Jianshui is a charming town made-up of historic buildings. Built during the Tang Dynasty and boasting a history of over 1200 years, Jianshui Ancient Town is located 220 kilometres south of Kunming.
It is famous worldwide for housing over 50 immaculately preserved buildings, that mix the Han and the local ethnic styles, thus known as the “Ancient Building Museum” and “Folk Residence Museum.”
The ancient walled city of Jianshui was built 600 years ago, during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Currently, only the Chaoyang tower, at the East Gate, and the Qingyuan tower, at the West Gate, are left standing.
These days, Jianshui still retains the traditional style of the original town from the Ming Dynasty with city walls and a gate tower.
Throughout 12 centuries of construction, more than 15 ancient buildings have made it to Jianshui’s present ancient town.
Compared with Yunnan’s other ancient towns like Lijiang and Dali, Jianshui is more laid-back. Old-style architectures flank the time-worn back alleys and locals still stick to the town’s traditional lifestyle. The ancient town exudes a tranquil charm luring you to linger and relax.
Jianshui is also home to a potters’ district, with its land being known throughout China.
Should you be interested in pottery, you are welcome to visit some of the area’s famous artists.
1) Chaoyang Tower
The remaining city gate in Jianshui, the Chaoyang Tower, was constructed in 1380 and is an iconic landmark. It features the traditional construction style, with big poles, a three-eaves saddle roof and wood-carved doors.
Boasting tall wooden pillars and hip roofs with gilded tiles, the three-story structure resembles the Tian’anmen Gate Tower in Beijing.
Visitors can climb up into the gate to get a closer look at the elaborate architectural details and enjoy panoramic views of the old town. In front of the tower, there is a crescent square where you can sample local life, such as dancing and walking birds?
2) Zhu Family Garden
The Zhu Family Garden is a Qing-era private mansion and includes 214 intricately- detailed wooden rooms, laid out orderly in a labyrinth of 42 courtyards.
It was known as the “Grand View Garden” of South Yunnan Province and is representative of the Chinese residential houses of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
Occupying an area of 20,000 square meters, it took the Zhu family over 30 years to create such style and grandeur.
The sumptuous gardens, exquisite theatre over the water and gracefully decorated family homes clearly evoke the privileged life enjoyed by this large wealthy family during imperial times.
An Opera stage which has not been used for many years’ stands in the water in the garden with only goldfish in the audience.
A pavilion built for the daughter of the master remains, allowing visitors to have a glimpse of she spent time.
The mansion is now partially converted into a guesthouse, offering 28 elegant rooms all with Qing-dynasty style furnishing. Visitors can stay one night to experience a traditional lifestyle.
3) Ancient Wells
Jianshui has plenty of hidden ancient wells for you to uncover, along the cobblestone streets and alleyways. Their stone mouths, featuring deep grooves gouged by ropes, vividly attest their long history.
The most famous well in Jianshui is Daban. It is located outside the West Gate. People travel long distances to come here and collect water. They’re attracted by its taste and use it to make tea and tofu.
Lin 'an Road, Lin 'an Town, Jianshui County, Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Yunnan ,China
- Transportation: 1)By Bus: You can take the bus at Kunming South Coach Station or Kunming Long-distance Passenger Transport Station, to Jianshui County. Then take a taxi or bus to the ancient town. This will take you up to 2.5 hours. 2)By High-Speed Train: Go to Kunming or the Kunming South Train Station and then head to Jianshui. The journey is around 1.5 to 3 hours.
- The best time to visit is from March to May and from September to November.
- Experience: Walking through the town and photographing the sunrise and light.
- Once you get to Jianshui, don’t miss the chance to taste the famous barbecued tofu and steam-pot chicken, which have won fame. You can also sample Lion Cake and Cross-Bridge Rice Noodles.