Jianshui Travel Guide
Formerly know as Lin’an or Badian Town, Jianshui Ancient Town is a historical and cultural town dating back to over 1,200 years ago in the Tang Dynasty. It is a place where you can experience rich history and traditional lifestyle of the locals, and visit many well-preserved ancient architecture.
This town is called as “Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses” since all the ancient buildings and residential houses here combine Han and local ethnic groups’ architectural styles. Some of the iconic architecture and landmarks here include the Jianshui Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden, Chaoyang City Gate, Double Dragon Bridge, and Tuanshan Village.
Chinese: 建水 jiàn shuǐ
Location: Eastern Yunnan
Population (urban area): 535,000
Why Visit Jianshui?
- Visit many time-honored ancient buildings and residential houses of different architectural styles and ethnicities
- Explore the old streets and alleys, and look into the traditional lifestyles of the locals.
- Experience local pottery culture and see how locals make various ceramic products.
- Taste a variety of local snacks and specialties at either street-side stalls or time-honored restaurants.
Top Things to Do in Jianshui
Visit the Jianshui Chaoyang Tower
A historical and cultural heritage of Jianshui, Jianshui Chaoyang Tower is at the eastern entrance of the town and is the only surviving one of the four original towers. This three-floor building features a flying eave roof, and exquisite wooden carvings and paintings. Because of its similarity to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Chaoyang Tower is also nicknamed “Small Tiananmen”. On the tower, there is a giant bronze bell from the Tang Dynasty and a stone tablet with Jianshui’s history on it. The tower stands at a height of 24.5 meters, making it a great place to appreciate sunrise and panoramic views of the town.
Explore the Zhu Family Garden
Zhu Family Garden was built by the influential and wealthy Zhu family during the late Qing Dynasty. The garden houses 214 rooms and 42 courtyards which are scattered in three areas. The buildings in the residential area serve as living quarters, offices, and guest rooms and are connected by corridors and courtyards. The ancestral hall is the place where the Zhu family worshipped their ancestors and held ceremonies. In garden area is its highlight, with the elegant ponds, rockeries, pavilions, bridges, and flowers creating a leisurely and romantic atmosphere.
Admire the Jianshui Confucius Temple
Jianshui Confucius Temple is the largest Confucian temple in South China which was originally built during the Yuan Dynasty in traditional Chinese construction style. The temple covers an area of 114 acres and is constructed entirely following the style of the Confucius Temple in Qufu. It adopts a symmetrical palace-style layout along the north-south central axis, with 37 buildings symmetrically scattered on the east and west sides, among which, 31 buildings are still well-preserved.
Not only a place to worship Confucius, the temple also served as an educational institution for over 700 years and produced many successful candidates in imperial examinations. It now stands as a testament to the important influence of Confucian culture and architecture in China. The Ancestral Master Hall is the main building of the temple where you can see regular ceremonies being held to worship Confucius.
Walk across the Twin Dragon Bridge
Located just outside Jianshui Ancient Town, the Twin Dragon Bridge is a stunning example of traditional Chinese bridge architecture from the Qing Dynasty. It stretches about 148 meters over the junction of Lu River and Tachong River, which looks like two dragons from afar, hence its name. The bridge consists of two separated single-arch bridges, with a width of 3-5 meters, and the span of each arch is 13.5 meters. Now, the bridge not only serves as a heritage to glimpses into the rich history of Jianshui Ancient Town, but also a great photography site surrounded by majestic mountains, lush fields, and clear rivers.
Experience the Multi-ethnic Culture at Tuanshan Village
Tuanshan Village is a traditional walled village that is inhabited by Han and Yi ethnic groups. With its history dating back to the lake 14th century, the village invites visitors with over 200 well-preserved residences, gateways, temples, ancestral halls, and walls. All these ancient buildings face east, with blue-tile-covered roofs and white and gray exterior walls. Each residence in Tuanshan Village features finely crafted wood carvings on the roofs, walls, and beams, depicting figures, animal postures, plant patterns, and geometric shapes. Besides the exquisite craftsmanship and architectural style, you can also experience the self-sufficient rural life of local villagers who still wear their traditional ethnic costumes, and practice the traditional lifestyles and customs.
Sample Local Snacks and Specialities
Being inhabited by Han, Yi, Dai, Zhuang, Miao, and Hui ethnic groups, Jianshui Ancient Town is thus endowed with rich cuisine reflecting the unique culture and natural resources of this area. Tasting various local snacks and specialties is a can’t miss if you are traveling in Jianshui. Some of the popular snacks include barbecued tofu, steam-pot chicken, lion cake, cross-bridge rice noodles, and deep-fried lotus root with glutinous rice.
Jianshui County is located in the south of Yunnan, enjoying a subtropical monsoon climate. It experiences pleasant and comfortable weather in spring and autumn, warm and humid weather in summer, and cool and dry weather in winter. The average annual temperature in this region is around 18°C.
March to April and September to November are the best months to visit Jianshui when it sees more clear sunny days and the temperatures are comfortable. The months from May to August are usually hot and rainy.
Getting to Jianshui County
By Air: Since there is no airport in Jianshui County, you can fly to Kunming Changshui International Airport first, and then take a shuttle bus from the airport to Jianshui which will take about 3 hours. Or, you can take a train ride from Kunming South Railway Station to Jianshui Railway Station which will take about 1.5 hours.
By Train: Taking a train is the most common way to get to Jianshui. There are frequent high-speed trains from Kunming, Mengzi, and Hekou to Jianshui. The high-speed train ride usually takes about 1.5-2 hours and CNY 40-100, depending on the seat type and departure place.
By Bus: Long-distance buses are running from Kunming and Yunyang to Jianshui. From Kunming, the ride usually takes about 3.5-4.5 hours and costs about CNY 80. From Yunyang, the bus ride usually takes about 2 hours and CNY 31.
Considering the small size of the Jianshui Ancient Town, it’s easy to explore it on foot or by public bus and traditional horse-cart. To visit attractions outside the town, such as Swallow Cave and the Tuanshan Village, you can conveniently take a minibus or hire a taxi. The average taxi rate is about CNY 20 per hour.