Yunnan, though a province of China, is, in many aspects, a part of Southeast Asia. This is the case because it is populated not only by Han Chinese who have migrated into the province in more recent times but by a large number of minorities who have been living here for as long as history has been recorded. Actually, one of the dominant ethnic groups of Southeast Asia, the Thais, trace their origin to Yunnan where they lived in their own, independent kingdom, Nanchao, for hundreds of years, until it was overrun by the Mongols of Kublai Khan. Dschingis Khan's and Kublai Khan's conquest of much of Asia forced many of the Thais of Yunnan, mainly those living in an advanced social order, the Nanchao state, to migrate south into an area which today forms the Kingdom of Thailand.
Nevertheless, a large number of ethnic Thais remained in Yunnan after Kublai Khan's conquest, especially in the mountainous regions of Yunnan which have less easily been penetrated, first by Kublai Khan's troops and later by Han Chinese administrations. Though these remaining Thais, known as Dais, Bais, and by other names, have, after Nanchao, never again been able to form their own, independent states, they have, until today, maintained their own way of life, their own religion, and their own customs which in many ways are quite different from those of the Han Chinese.
Yunnan has a diverse climate, embracing temperate, tropical and rigid zones in one province. Kunming, the capital city, is marked by a pleasant spring weather which prevails year round while it is also notable for the abrupt change into winter weather caused by rain.
Dali's climate is somewhat similar to that of Kunming. Lijiang has a rather cold climate whereas Xishuangbanna is rather hot for most of the year.
Spring - February to April
Summer - May to July
Autumn - August to October
Winter - November to January
The population of Yunnan is approximately 34 million. There are 24 registered minorities, including the Zhuang, Hui, Yi, Miao, Tibetans, Mongols, Yao, Bai, Hani, Dai, Lisu, Lahu, Wa, Naxi, Jingpo, Bulang, Pumi, Nu, Achang, Benglong, Jinuo, and Dulong.
The Naxi, living in and around the town of Lijiang in the northwestern part of Yunnan, bordering Tibet, are noted as one of the few Asian people who have maintained a matriarchal society (anthropologists believe that most early human societies have in fact been matriarchal, meaning to say, dominated by women). Apart from northwestern Yunnan, matriarchal societies are, for example, still found today in central Sumatra.
Ethnically, the Naxi belong to the Tibetan group. However, the region where they live, or roamed (as they used to be nomads), administratively belongs to the Chinese provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. They count some 280,000.
Celebrations & Holidays
February 19 ---- Chinese New Year
March 8 ----- Women's Day
May 1 -----May Day
June 1 -----Children's Day
July 1 ----- People's Communist Party's Day
August 1 ----- Army's Day
September 1 ----- Teachers' Day
October 1 -----National Day
What to see
Stone Forest (Shi Lin), located outside of the capital city of Kunming, is one of the world's natural wonders. Here, massive pillars of gray rock have formed a gigantic forest of stone. Some of these natural stone formations have the appearance of animals such as snakes, elephants, birds, and dragons. Kunming has many interesting temples and parks such as Daguan Park, Black Dragon Pool, Zheng He Park, Bamboo Temple, Golden Temple, and the Western Hills, to name only a few. Each of these places has unique features that capture the imagination. For example, the Bamboo Temple has 500 life-size luohans that were sculpted in the 1800's. The Western Hills contains three temples: Huating Temple (from the 11th century), Taihua Temple, and the Sanqing Temple. At the top of the path, which takes about two hours to reach, is Longmen (Dragon Gate). Dragon Gate is comprised of sculptures, grottos, and pathways that were built by a Taoist monk in the late 1700's. The view from Dragon Gate overlooking DianChi Lake and the city of Kunming is spectacular. Moreover, you can always be certain of fabulous spring weather in Kunming regardless of the time of year!
At the southern end of Yunnan Province bordering on Laos and Myanmar is Xishuangbanna, a tropical rainforest that is the home of the Dai people. The Dai have many festivals that span across the year. The Water Splashing Festival occurs officially in mid-April but has become such a famous event that it is enacted regularly. In the northwest section of Yunnan, on a plateau amidst the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain (Yulong Mountain), is its most beautiful pearl, the city of Lijiang. Lijiang Old Town, rebuilt because of a devastating earthquake in 1996, is a traveler's oasis. Three small rivers course through Old Town's cobbles-stoned streets that are lined with trees, wonderful restaurants and cafes, shops, residences and a theatre where you can attend a performance of music played on original period instruments that date back to the Han dynasty. Lijiang has been designated by UNESCO as one of the world's major cultural heritages, and is the center of the Lijiang Naxi Ethnic Minority Autonomous County. The Naxi (one of 25 ethnic minorities of Yunnan Province) are the predominate population of Lijiang and its surrounding area. There are also a variety of beautiful parks and temples around Lijiang.
The natural beauty of Yunnan Province defies description. It has mountain ranges and glaciers that are snow-capped all year round, deep virgin forests, lakes and hot springs, alpine landscapes, precipitous valleys, beautiful farmlands, mountain rivers and valley streams, floral splendor that blooms throughout the year, and vast skies with amazing clouds.
Until recent times most of Yunnan was not easily reachable as it was cut off from communication with the outside world by precipitous mountains. Many believe that the Shangri-la referred to in James Milton's Lost Horizons, was here in Yunnan. It now may be the last virgin land where one can observe cultures whose layers go back for thousands of years into the past. Visit Yunnan and be prepared to be enchanted. She welcomes you!