About 18 km north of Dali old town (34 km to Xiaguan), Xizhou is the typical town with Bai's characters. More than 1500 years ago, Xizhou and nearby area has been the major habitat for the Bai people. During Sui Dynasty, the region was conquered by Shi Wansui, General of Sui Dynasty. Locals also called the town: Shi Town. Until today, we still can see many well preserved residential houses of Bai's style.
Xizhou was once a commercial center of Yunnan, and the birthplace of Bai's modern entrepreneurs. It is said that more than 140 wealthy families built their houses here, including the Yan's, the Yang's, the Dong's and the Zhao's. These houses are characterized by '3 rooms and a wall screening' and '4 joints and 5 courtyards'. '3 rooms and a wall screening' refers that every house boasts a major room flanked by two wing-rooms, and facing the middle room erects a wall screening for the house privacy. '4 joints and 5 courtyards' means the houses have a central courtyard with rooms in all directions; other smaller four courtyards join the central one from four sides to make five courtyards. All these houses are decorated with woodcarvings, colored patterns, marbles and wash drawings, which represents the masterpieces of Bai's architecture.
Xizhou is an old town of long history. Early in Han Dynasty, it belonged to Yuyu county. In Nanzhao period, it had been a onetime capital, also named “Dali city” or “Shi City ”. Xizhou also has a long history in business, according to the “Documentation of Dali County” in the early years of the Republic of China: “as for commercial mind, Xizhou people are the best”. Along more than one thousand years of the historical river, Xizhou businessmen had even left their tracks in southeast Asia areas like “Xunchuan” and “Luoguo”.
During Guangxu years of Qing Dynasty, the internationally famous “Xizhou Trade Caravan ” was established. There were more than 300 business groups, firms and commercial ports in many places around the world, for example, early in 1920s, the four great commercial families including Yong Changxiang, Xi Qingxiang, Hong Xingyuan and Fu Chunhe had already established businesses in Shanghai and Hongkong. Therfore, Xizhou has a title of “Minor Shanghai”.
Since Sui Dynasty, there had been thousands of scholars with official title. It was said by local people that “we have more than eighty second-grade successful candidates in th highest imperial examination, and numerous scholars at provincial and local levels”. Based on some inadequate statistics, nowadays, the number of intellectuals born in Xizhou, with a title of “associate professor” and above, exceeds 400; the number of county cadres and above reaches 100; and more than 20000 Xizhou people are living overseas.
Even today in Xizhou, among the traditional Bai people’s residences with blue tiles and white walls, you can still find those of Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty and Republic of China period. There are, in total, 15510 Bai residences, among which 151 are century-old relics. These residences have well revealed Bai people’s social history, politics, economy, culture and art. They are a miniature of the life of Bai people in Xizhou, even in whole Dali area.
Xizhou, a place of green mountains, clear waters, gentle wind and bright moon, is a true museum of Bai society.