Yunnan: Jianshui, Sep 2023

From Yuanyang, we drove for about 3 hours to arrive at Jianshui.  Jianshui (建水), previously known as Lin’an (临安), was an important historic center located on the northern banks of the Red River.  It still retains the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) traditional style and is known as the “Museum of Ancient Buildings and Residential Houses”.  Although the ancient city walls that surrounded the city have long been demolished, the four gate towers still stand together with a number of historic sites within the ancient downtown area.  We stayed at the Lin’an Hotel Jianshui, conveniently located adjacent to the old town.
Got up early to photograph the sunrise at Shuanglong Bridge.  Shuanglong Bridge 双龙桥 (Twin Dragon Bridge) or more commonly known as Seventeen-Arch Bridge was built during the Qing Dynasty and located just outside of Jianshui town.  The name “Twin Dragon” came from the fact that the bridge crosses over the junction of Lu River and Tachong River resembling two Chinese dragons.

There are many stone wells in Jianshui and they play an important role in providing drinking water for the locals as well as in the making of the famous Jianshui stinky tofu.  The most famous ancient well is located near the Qingyuan Gate (West Gate) and according to locals, this well provides the best quality of drinking water in the province.  In the ancient times, water peddlers with carts came to fill their buckets and then sell the water to people who lived further away from the wells.  Even until today, people still come to the wells in the morning to fill their buckets and bottles.  I was told that the locals prefer to make their tea and food with well water.  Very close to Daban Well is a tofu shop that uses the well water to soak the soy beans.  It is said that the water from this well gives the tofu its tender texture and unique flavor.  Instead of steaming the tofu, locals like to slowly roast their fermented tofu on a rack over charcoal.  The tofu puffs up and becomes slightly crunchy on the outside.
Here’s a selection from my photo walk inside the old town of Jianshui.  It is especially lively after dark.
Chao Yang Tower 潮阳楼 (Old East Gate), built in the 22nd year of Hongwu in the Ming Dynasty (1389), bears a striking resemblance to Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Beautiful sunset from our dinner restaurant.

Zhu Family Garden is a 20,000m² residential complex built during the Qing Dynasty.  It has a “three vertical and four horizontal” layout consisting of an ancestral hall, a theatre pavilion, countless courtyards, ponds, and gardens, etc.  I didn’t get a chance to go inside but some of my friends made a visit and said it is exquisite.

There is a historic railway station just outside the old town, nowadays only used for a local tourist train.  We made a quick visit and met with one of the arriving trains.


Other than being known for its tofu, Jianshui is also reknowned for its purple pottery made of locally sourced clay.  Just outside of Jianshui is local artist Luo Xu’s Ant Workshop (蚁工坊).  The art workshop is built on the remains of an abandoned kiln site and is now a popular online influencer hotspot. The main structure is built with brightly colored five-hole bricks.  There is also a pottery studio, an exhibition hall selling purple pottery, a homestay and a cafe on the site.


Next post will be on Fuxian Lake and Haiyan Village, the last stops of this trip.  Stay tuned!

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