Jianshui, 220 kilometers south of Kunming, is an ideal stopover for people who want to visit Yuanyang Terraces. After 12 centuries of construction, Jianshui Ancient Town has preserved more than 50 ancient buildings and is known as the “Ancient Architecture Museum” and “Villages Museum”. From the grass-topped houses and bamboo-topped houses of the Hani ethnic groups, the soil bungalows of the Yi and Dai ethnic groups to the square-yard house of the Han people, those houses are large quantities, good quality, and complete preservation. For a long time, due to the profound accumulation of history, the restriction of traffic conditions, and the remote location, this border city has preserved numerous historical and cultural landscapes, ethnic customs, and numerous well-preserved ancient cultural buildings, relics, and heritage. If you visit here, you will find many unique and famous attractions such as Jianshui Confucian Temple, Zhu Family Garden, Double Dragon Bridge, and the national examination site for Ming and Qing Dynasties. Besides, the surrounding attractions are also fantastic, such as Swallow Cave and Zhangjia Garden in Tuanshan Village.
ABC’s of Jianshui
Area: 3940 km2 Average annual temperature: The temperature in winter ranges from 5 to 10 degrees, the temperature in summer ranges from 27 to 33 degrees Geography: Attached to Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Jianshui is located on the road to Yuanyang and Xishuangbanna Population: 534,205 inhabitants(2021)Ethnic minorities account for about 40% Elevation: 1 500 m Ethnic minorities: Hani, Yi, Hui, Miao, Dai Economy: Tourism
Most of the well-known cultural attractions in Jianshui are in or near the ancient town of Jianshui, and the only natural landscape, Swallow Cave, is 30 k.m from the city, so tourists can spend more time on the attractions.
You can travel from Kunming to Jianshui either by bus or by train.
The most convenient way is to take a private vehicle, which directly transfers from/to your hotel to save time and language troubles. Besides, in this way, the Stone Forest and other scenic spots could be visited on the way to Jianshui, and could furtherly extend a tour to Yuanyang, which has well-known rice terraced that are especially popular among photographers. A private vehicle with a skillful driver is particularly important for a long-distance drive to the remote countryside without direct public transportation.
Jianshui is a region that can be visited the whole year for its mild climate. It’s rarely very cold in winter, it’s very hot in summer but the maximum temperature not exceeding 30 degrees. The rain can last for several hours in rainy seasons from July to August, but it won’t bother you if you are not going hiking.
The history of Jianshui’s construction can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty, and Ming and Qing Dynasties were famous in China for imperial examinations, although the county has been rebuilt several times, there are more than 50 ancient buildings have been preserved to this day and made Jianshui notable for” Ancient Architecture Museum” and “House Museum”. In 1994, Jianshui was approved as the third batch of Chinese historical and cultural cities by the State Council.
Originally, on the main traffic route on the Southern Silk Road, The Jianshui county was built with earth by The Nanzhao Kingdom during the Tang period (around 810), and it was quickly developed into a commercial and strategic stronghold, and which continued to the Song, the Yuan, and the Ming Dynasty. In 1387 of the Ming Dynasty, Jianshui was expanded into a brick city, of which the East Tower (Chaoyang Tower) still stands today.
The Yuan Dynasty build the Confucius Temple in Jianshui, which was the third temple in Yunnan Province after Kunming and Dali. From the Ming to the Qing Dynasty, many prefectural schools and academies have been established and about half of the candidates for the imperial examinations in Yunnan came from here, which is rare in the country. Therefore, Jianshui has always been known as “the famous state of literature” and “Zou Lu (the hometown of Confucius in Shandong Province) in southern Yunnan”.
In 1912, Jianshui Merchant and business owners in other regions jointly invested with the Yunnan government to build a 60-cm-wide Ge-Bi -Shi railway to show resistance to colonialism but it stopped transportation in 1991. On May 1, 2015, the Jianshui County Government rented a section of the GeBIShi Railway from the China Railway Kunming Bureau Group Co., Ltd. to launch the Jianshui Ancient City Train—Lin’an to Tuanshan Tourist Train and give more people chances to experience “the past times”.
The small train in Jianshui is one of the few one-meter railways still in use and is part of the famous Yunnan-Vietnam Railway.
