3,000 years ago, primitive humans inhabited the area of Erhai Lake. As early as the 2nd century B.C., Dali was on the map of the Kingdom of the Central Plains as Yeyu County. In 738, Pilouge, a chieftain of the Bai Tribe, united the six tribes of the Erhai region with the support of the Tang Dynasty, and established the State of Nanzhao, which was destroyed in 902.
Duan Siping, also of the Bai Tribe, established the State of Dali in 938. During the 500-year period of Nanzhao and Dali, Dali City was the political, economic and cultural center of Yunnan Province. Emperor Khublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) eliminated the State of Dali. The Dali area was renamed Taihe County, and this name persisted during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), before it was renamed Dali in 1913. In 1983, Dali County and Xiaguan City merged into Dali City. The city is one of the 24 leading historical and cultural cities and one of the 44 State-designated Scenic Centers in the country.