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[HugChina] Chinese Provinces: Yunnan - the natural and cultural paradise

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Bernd Chang

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Posted on Sun, Jun 24, 2012 08:38 AM 01847





Yunnan (??) Province is located in the far southwest China. Major cities and tourist destinations in Yunnan are Kunming, the capital and Lijiang, Dali.

General information

Area: 394,000 square km

Population: 40.42 million (2006)

Capital City: Kunming

Nationalities:Han (67%), Yi (11%), Bai (3.6), Hani (3.4%), Zhuang (2.7%), Dai (2.7%), Miao (2.5%), and Hui (1.5%)

Average temperature: 8oC to 17oC in January, 11oC to 29oC in July.

Rivers: Nujiang, Lancang, Jinsha, Yuanjiang, and Nanpan Rivers.

Administrative divisions: 8 autonomous prefectures, 11 cities, 86 counties, and 28 autonomous counties.

Neighboring areas: Sichuan and Guizhou Provinces; Tibet and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Regions.

Neighboring countries: Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.

Major cities: Kunming, Dongchuan, Gejiu, Dali, Luxi, Jinghong.

Tourist attractions: Kunming, city of 'eternal spring'; hot springs of Anning in Kunming; Dianchi Lake, south of Kunming; Stone Forest, a typical karst area, about 80 kilometers east of Kunming;Lijiang,Dali,Xishuangbanna.

Yunnan (Chinese: ??; pinyin: Yúnnán; literally "South of the Clouds"; figuratively "South of the Yunling Mountains") Province is located in the far southwest of the country. The province borders Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.

Geography of Yunnan

Yunnan is situated in a mountainous area, with high elevations in the northwest and low elevations in the southeast. Most of the population lives in the eastern part of the province. In the west, the relative height from mountain peaks to river valleys can be as much as 3,000 m. Yunnan is rich in natural resources and has the largest diversity of plant life in China. Of the approximately 30,000 species of higher plants in China, Yunnan has over 17,000. Yunnan's reserves of aluminium, lead, zinc and tin are the largest in China, and there are also major reserves of copper and nickel. Yunnan has over 600 rivers and lakes, which provide an annual water supply of 222 billion cubic meters. Projected hydropower reserves stand at 103 GW, with an exploitable capacity of 90 GW.

Climate of Yunnan

Yunnan has a generally mild climate with pleasant and fair weather because of the province's location on south-facing mountain slopes, receiving the influence of both the Pacific and Indian oceans, and although the growing period is long, there is little arable land. See Agriculture in Yunnan. January average temperatures range from 8°C to 17°C; July averages vary from 21°C to 27°C. Average annual rainfall ranges from 600 mm to 2,300 mm, with over half the rain occurring between June and August. The plateau region has moderate temperatures. The western canyon region is hot and humid at the valley bottoms, but there are freezing winds at the mountaintops.

Economy of Yunnan

Yunnan is one of China's relatively undeveloped provinces with more poverty-stricken counties than the other provinces.

Yunnan lags behind the east coast of China in relation to socio-economic development. However, because of its geographic location the province has comparative advantages in regional and border trade with countries in southeast Asia. The Lancang River (upper reaches of Mekong River) is the waterway to southeast Asia. In recent years land transportation has been improved to strengthen economic and trade co-operation among countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Yunnan's abundance in resources determines that the province's pillar industries are: agriculture, tobacco, mining, hydro-electric power, and tourism.

Yunnan's nominal GDP in 2009 was 616.8 billion yuan (US$90.04 billion). Its per capita GDP was 13,494 yuan (US$1,975). The share of GDP of Yunnan's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were 17.9%, 43%, and 39.1% respectively.

Yunnan is one of the major production bases of copper, lead, zinc, tin and aluminum in China. Gejiu city is well known as "the Kingdom of Zinc" with the reserves ranked first in the country.

The electricity industry is another important economic pillar of Yunnan, which plays a key role in the "West-East Electricity Transmission Project". The electricity produced in Yunnan is mainly transported to Guangdong Province.

Another key industry is tobacco. Yuxi Hongta Tobacco Group is the biggest in the country. Yunnan tobacco is sold all over China.

History of Yunnan

Yunnan became part of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) during 2nd century BC. It became the seat of a Tibeto-Burman speaking kingdom known as Nanzhao in the 8th century. Nanzhao was multi-ethnic, but the elite most likely spoke a northern dialect of Yi, which became established as the prestige dialect . The Mongols conquered the region in the 13th century, with local control exercised by warlords until the 1930s. As with other parts of China's southwest, Japanese occupation in the north during World War II forced a migration of Chinese into the region. Ethnic minorities in Yunnan account for about 34 percent of its total population. Major ethnic groups include Yi, Bai, Hani, Zhuang, Dai and Miao.

