1.5 by 1.5km wide townsite surrounded by its ancient walls. Due to its relatively well-preserved architecture, the town has developed as a major tourist attraction in recent decades. Major sites of interest include the Three Pagodas, Dali Museum, the ancient city gates, and the Cang Mountain Range to the west.
The Three Pagodas of the Chongsheng Temple (Chinese: 崇圣寺三塔) are an ensemble of three independent pagodas arranged on the corners of an equilateral triangle, about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) from the old town of Dali, dating from the time of the Kingdom of Nanzhao and Kingdom of Dali in the 9th and 10th centuries. The Three Pagodas are made of brick and covered with white mud. Its style is unique in China’s ancient Buddhist architectures, which makes it a must-see. There is a lake behind them. Named (聚影池) Juying Chi (Reflection pond), the pond is known to be able to reflect images of the Three Pagodas.
Cangshan or Cang Mountain (simplified Chinese: 苍山; traditional Chinese: 蒼山) is a mountain range immediately west of Dali. The mountain range is noted for its rich, diverse flora. In 1991 construction began on a paved walkway running north and south from the top chairlift station near ancient Dali. This walkway passes several waterfalls and overlooks lake Erhai and the ancient city itself. This walkway is named "Jade-Cloud Road" after the cloud formations that appear over the Cang Mountain peaks.
Xizhou (Chinese: 喜洲) is a town located 20 km (13 mi) north of Dali Old Town. Xizhou has been historically important as a trading post along the Tea Horse Road, it has been home to notable rulers and governors of local polities past and present, and has gained notoriety in modernity for its high concentration of preserved and restored traditional Bai architecture and protected heritage sites.
Nanzhao was a polity that flourished in what is now southern China and Southeast Asia during the 8th and 9th centuries. It was centered on present-day Yunnan in China. Nanzhao encompassed many ethnic and linguistic groups. Some historians believe that the majority of the population were of the Bai people.