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About 3,000 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.

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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.

Butterfly Spring

Butterfly Spring, 25 kilometers north of Dali, has ancient camphor trees beside it. By hiking under the last of Mt. Cangshan's 19 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 many times.

Erhai Lake

Erhai means Ear Lake, is just in similar shape of an ear of human being. About 2 km east of Dali, it is a large fresh water lake, 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 fish".

Three Pagodas

The three 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.

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