Administrative divisions

Yunnan consists of sixteen prefecture-level divisions:

— Prefecture-level city —

1 Kunming ??? K?nmíng Shì Panlong District

2 Qujing ??? Q?jìng Shì Qilin District

3 Yuxi ??? Yùx? Shì Hongta District

4 Baoshan ??? B?osh?n Shì Longyang District

5 Zhaotong ??? Zh?ot?ng Shì Zhaoyang District

6 Lijiang ??? Lìji?ng Shì Gucheng District

7 Pu'er ??? Q?jìng Shì Simao District

8 Lincang ??? Línc?ng Shì Linxiang District

— Autonomous prefecture —

9 Dehong (Dai & Jingpo) ?????????? Déhóng D?izú J?ngp?zú Zìzhìzh?u Luxi

10 Nujiang (Lisu) ???????? Nùji?ng Lìsùzú Zìzhìzh?u Lushui County

11 Diqing (Tibetan) ??????? Díqìng Zàngzú Zìzhìzh?u Shangri-La County

12 Dali (Bai) ??????? Dàl? Báizú Zìzhìzh?u Dali City

13 Chuxiong (Yi) ??????? Ch?xióng Yízú Zìzhìzh?u Chuxiong City

14 Honghe (Hani & Yi) ?????????? Hónghé H?nízú Yízú Zìzhìzh?u Mengzi County

15 Wenshan (Zhuang & Miao) ????????? Wénsh?n Zhuàngzú Miáozú Zìzhìzh?u Wenshan County

16 Xishuangbanna (Dai) ????????? X?shu?ngb?nnà D?izú Zìzhìzh?u Jinghong City

Places of Interests and Tourist Attractions of Yunnan

Kunming, the City of Spring

Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan Province is the political, economic, and cultural center of the province as well as its transportation and communication hubs. It is a famous historical city of the country and an international trade and tourist city towards south and southeast Asia.

With its beautiful scenery and its many places of historical interest and attractive scenic spots, Kunming has very rich resources, both natural and man-made. Moreover, it is blessed with the best weather among China's cities because of its altitude of 1894 meters and its subtropical location. It has an incomparably agreeable climate of eternal and "Perennial Spring" and 24 colorful nationalities; hence, it has an extraordinary advantage in tourism. With ten years of development and construction, Kunming has developed extensive tourist lines, sight-seeing, vacationing, and entertainment.

The city is beautifully situated on the 330-square-kilometer Dianchi Lake, China's sixth largest, and is surrounded by mountains. On the Western Hills are the 14th-century Huating Temple, Taihua Temple, and Sanqing Tower, once a summer resort of an emperor. The Dragon Gate has stone corridors and intricate carvings cut from the 17th century. 18 kilometers northwest of Kunming is the Qiongzhu (Bamboo) Temple, with 500 lively life-size arhats. The Stone Forest of Lunan is 80 kilometers away. The Anning (Peaceful) Springs has hot springs containing calcium, magnesium and sodium.

Dianchi Lake

Once known as Diannan Pool, Kunming or Dianchi Lake is located southwest of Kunming. It is the sixth largest fresh water lake in China with an area of 340 square kilometers. Being a highland lake 1,885 meters above the sea level, it is reputed as a " pearl on the highland." When the weather is warm and sunny, the lake appears green and shining with ripples. When the weather is stormy, it stirs with seething waves. Thus the unique characteristics of Dianchi are not just those of a lake, but of the majestic and daring ocean. Around Dianchi Lake are many historic relics and scenic spots such as the Grand View Pavilion, the Western Hills, Zheng He Park and the Shizhaishan tombs.


Dali stands in the west against Cangshan Mountain and in the east adjoins Erhai lake. It is embraced and encircled by undulating hills. Abundant sunshine makes the weather warm, but the wind is very strong and explains how Xiaguan of Dali got the name of "A Town of Wind". Dali has a long history. As early as 4,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Bai and Yi nationalities had already occupied the areas around Dali. They created the Erhai Culture and left numerous and brilliant historical cultural relics.

Cangshan Mountain and Erhai Lake are the most famed scenic spots in Dali, and are reputed as the "Snow-Covered Cangshan Moutain and Jade-Green Erhai Lake". Cangshan Moutain stands erect like a huge screen, and under the fleecy clouds, its snow-capped pinnacles and the stream that flows in between make a beautiful picture. The placid and crystal-clear Erhai lake comprises the following famous scenic spots: the Three Islets, the Sand Bars, the Five Miniature Lakes, and the Nine Curvantures. The wind, flowers, snow, and moon make a perfect natural picture that renders this ancient city with even more attractiveness. People adorn it as "the Switzerland of the East."

Shilin, the Stone Forest

The Stone Forest, 80 kilometers away from Kunming, is located in the city's Yi nationality autonomous county of Lunan. With an area of over 350 square kilometers, it chiefly consists of 7 scenic spots, namely: the Big Stone Forest, the Naigu Stone Forest, the Dadie Waterfall, the Zhiuyun Cave, the Qifeng Cave, Long Lake, and Moon Lake. In the forest are many stone peaks, rock pillars, stone flours, rock levels, and rock flows of a thousand different shapes like a vast black forest. Therefore, it is known as "the first wonder in the world."

