Dali: Goddess of Mercy Temple and Erhai Lake


Yunnan Province


Elevation 2007m – 6585 ft

Population 652,000

June 1, 2013

Dear Friends,

Dali is attacked - The enemy is at the gates!  Will Dali survive?

At the entrance to the Goddess of Mercy Temple just south of Dali Old Town, a stone-carved mural depicts the potential battle.  

Ilian provides the details of the legend.

Ilian is a big man.  A very big man.  Illian’s grandfather was a tailor, a farmer and a wrestler.  Apparently, Illian inherited his grandfather’s skills, his traditional values and his physique.

Ilian Ivanov was born near Varna, a seacoast city on the shores of the Black Sea in Bulgaria.  He came to China as a young boy when his father was appointed as the chef in the Bulgarian Embassy in Beijing.  Illian decided he loved China and has lived here for almost twenty years.  He is a licensed tour guide and for a reasonable fee, Illian has agreed to accompany me on my travels through Yunnan.  

Ilian attended high school and university here and is completely fluent in spoken and written Chinese.  Good thing, too.  Because where we are headed, not one word, not a syllable of English is spoken.  He will hire the drivers and help to find good hotels, guest houses and restaurants along the way. 

Ilian specializes in tours to rural China.  And since I am a party of one, Ilian is quite pleased to accommodate my style of travel: take the “road not taken” and “take your time.”  Indeed we are planning to visit rural areas.  But we are also excited about venturing into to remote regions as well.  In fact, Ilian has never been to one of the areas of our tentative itinerary.

We started in Dali at an active religious site, The Goddess of Mercy Temple.

We continued to Erhai Lake and stopped for a meal in Xizhou where they are known for the fresh-baked Baba bread.  We watched as they prepared the dough and baked the fluffy bread that is filled with either vegetables or meat.

The lakefront provided a few lovely scenes before we proceeded to our first overnight stop - the popular old city of Lijiang.

On my way,


In Chinese the word for marble is Dali-stone.  The ancient townsmen quarried the marble in the hills. 

So the legend goes:  as the enemy army approached the town, they saw from afar that on her back, an elderly woman was carrying a marble rock twice her size.  The invaders became disoriented and frightened at the sight.  They must have been thinking, “If the women of Dali are so strong, how will we ever defeat the men? The attack is abandoned.   Dali is saved.

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