Welcome to Shaxi Old Town
At the crossroads of the tea horse road is Shaxi old town – now listed on the World Monuments Fund’s most endangered towns. With the end of the caravans bringing war horses from Tibet in exchange for Yunnan tea, Shaxi began to lose its prominence as a trading centre and fell into decline. The Friday market still exists and is vibrant, but limited to buying and selling of goods from the area.
The old town was restored by a Swiss-led architectural team in 2004 which saw the rebuilding of most of the main structures around Sideng Square including Xingjiao Temple and the main theatre stage. Since that time, many Han Chinese have rented out these buildings as cafes and guesthouses, attracting more and more tourists. The area is a photographer’s dream, with many surviving old buildings, narrow cobbled lanes, and especially during Friday Market, with many tribal women in traditional dress.
Sideng Square in Shaxi old town is a mostly quiet and colorful area where children play and dogs run around while a handful of tourists take pictures and have coffee or snacks. Shaxi old town is approximately 3km from Old Theatre Inn which takes about 15 minutes by bike (available at the inn) or walking the back road along the Heihui River, which takes 45 minutes. Old Theatre Inn also has a private car which can take guests to old town for RMB 30. There are shuttle buses in town that make regular trips to Jianchuan and can drop off guests at the entrance to Duan Village road for RMB 10, which is about 1km from the Old Theatre gate.
The new highway between Lijiang and Dali is bringing more tourists every day so come and see Shaxi old town as soon as you can!