Ancient Charm of China: Shaxi Ancient Town

At the mention of old towns in southwest China’s Yunnan Province, many would think of the renowned old town of Lijiang or Dali. However, popularity usually comes with a price of large crowds. This episode of “Ancient Charm of China” introduces you an almost forgotten but equivalently visit-worthy old town in Yunnan.

Established in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Shaxi Ancient Town was once a crucial trade hub along the Tea Horse Road – an international trade route linking Yunnan, one of the major tea producing areas, and southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region as well as Central Asia.

By the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1644, 1616-1912), the old town was flourishing with trade for tea, herbs, silk and salt. The prosperous business improved the living conditions of the locals, which included a large number of Bai and Yi ethnic people.

As time went by, the business saw a decline, and the old town gradually vanished from sight. In addition to its location far away from major cities and roads, the ancient town remains fairly untouched by tourism.

The streets, residential houses, temples and theaters have been kept intact over the years. Authenticity and seclusion add more charm to the place.

The meticulously kept residential houses with delicate wooden carvings and exquisite ornaments testify to the areas past glories and affluence. Today, the unique atmosphere can still be felt in the cobbled streets.

Friday Market

There is a weekly market in Shaxi that has maintained its vigor over the years. Having a tour around the Friday Market is a highlight of visiting Shaxi.

Opening only once a week makes it a big deal for people living nearby. From fresh produce, meat, fish, dairy items to even electronics, you can find everything to meet your daily needs.

Taking a stroll through the market is quite the experience and also offers tons of fun for photographers. 

Travel tips:

Transportation: Take a flight or bullet train to Dali first and then take the bus to Jianchuan County where you’ll find a direct minibus to the destination. The bus ride costs only 10 yuan (1.4 U.S. dollars). Prepare for motion sickness due to the bumpy road.

Opening hours: 10:00 a.m. – 20:00 p.m.

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