The Stone Forest is is made up of limestone formations known as karst. About 270 million years ago, the area was submerged and a thick layer of limestone was deposited on the bottom. The movement of the earth's crust caused the sea bottom to thrust upward and become land; through weathering and erosion over eons, the stone was moulded into pillars. From a distance, it looks indeed like a dense forest and is why it is called the Stone Forest. Known as" the most fantastic scenery under Heaven," it has a myriad of pinnacles that are of fanciful shapes taxing the imagination.


Lijiang a piece of mysterious land that lies in the northwest of Yunnan and on the south of the QingZang Plateau. The terrain is precipitous with imposing landscape and magnificent scenery. Lijiang is known as the Oriental Venice as sluggishly trickling rivers flow across the streets paved with colorful stone plank. Jade Peak Temple is one of seven lamaseries in which one can see luxuriant trees and impressive scenery. Here lives a 300-year-old camellia tree called the "Ten-thousand Camellia" which has over ten thousand blossoms every year.

Ganghaizi lies at the foot of Jade Dragon Mountain (Yu Long Mountain), which rises spectacularly 6000 meters above sea level. Here, one can appreciate the snow scenery of the mountain's thirteen peaks. With one snow-capped mountainon on one side, a surrounding 1000-year-old dragon spruce on three sides, and a luxuriant growth of grass, tourists can enjoy melodious pastoral songs on this extensive grassy marshland. The people here are honest, simple, loyal, polite, and very hospitable. They observe many festivals, including the "Sanduojie", the "Bangbangjie", the "Jiandangjie", the King Dragon's, and the Torchlight festivals.

Xishuang Banna

Xishuang Banna is situated in the south of Yunnan, 742 kilometers southwest of Kunming. The age old ethnic customs and lifestyle coupled with the picturesque natural beauty of the subtropical region will surely delight any tourist. It has a population of 690,000 people, including the Dai, Hani, Lahu, Bulang, Jinuo, Yao, Yi, and some other nationalities. It is endowed with sufficient sunshine and is usually windless and very warm, with heavy dews and fogs and plenty of rainfall. Xishuang Banna is one of the key scenic resorts of Yunnan. Points of interest are scattered in many locations of the prefecture, all with distincive features. The temples have intricate flaming roofs and snake designs, and near the border lives 300 wild elephants in a nature preserve. With its tropical rain forests, rare and precious oramental plants, and wild animals combined with its multifarious peculiar national customs and habits of the southerm country, Xishuang Banna has always been a cherished tourist resort for vistors at home and abroad.

The Manfeilong Tower

The Manfeilong Tower, also known as Flying Dragon White Pagoda, stands on the rear mountain of Manfeilong Village in Damenglong of Jinghong County. Built of stones and bricks in 556 of the Dai calendar (1204), the towers are octagonal in shape. At each corner of the base of the towers, a Buddhist shrine stands. Between the main tower and each of the eight shrines stands eight small towers. The main one in the centre has a height of 16.3 meters while the eight smaller ones measure 9.1 meters each.

The Mengla Tropical Plantation is also known as the Yunnan Provincial Research Institute of Tropical Plants. It is located on Huludao Island, northwest of Mengla County. Covering an area of 130 hectares, it was established in 1958. The garden has more than 1,500 kinds of plants from home and abroad including cash crop plants, wild plants and ornamental plants. Among them are the upas trees, devipepper, dracaena cambodiana trees and other remarkable Chinese medicinal herbs, rare forest trees, oil crops and tropical or subtropical fruits. As a research centre of Chinese tropical plants, it has had more than 120 kinds of research results in tropical plant resources and the introduction, domestication and artificial propagation of fine varieties.

Yunnan Local Cuisine

Yunnan abounds in resources and, as a result, offers many delicacies with distinct local flavour. Yunnan Guoqiao Mixian Banquet offers Yunnan specialities prepared with traditional method, which is both tasty and rich in nutrition.

Yunnan Steam Pot Chicken is a traditional dish cooked with steam pot, which has been used for cookign purposes in Yunnan since ancient times. The chicken is both dellicious and nutritious.

Yunnan Jizong Banquet is mainly prepared with Jizong, afungus that tastes like chicken but more delicious, and other fungus abundantly grow in Yunnan. It is noted for being delicious and nutritious.

Yunnan Mutton Feast consists of 50-70 courses of mutton, both hot and cold. The mutton is from one sheep and pregrations take over forth hours. Each course has its own flavour,. Crisp, soft and delicious but not greasy, the feast is a favourite with diners.

Yunnan refreshments consist of delicious refreshments of the various nationalities in the province, which have distinctive local flavours. Minority cuisine, such as fish cooked in casserole of Bai nationality in Dali and chicken with lemongrass in Xishuangbanna, are all very delicious.


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