As home to Naxi minority, Lijiang consists of two towns. The New Town and the Old Town are divided geographically by Lion Hill. The New Town was developed during the latter part of the 20th century and is rather like a boring urban sprawl. The Old Town was founded some 800 years ago in late Song Dynasty and is an architectural gem (although it looks like a huge ink stone, from which image it derived its name - Dayan or Big Ink Stone). The Old Town suffered serious damage in a 1996 earthquake, but is undergoing serious restoration with original Naxi style. With Sifang Street at the core of Dayan, the town spreads out in all directions and is crisscrossed by a labyrinth of streets and alleyways. Most of the dwellings are brick-and-tile structures with carved doors and painted windows. Although Dayan is a compact community, there is always space for a garden. Traffic across the rivers along the street is facilitated by a large number of tiny stone bridges. In 1997 it was included on the World Heritage List by UNESCO.
The description of UNESCO.ORG:
The Old Town of Lijiang, which is perfectly adapted to the uneven topography of this key commercial and strategic site, has retained a historic townscape of high quality and authenticity. Its architecture is noteworthy for the blending of elements from several cultures that have come together over many centuries. Lijiang also possesses an ancient water-supply system of great complexity and ingenuity that still functions effectively today.