Dali Ancient City, also called Yeyu City, Forbidden City, Zhonghezhen, lies 13 kilometers north from Xiaguan, the capital of Dali Prefecture. It is one of the 'Three Ancients' (Ancient Cities, Ancient Pagodas and Ancient Steles) of the Dali Scenic Spot. With the Erhai Lake to the east, Cangshan Mountain to the west, the old city can date back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
The circumference of Dali Ancient City was 6 kilometers long. The City Wall is 7.5 metres high and 6 meters thick. The interior of the wall was filled with rocks and the surface was bricked over smoothly. The four gate towers in the east, south, west and north are named Chen En, Tong Hai, Cangshan and An Yuan respectively. There are about 45 battlements on the walls. A defensive river was surrounding the city. The city layout was uniform, with five main streets from south to north and eight main streets from east to west, typical of a chessboard pattern.
The buildings are all covered with dark blue tiles and pebble-staked walls. All look very pristine and delicate. The residents all like to plant trees and flowers. There are garden in every house. The famous Dali camellia, azalea and orchids are competing to show their beauty, blooming against snow on Cangshan Mountain. Streams from Cangshan Mountain come into the city, going across the streets and visiting every family with their happy sound and sweet taste, running eastwards to Erhai lake. The whole city looks fresh and wet, without any dust.
When people walk along the cobble-paved streets in the ancient city, a sense of primitive simplicity and elegance will be invoked. Besides the Bai ethnic minority traditional folk houses, the houses all with grey-green roof tiles, peculiar workshops, temples, schools and churches with an antique flavor are scattered. Traditional artworks made of marble, such as pencil vases. Striped screens and a variety of woven handicrafts made of fine straw are laid chockablock on both sides of the street to be appreciated and purchased. The newly¨Copened Foreigner Street is also a must-see, providing snacks with the traditional flavors of the Bai ethnic community, as well as the famous 'Three-course Tea' ceremony for receiving guests that includes 'bitter tea', 'sweet tea' and 'final tea'.