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What to do in Dali

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After Kunming tour, you should visit Dali

1. Dali Museum

Dali Museum is located on the main street that runs north-south through the old town, just inside from the South Gate. It was originally the mansion of the Qing governor and later served as the headquarters of Du Wen Xiu, leader of the Muslim Uprising of 1856. Inside are Buddhist figurines from the Nanzhao Kingdom, statues of serving girls and an orchestra excavated from a Ming-dynasty tomb. There are also small stone stele outside.

Open: 8.30am-6pm. Admission: 5 RMB (Chinese currency converter ).

2. Zhonghe Temple

This temple lies on Zhonghe Shan which is a mountain peak in the Cangshan Mountain range, to the west of the old town. It was originally built in the Ming dynasty and serves both Taoists and Buddhists. I was virtually the only visitor at the temple so it's a nice peaceful spot and the views over the town are superb.

Take the chairlift if you don't want to climb up - just follow the road that leads up the hill from the West Gate of the old town.  

3. Market on the way to chairlift

This market is located outside the West Gate of the old town on a road that leads up to the chairlift that climbs Zhonghe Shan. The market is a great place to come to and witness everyday local life with Bai women dressed in traditional minority clothes and carrying baskets on their backs. The market sells all sorts of things such as food, clothes, reed baskets and brushes.  

4. Chongsheng Temple - Hall of the Guardian Kings

The Hall of the Guardian Kings contains, in the middle, a 5.7m high Mahakala Buddha, on both sides of who stand four 5m high Guardian Heavenly Kings. Mahakala Buddha is very important Guardian King in the Secret School. And he is the reincarnation of Siva and Mahesvara and Creation Buddha, Happiness Buddha and also Destruction Buddha. The statue of Mahakala was made based on the portrait of Mahakala Buddha found in Qianxun Pagoda - the largest of the Three Pagodas. The statue is a single-faced, six-arm furious body, with a snake around his arms, death’s-head jade-like stone around his neck, a spear in his right hand and a bronze bell in his left.

5. Chongsheng Temple - Museum

Behind the Three Pagodas lies a small museum housed in two halls, either side of the main path that leads through the Chongsheng Temple complex. The museum features several exquisite golden Buddha statues and the original bronze top off the main large pagoda. The exhibits were uncovered during renovation works on the Three Pagodas during 1979 where some 640 items were found.

6. Three Pagodas

These three pagodas are perhaps the most famous in China and feature on many postcards for China travel deals. They are, in fact, part of the Temple of the Exalted Holy One (Chongsheng Si), also known as the Temple of the Three Pagodas (Santa Si). The largest of these, the Pagoda of the Thousand Searches (Qianxun Ta), a rectangular building of sixteen stepped storeys, stands 69m/226ft high and is very similar to the Pagoda of the Little Wild Goose in Xian. There are some doubts as to when it was built, although most experts now think it was in the third decade of the 9th century. In the centre of the front of each storey there is a niche containing a marble statue of the Buddha. Other Buddhist relics were found during a renovation in 1979 and are in a museum behind the pagodas. 

The two smaller pagodas (which stand 138ft/42m high) are to the north and south of the large one. Both are octagonal, of ten stepped storeys and date from the time of the Five Dynasties period (907-960). All three are beautiful buildings and were some of the best that I saw during my 3 month trip in China. The admission price is rather hefty but this does include the large temple complex. Think of these as, sort of, China's Taj Mahal.Open: 7am-8pm. Admission: RMB121 (includes Chongsheng Temple).

For more via China tour guide.

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