Notes on the Geography of China: Dali and Lijiang: Photo 1
Dali sits on a fertile plain flanking the west side of Lake Erhai, but it's much more than an agricultural center: for more than 200 years it was the capital of an independent state. Nanzhao ("South Kingdom") had been created by the Bai and Yi peoples under the leadership of a ruler named Pileguo. He initially relied on Tang support, then broke free and in 738 established his capital at Taihe, a few miles south of Dali. The kingdom expanded rapidly, even conquering Chengdu in 829. The Chinese regained Sichuan, but Taihe remained independent until its demise in 902. A few decades later, the Duan clan established a kingdom at Dali proper, and it survived from 937 until the arrival of the Mongols in 1253.
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