This retro French-style yellow train departs from Lin’an Station in Jianshui Old Town, passes through Shuanglong Bridge Station, Xianghui Bridge Station, and ends at Tuanshan Village, which is a very tranquil and beautiful hamlet, it ever belongs to Zhang’s family, now their posterity still lives in this village.
When the train arrives at Shuanglongqiao Station, it will stop for 30 minutes. Shuanglong Bridge, also known as the seventeen-hole bridge. This porous multi-arch bridge built in the Qing Dynasty is well-known. It is not only included in the annals of bridge-building in China by the famous bridge expert Mr. Mao Yisheng but it is also known as one of the top ten famous bridges in China.
The second station where the Jianshui sightseeing train stops: Xianghuiqiao Station. The small train will stay here for 30 minutes. Xianghuiqiao Station is a French colonial building with a history of more than 100 years.
Tuanshan Village, the terminus of the small train. The train stays here for 90 minutes and then returns to Jianshui.
The round-trip fare for an ordinary seat is 120 yuan, and the round-trip fare for a soft seat is 150 yuan.
Ancient Wells in Jianshui
There are many ancient wells in Jianshui ancient town，which is one of the characteristics of Jianshui. Single well, double-wells, three-wells, four-wells; square, diamond, round, crescent shape, and the shape and size of the wells are so different. The iconic well is the Daban Well (大板井)in Xizheng Street(西正街).
Daban Well was built in the early Ming Dynasty. It is reputed to be one of the most famous ancient wells in south Yunnan. Thousands of years passed, the rope marks on the periphery of the wells have been many inches deep, and some have even been worn down. Although there is tap water in every family, some people still go to the Daban Well to intake water in the supply of drinking in the traditional way. Locals not only drink the water from the ancient well but also use the water to make tofu. The roasted tofu is a specialty in Jianshui, you can see it everywhere on the streets. The tofu made with well water is extremely delicious, according to locals, the most authentic one is tofu made by the water from Daban Well.
There is a famous tofu workshop called “板井豆腐坊” just steps away from the Daban Well. You can taste all kinds of soy products here, such as roasted tofu, fried tofu, soy milk, tofu pudding. As well as some packaged tofu products like Yuba (tofu skin), fermented bean curd, fermented soya beans with chili, etc. The first floor is the workshop, you can see how the workers make tofu. Locals in Jianshui are friendly and enthusiastic, if there are not too many customers, it is possible to ask the workers to teach you to make one or two tofu. Don’t miss it when you visit Jianshui.
Jianshui purple pottery is considered to be one of the four famous pottery in China. It can be traced back to 900 years ago. Jianshui purple pottery is made from local “five-color” clay, and it can be in different colors, such as red, yellow, gray, blue with white. Pottery comes in many different forms, such as teapots, vases, jars, tableware, etc.
The most famous is the steam pot called “qi guo”, there is a special funnel in the middle for steaming chicken. Steam pot chicken gets its name as it is steamed in a steam pot.
The birthplace of Jianshui purple pottery is Wanyao Village. There are very rich and very high-quality pottery clay around the village. Almost every family in the village makes pottery. You can easily find a pottery workshop in the village. If you want to bring a souvenir from Jianshui, why not make purple pottery on your own? It must be a lot of fun to make a lump of mud into something like a cup or a plate, you can leave a signature on it.
The Xiangmanlou in a two-story wooden house with square-courtyard was rebuilt from the mansion of the local noble family. It mainly manages in local specialties, such as bean curd beef, steam pot tofu, etc.
Jianshui must stay in the unique hotels converted from ancient houses, and you could feel the charm of the “civil house museum”. If you visit here during December or January, please choose the hotel with the air condition or heater to avoid the rare cold weather.
Discover our selection of the best charming hotels located in Jianshui and its region, meeting all comfort and price ranges on the dedicated page of our site.
This selection is the result of our long experience and the positive feedback from our customers. Please consider, in some more remote destinations, the choice of infrastructure and the comfortability is sometimes limited. In this case, we do our best to retain the best establishments.
15 days | Best seller | Prices start from 1,369 $ A 15-day travel plan includes the classics of Yunnan and destinations off the beaten track. Explore the colorful minority culture and varied scenery of Yunnan during the trip.