years ago, the primitive humans inhabited the area of
Erhai Lake. As early as the 2nd century B.C., Dali was
on the map of the Kingdom of the Central Plains as Yeyu
County. In 738, Pilouge, a chieftain of the Bai Tribe,
united the six tribes of the Erhai region with the support
of the Tang Dynasty, and established the State of Nanzhao,
which was destroyed in 902. Duan Siping, also a head
of the Bai Tribe, established the State of Dali in 938.
In the following 500-year period, Dali City was the
political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan Province.
The city is now one of the 24 leading historical and
cultural cities and one of the 44 State-designated Scenic
Centers in China.
Dali has a long
history for its culture, as witnessed by the unearthing of
bronze objects dating back to the Zhou Dynasty (11th century
-771 B.C.). During the Tang Dynasty (618-907), local rulers
of great talent and bold vision introduced the cultures of
the central China, India and Tibet. This long period of development
made the culture of Dali a brilliant unique flower in the
Chinese cultural garden, and ancient Dali was famous for scholars
and their works. Ancient temples, steles, pagodas, folk songs,
music, dance and other folk art forms, including folk stories,
legends, picture scrolls and grotto sculptures, demonstrate
the long history and rich contents of Dali culture. All these
things constitute a rare and precious national cultural heritage.
Spring, 25 kilometers north of Dali, has ancient camphor
trees beside it. By hiking under the last of Mt. Cangshan's
peaks and exploring the northern end of Erhai Lake,
a visit here can be turned to good advantage. In spring,
when the trees put forth fragrant flowers, thousands
of butterflies' flutter among the branches and over
the spring water forms a dazzling "Kingdom of Butterflies".
The spectacle has become a real wonder known far and
wide. The inevitable legend associated with the spring
is that two lovers committed suicide here to escape
a cruel king. After jumping into the bottomless pond,
they turned into two of the butterflies that they gather
here each year during May. The spring, in a shady grove
on the lower slopes of the Mt. Cangshan, was justifiable
famous for centuries because of a breathtaking convergence
that in every springtime, tens of thousands of butterflies
gather at this spot. This phenomenon was documented
Ear Lake, is just in similar shape of an ear of human
being. About 2 km east of Dali, it is a large fresh
and in the middle of it, there are islets and sandbars.
Covering 250 square kilometers, the blue, rippling lake
and the snow-covered Mt. Cangshan create radiance and
beauty to each other. The scene is therefore described
as "Silver Cangshan and Jade Erhai". Three
main islands and several temples and villages along
the lake's dry eastern shore are worth visiting. About
an hour by boat from Xianguan is Golden Shuttle Island,
with a small fishing community on the east side and
a cave for exploring.
On the shore,
directly north of the island, is a rocky peninsula crowned
by a pavilion and temple. Sacred Buddhist buildings,
destroyed and rebuilt many times, have stood on this
spot for nearly 1,500 years. Luoyuan Temple damaged
in the past years has been put back together and has
great charm. A picturesque temple island, the Small
Putuo, dating from the 15th century, is devoted to Guanyin,
the Goddess of Mercy. On the shore nearby is the fishing
village of Haiyin, whose boatmen are steeped in the
lore of the lake. One of their specialties is night
fishing to try to catch the huge 88-pound "green
elegant pagodas arise on the Mt. Cangshan slope overlooking
the Erhai Lake, known as Three Pagodas of Saintly
Worship. The outstanding landmarks of the region, they
were once part of the greatest temple complex on the
Dali plain. In recent years, the site of Three Pagodas
has become extremely popular with visitors.
The tallest of the three, Qianxun Pagoda, has 16 tiers
that reach a height of 69.13 meters. Its structure,
similar to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an, is
in a typical art style of the Tang dynasty (618-907).
The two smaller pagodas to its west and north, each
42.19 meters high with ten tiers, have a luxurious appearance
with their exquisite carvings. They were built in the
Five dynasties (907-960). More than 600 rare relics
of the states of Nanzhao and Dali were discovered in
the three pagodas during the reconstruction in 1978,
making them even more famous.
Pagodas are among the most ubiquitous structures throughout
the Buddhist world, which were known as stupas that
probably evolved in India from prehistoric times as
the burial mounds for local rulers and the famed man.
Legend says that in the 5th century BC, Shakyamuni,
the founding Buddha, asked to have his ashes interred
in a stupa. Since then, stupas became the symbol of
the Buddha, reminded his earthly existence, cult objects
and place of devotion.