Yunnan Jianshui Ancient Town
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Jianshui Ancient Town: A Hidden Gem with Enchanting Heritage

With its well-preserved historical landmarks, traditional ethnic residences, widely propagated Confucianism, and the kaleidoscope of ethnic customs, it’s no wonder Jianshui Ancient Town is considered a top cultural and historical destination in Yunnan. About 220 kilometers south of Kunming City, this ancient city should be an essential inclusion in your Yunnan travel itinerary.

The historical significance of this millennium-old town is deeply rooted in its role as an important stop on the ancient Silk Road and the cultural hub of the southern Yunnan region. Nowadays, Jianshui Ancient Town still exudes its charm in every stone pathway, distinct courtyard, shop with detailed woodwork and painted rafters, quaint inn, ancient gate, and bridge. This ancient town retains an ancient grace with a unique allure that you can’t find anywhere else. Learn about the following guide for your unforgettable trip to Jianshui.

Yunnan Jianshui Ancient Town
Jianshui Ancient Town

Fast Facts of Jianshui Ancient Town

  • Location: Jianshui County, Yunnan Province, China
  • Time Needed: about 1 day
  • Highlights: Zhu Family Garden, Confucius Temple, Chaoyang Gate Tower, Twin Dragon Bridge, Tuanshan Village
  • Suited to: History buffs, photographers

History of Jianshui Ancient Town

The history of Jianshui Ancient Town dates back to the Tang Dynasty when the Nanzhao Kingdom built it over 1,200 years ago. During the Yuan Dynasty, the ancient town served as the political, economic, and cultural hub of southern Yunnan. Later, its political and military status was further solidified in the Ming Dynasty when the administrative center of Lin’an Prefecture moved to Jianshui. The ancient town still retained its pivotal status in political, economic, and cultural affairs until the Qing Dynasty.

The extensive history makes Jianshui Ancient Town an exceptionally well-preserved example of ancient Chinese civilization. Its ancient temples, wells, residences, Ming and Qing dynasty architecture combine to produce this unique heritage site.

Top Things to Do in Jianshui Ancient Town

Explore Historical Landmarks

The ancient town is teeming with a wealth of age-old structures that bear witness to its rich history. These historical architectures are also the top highlight of the ancient town.

Chaoyang Tower, its main landmark, is even 28 years older than the Tiananmen in Beijing. Zhu Family Garden is a great example of the residential building complex in the late Qing Dynasty. Dating back to the Yuan Dynasty, Jianshui Confucian Temple (Wenmiao) offers a chance to learn Confucian culture and its far-reaching influence. Over 90 inscriptions of different dynasties are well preserved in the temple.

Yunnan Jianshui Zhu Family Garden
Zhu Family Garden

Enjoy Culinary Delights in the Ancient Streets

Some of the most captivating aspects of Jianshui Ancient Town are hidden in its antique streets where traditional buildings and artisanal craft shops abound. A leisurely stroll along these streets will transport you back to ancient marketplaces.

Here you can also satisfy your stomach with authentic local street food and dishes showcasing local culinary delights. Rice noodles, tofu, clay pot chicken, and barbecue are among the specialties you can’t miss.

Discover Ancient Residenses in Tuanshan Village

Seamlessly blending local ethnic culture and Central Plains’ heritage, Tuanshan Village shines as a cultural gem due to its intact layout and authentic 19th-century-style dwellings.

Its remote location nestled against mountains has kept it relatively untouched.

Boasting a history of over 600 years, the village has endured the test of time and was included in the World Heritage List of Commemorative Architectural Heritage in 2006. All the ancient dwellings remain undiminished, with exquisite wood carvings, stone sculptures, and brickwork all well-preserved.

Marvel at the Double-Dragon Bridge

This is another landmark of Jianshui Ancient Town which bears a rich history. It was originally built in the Ming Dynasty with only 3 arches, then expanded to the current 17-arched form in the Qing Dynasty to address both water hazards and transportation improvements. Now, the bridge is considered a great example of China’s ancient bridge because it seamlessly blends scientific engineering and artistic design.

Spanning 148 meters long over the Lujiang River, the bridge is surrounded by picturesque scenery, offering not only intriguing stories but also great photo opportunities.

Yunnan Jianshui Double Dragon Bridge
Double Dragon Bridge

Experience the Art of Jianshui Purple Pottery

Jianshui Purple Pottery is renowned as one of China’s four famous pottery styles, boasting exquisite craftsmanship and a rich history. Thus a can’t-miss experience in the ancient town is to visit a local workshop and learn to make purple pottery with a local master.

Among the pieces of purple pottery works, the Jianshui teapot particularly stands out, as it is an integral part of Yunnan tea culture. If you like, you can choose some of the teapots as souvenirs.

Ride the Narrow-gauge Train

Designed by French engineers over 100 years ago, this narrow-gauge railway segment once served as a part of the historic Dian-Vietnam Railway. Today, only four stations (about 13 kilometers) from Lin’an Station to Tuanshan Station are remained for sightseeing.

As it travels at only 25 kilometers per hour, the train is the slowest one in the world, allowing passengers to savor the picturesque landscapes along the way at a leisurely pace.

The train runs two round-trip services daily: departs from Lin’an at 9:00 AM and 2:30 PM, and returns from Tuanshan at 1:00 PM and 5:30 PM.

Jianshui Sightseeing Train Yunnan
Jianshui Sightseeing Train

Best Time to Visit

Jianshui Ancient Town is suitable to visit all year round, with each season offering its own unique charm.

Generally, spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) are the best times to travel weather-wise. These are the top choices if you like to travel in pleasant climates and comfortable temperatures.

How to Get to & Travel around

How to Get to

You should fly from your city to Kunming Changshui Airport first. Then, take either high-speed trains or long-distance buses from Kunming to Jianshui.

There are frequently high-speed trains run daily from Kunming to Jianshui Railway Station, taking about 3 hours. To reach by bus, you can take the bus from the bus station near Kunming Railway Station to Jianshui, which takes approximately 4 hours.

From either the bus station or railway station in Jianshui, you can reach the ancient town by taking buses or taxis in about 20-30 minutes.

How to Travel Around

Walking is a recommended way for a deep exploration of the architectural gems. You can enjoy a leisurely walk along any of the ancient streets, such as Lin’an Street, Hanlin Street, Hongjing Street, and Guandi Temple Street. Any of which will offer a glimpse of local historical architecture and traditional life.

Consider taking an electric car if you want to explore the ancient town effortlessly, or with limited time. The route of the electric car route covers all major attractions and only cost a nominal fee.

Attractions Nearby

  • Swallow Cave: about 30 kilometers away; A natural limestone cave features stunning stalactites and stalagmites and is home to thousands of swallows.
  • Luoping County: about 100 kilometers from Jianshui Ancient Town. Famous for the stunning karst landscape and blooming rapeseed blossoms in February and March.
  • Yuanyang Rice Terraces: about 200 kilometers away; The rice terraces feature a unique system of irrigation and terracing that has been used for centuries by the Hani people.

Recommended Yunnan Tours including Jianshui Ancient Town

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