Jianshui Ancient Town in Honghe


Built in the Tang Dynasty with a history of over 1200 years, Jianshui Ancient Town located 220km south of Kunming is famous for housing over 50 immaculately preserved buildings with a mix of Han and local ethnic styles, thus reputed as the ‘Ancient Building Museum’ and ‘Folk Residence Museum’.

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.

The History of Jianshui Old Town

The history of this ancient town can be dated back to Nanzhao State (738-937). About the year 810 the Nanzhao State built Huili City here. Huili in Yi (an ethnic minority of China) language means ‘vast sea’, and in Han language it is translated as Jianshui. In the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) the government set up Jianshui Zhou. Later, in the Ming Dynasty, it was changed to Lin’an Fu. Under the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) it was changed to Jianshui County.

Jianshui still retains the traditional style of the original town in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) with break walls and a gate tower. From over 12 centuries of construction, more than 15 ancient buildings have remained in its present ancient town. If you come here to have a look, you will find many distinctive attractions. The famous scenic spots include: Jianshui Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden, Double Dragon Bridge and the National Examination Site of Xuezheng (the National Education Ministry) of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Apart from these attractions, the surrounding sights are also delightful, such as the Swallow Cave and Zhang Family Garden in Tuanshan Village.

Attractions in Jinashui Old Town

1. Zhu Family’s Garden

Zhu Family’s Garden is a Qing-era private mansion and comprises 214 intricately detailed wooden rooms orderly laid out in a labyrinth of 42 courtyards. Occupying an area of 20000 square meters, it took the Zhu family over 30 years to build such a style and grandeur. The lovely gardens, exquisite theater over the water as well as gracefully decorated family homes easily evokes the privileged life enjoyed by this large wealthy family in imperial times. More appealing, it 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.
Ticket: CNY 50 per person, CNY 133 for a combination ticket(including Jianshui Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden and Swallow Cave)
Opening Time:8:00~20:00

2. Confucius Temple

Just 200 meters from Zhu Family Garden sits the 700-year-old Confucius Temple, the third largest and best preserved Confucius temple in China. Modeled after the one in Qufu, Confucius’s hometown, it is composed of seven courtyards spreading out on a central axis, housing ancient halls, pavilions, ancestral temples and memorial archways. Enshrining the statue of Confucius, Dacheng Hall is the most magnificent one, boasting over 100 vivid animal figures carved into 22 screen doors.
Ticket: CNY 60 per person, CNY 133 for a combination ticket(including Jianshui Confucius Temple, Zhu Family Garden and Swallow Cave)
Opening Time: 8:00~18:00

3. Chaoyang Tower

The only survived city gate in Jianshui, Chaoyang Tower built in 1380 is an iconic landmark of the town. Characterized by tall wooden pillars and hip roofs with gilded tiles, the three-story structure bears a resemblance to the Tian’anmen Gate Tower in Beijing. Visitors can climb up into the gate to take in elaborate architectural details and panoramic views of the old town. In front of the tower is a crescent square where you can glimpse into local’s leisure life, such as dancing, playing cards and walking birds.

4. Ancient Wells

Along the cobblestone streets and alleyways in Jianshui are scattered with many ancient wells, and the stone mouth of the wells riven with deep grooves gouged by ropes vividly attest to their century-old history. Today most of the wells are still in use. Venturing deep into the back alleys, you could see locals hauling buckets of water or washing vegetables and clothes by the wells. Daban Well with a history of over 700 years is the most famous well. Its pure water is perfect among locals for making tea, and the fine reputation of Jianshui’s snacks, such as braised tofu and rice noodles, is also ascribed to the sweet water from Daban Well.

Attractions Nearby

Swallow Cave: The Swallow Cave lures visitors with its interesting stalactite formations and the spectacle of thousands of swallows migrating to here every spring and summer.

Double Dragon Bridge: A seventeen-arch stone bridge built in Ming dynasty, where you can appreciate its elegant design, with three Chinese-style pavilions built on top, blending well with surrounding landscape.

Tuanshan Village: Nested among green hills and spared by commercialism, the 19-century village retains grand family mansions, gardens and temples that bear beautiful engravings.


Diatances from Other Scenic Spot in Jianshui:

Tuanshan Village: About 10.5 kilometers
Jianshui Swallow Cave: About 22.9 kilometers
Double-Dragon Bridge: About 6.2 kilometers 

How to Get there?

By Train:

It takes more than 3 hours from Kunming Railway Station to Jianshui. Then take bus No.919 to get off at the East Gate Station.

By Bus:

1.Take a bus from Kunming Long-distance Passenger Transport Station nearby the Kunming Railway Station to Shiping County and get off at Jianshui County, lasting 4 hours.
2.Take a through bus in South Transport Station to Jianshui County, CNY 80 per person. And you can take bus No.1/13/15 to East Gate Station or Zhu Family Garden Station.

Transportation in Jianshui Old Town

1. It is better to walk through the Jianshui Old Town because it takes only ten minutes from the east gate to the west gate.
2. If you would like to search for the ancient wells in the Old Town, you can rent a bike to go, about CNY 30/one day.
3. The starting taxi fare within 3 kilometers is CNY 5.

Travel Tips

1. Eating in Jianshui: A leisurely stroll down Jianshui’s winding alleyways will offer you a great opportunity to taste its amazing food, from Steam-chicken Pot widely known across the whole province to Jianshui’s legendary toast tofu which you can find on roadside stalls. Xiang Man Lou opposite Zhu Family’s Garden is highly recommended for its antique-style environment and delicious local flavors.

2. Accommodation in Jianshui: There is a cluster of atmospheric inns and hostels in Jianshui Old Town where rooms are nicely set up in Qing-dynasty style. It’s great to stay for one night, admiring the old tradition and culture. While if you prefer luxury accommodation, Lin’an Hotel is a top choice considering its modern rooms, up-to-date facilities and location in close proximity to the old town.