Dali, Yunnan: At the Crossroads of the Silk Road

Erhai Lake in Dali, Yunnan

Erhai Lake in Dali, Yunnan

In ancient times, many western travelers on the Southwest Silk-Horse Road made their way to the city of Dali. Imagine walking through the bustling streets of stalls selling many exotic goods and the mingling of languages in the background. It was undoubtedly the pinnacle of international trade and influence. Today, the primary industries of the city are agriculture and tourism. According to our tour guide, Hao, the city is picturesque at all times of the year.

August 11, 2012

Attraction List:

  • Bai people’s village: Tie-dye cloth, wax, tea ceremony, and marriage ceremony
  • Yao people’s village: Happy Embroidery school
  • Commoner bird fishing on the Erhai Lake
  • Three Pagodas of Chongsheng and Reflection Pond

The Bai people are the predominant ethnic group in western China (mainly Yunnan province). We had the opportunity to visit an authentic village, where the Bai people are known to produce tie-dye cloth, wax, metal works, and tea leaves. Our first stop was at the tie-dye cloth makers.

Tie dye equipment in the Bao people's village, Dali, Yunnan

Tie dye equipment in the Bao people’s village, Dali, Yunnan

The cotton is first spun into a reasonably-sized piece of cloth. Then, a basin filled with the deep blue-indigo dye is prepared; several colors are also available too but the blue is the most popular. The cloth is then bunched together and tied together with bits of string before soaked in the dye. After several hours, the cloth is taken out of the basin, untangled of the string, and hung on a clothesline to dry. The end result is a beautiful cloth that is often used to make blankets, table cloths, dresses, handkerchiefs, and more.

Beautiful cloths in various patterns and designs dyed in rich colors, Dali, Yunnan

Beautiful cloths in various patterns and designs dyed in rich colors, Dali, Yunnan

During our time in the village, we were able to understand more of Bai people’s lifestyle. Women dress in colorful, flowing dresses spun from handmade cloth and wear headdresses of silver with tassels or a hair ornament. Unmarried, young women would have two white tassels. If a man were to touch one of her tassels, it signified that he wished to marry the young lady. Married women do not wear tassels; instead they have their hair bounded up in a modest hairstyle. Continue reading