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Dali: A Charming Folk City

China Today,January 11, 2018 Adjust font size:

Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake

Besides rich culture and long history, the breathtaking natural scenery in Dali has drawn countless tourists from home and abroad. The Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake are a must see.

The Cangshan Mountain is composed of 19 peaks which run from north to south. There is a creek flowing down between every two peaks and emptying into the Erhai Lake on the east side of the mountain. It is the second largest freshwater lake in Yunnan Province. Between the Cangshan Mountain and the Erhai Lake lies a fan-shaped alluvial plain, formed due to the impact of running water of the creeks; this is where the Old Town of Dali is located.

The Cangshan Mountain lies at a low latitude on a high plateau. On its top there are moraine lakes that are surrounded by primitive forests. Different plants grow at different elevations, forming layers of different scenery that change with the four seasons. Various flowers, including camellia, magnolia, lily, and azalea, are found across the mountain. There are 41 species of azaleas growing from the mountain base to the snow belt area at an elevation of 4,000 meters, forming a “sea of flowers.” Due to the high elevation, the Cangshan Mountain is snow-capped throughout the year. Looking from afar, its top gleams under the sunshine; therefore the “snow on the Cangshan Mountain” has been a signature scenery of Dali City.

Currently there are three cableways on the mountain, among which is a 5.5-kilometer-long one to the Horse Washing Pond on the mountain top. The pond is a moraine lake with a depth of 1.7 meters. It is said that Kublai Khan once stationed here when his troops arrived in Dali and had his horse washed in the pond, which is where the pond derives its name. Around the lake are azaleas, and the water in the pond is crystal clear.

The Erhai Lake is an alpine sag pond, with transparent water and various aquatic lives. According to folklore, the Bai people living near the lake would row a boat to appreciate the reflection of the golden moon at night of every Mid-Autumn Festival. The moonlight, clouds, and vast lake surface form a charming picture; therefore the “moonlight on the Erhai Lake” has also been a signature scenery of Dali.

A 115-kilometer-long road has been built for tourists to drive a car or ride a bicycle around the lake. There are many Bai residential houses along the road. Every household grows the purple-red great bougainvillea, which looks lovely against the traditional Bai houses of white walls and dark grey tiles. This is a good way for tourists to experience local life by staying in a guesthouse for a few days to enjoy tea, and watch the sunrise and sunset on the Erhai Lake.

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