Yunnan, South of Clouds. Yunnan is a land of colorful ethnic groups and a natural paradise to discover.
Yunnan is not and does not coincide with the classical view of the Land of the Dragon. It’s a land border, inhabited by a mixture of ethnic groups characterized by a variety of costumes, languages, and traditions.
Yunnan is a land where you can visit villages inhabited by many minorities, and travel in remote and little-known regions, following the ancient paths of the French missionaries or great travelers like Bruce Chatwin, Marco Polo, and Joseph Rock, inspiring novelists, adventurers, and simple travelers.
From the Tibetan peaks to the rainforests of the South: a trip through customs and little-known habits of Yunnan
Where to start: History of Yunnan
YUNNAN TRAVEL GUIDE
Travel to Yunnan
Yunnan in southwest China is located in the middle reaches of the renowned Lancang-Mekong River that enjoys the fame of “Oriental Danube”. Having 4,060 km of China’s boundary, Yunnan borders Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, and is in close vicinity of Thailand, Kampuchea, India, and Bangladesh. Therefore, Yunnan is China’s important gateway to Southeast and South Asia. Yunnan measures 394,000 km2 and the average elevation of the Province is between 2,500 – 3,000 m. Under the Province are 16 prefectures and municipalities. The population of the Province has added up to 44 million. Its 25 ethnic minority groups have made Yunnan China’s only Province with the greatest number of minority groups, and 15 of the 25 minorities are native and unique to Yunnan.
Yunnan is located along the southwestern border of China, bordering Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.
Map of Yunnan
As one of China’s provinces with the richest tourism resources, Yunnan’s long history, and intense ethnic customs have jointly nurtured dazzling cultures, and special landforms in Yunnan have created mysterious and wonderful sceneries. A multi-patterned and elevation-dependent climate features almost all kinds of weather in North and South China. Represented by Kunming, most areas 1,800 – 2,000 m above sea level enjoy an annual mean temperature of 15 C, and never have freezing winters or scorching summers. The countless highland lakes and ideal ecological environment have generated Yunnan’s unique tourism resources, making the province an eternally spring-like tourist attraction for holidays.
On this land, there are snow mountains and glaciers in the north; vast tropical rain forests in the south that are homes of rare fauna and flora species; the meandering and roaring “Three Parallel Rivers” in the west; and the spectacular karst landform in the east; whereas in Central Yunnan are numerous highland lakes and the famous tourism city Kunming which boasts an eternally spring climate.
After years of development, Yunnan has established 6 major tour routes: Vacationing and Leisure Tour Route in Central Yunnan, Shangri-la Eco-culture Tour Route in Northwest Yunnan, Exoticism Tour Route in West Yunnan, Tropical Rain Forest Tour Route in Southwest Yunnan, “Karst Landscape Wonder Route” in Southeast Yunnan, and the Ancient Culture Tour Route in Northeast Yunnan.
Yunnan boasts convenient transportation facilities with developing a three-dimensional network of communication lines. Kunming International Airport, as an important regional international air hub of China, ranks the 5th largest air harbor in China. Within the Province are 10 in-province air routes to reach destinations including the Shangri-la County, Dali, Lijiang, Xishuangbanna, Baoshan, Pu’er, Lincang, Wenshan, Zhaotong, etc.; whereas the inter-province air routes serving Yunnan have provided direct links with 60-plus large or intermediate domestic cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, and Macao. Moreover, there are 14 international air routes between Kunming and destinations such as Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Seoul, Yangon, Vientiane, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Siem Reap, Mandalay, and Dhaka.
Yunnan has railways and highways that crisscross all Yunnan areas. In terms of railroads, Yunnan has the Guiyang-Kunming, Chengdu-Kunming, Nanning-Kunming, Neijiang-Kunming, and Kunming-Hekou railways, and the Kunming-Hekou Railway can directly reach Hanoi, Vietnam, and among its highways are the Shilin-Anning, Chuxiong-Dali, Dali-Lijiang, Kunming-Yuxi, and Kunming-Qujing expressways.
In addition, Yunnan is constructing expressways to link Kunming with Bangkok of Thailand, Lashio of Myanmar, and Hanoi of Vietnam, as well as the Yunnan section of the Pan-Asia Railway for accessing countries on the Indochina Peninsula. In accordance with the “Agreement on Navigation on the Lancang-Mekong River” jointly signed by China, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand, commercial fleets are now shuttling the 900-kilometer river route between Pu’er of Yunnan and Louangphrabang of Laos, and ships may freely anchor at 14 harbors or docks of the 4 countries.
The colorful Yunnan is indeed the tourists’ paradise. The warm-hearted and hospitable Yunnan people of different ethnic groups cordially welcome all domestic and overseas friends to tour the land, where there are countless scenic wonders to feast their eyes on, incalculable tales for them to hear, and inexhaustible mysteries for them to explore. They are sure to fulfill their long-cherished dreams and fall in love with Yunnan.
The mysterious and beautiful Yunnan will unfold before visitors the panorama of colorful scenic wonders and enjoyments, and offer them brand-new tourism experiences.
An Overview of Yunnan
Yunnan is a piece of mysterious land abundant in plants, wild animals, minerals, majestic landscapes, varied landforms, colorful ethnic cultures, and brilliant civilizations in ancient times. As a frontier province, Yunnan functions as an important land gateway of China to Southeast and South Asia due to its favorable location and convenient transportation. With the rapid development of tourism, the comprehensive construction and economic development of Yunnan have been improved greatly. At present, Yunnan has become a significant tourist province in western China.
Origin of the name “Yunnan”
Yunnan, meaning “south of clouds” in Chinese, initially got this name in the Han Dynasty (2nd century B.C.). According to the record of A General History of Yunnan, someone caught sight of fantastic cloud views in the south during the Yuanshou Period and reported to Emperor Wudi. Regarding it as an auspicious view, the emperor immediately sent his men to look for that place with such beautiful clouds. Finally, the place identified was named “Yunnan”, and the emperor ordered setting up a county there which was entitled “Yunnan”.
It was the first time that “Yunnan” officially appeared as the name for a place in history. In fact, that county is the present Xiangyun County in Yunnan, whose name means “auspicious clouds”. Although the initial name “Yunnan County” was not preserved, there is a township named “Yunnan Post” in the county. The township is the evidence to prove the history and the origin of the name “Yunnan”. In fact, clouds in Yunnan match the name very well due to their changeable, graceful, and enchanting appearances. The remarkable views of clouds here have been praised by men of letters for hundreds of years.
Yunnan, located in the southwest of China, neighbors the Tibet Autonomous Region in the northwest, Sichuan Province in the north, Guizhou Province in the northeast, and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in the east. As a frontier province, Yunnan borders Vietnam in the southeast, Laos in the south, and Burma in the west with a length of the 4060-kilometer boundary line.
The Sino-Burma boundary line covers 1,997 kilometers; the Sino-Laos boundary line covers 710 kilometers and the Sino-Vietnam boundary line covers 1,353 kilometers. As an important gateway of China to Southeast and South Asia, Yunnan is connected to Thailand and Cambodia by rivers and roads. There are rivers and mountains running across the borders. Due to the geographical superiority, close economic and cultural ties between Southeast Asia and Yunnan have been long established since ancient times.
Stretching 864.9 kilometers from the east to the west and 990 kilometers from the south to the north, Yunnan covers an area of 394,000 square kilometers, resembling the shape of a peacock in his pride. The size of Yunnan is slightly larger than the land area of Japan which covers 377,000 square kilometers. As the 8th largest province in China, the size of Yunnan accounts for 4.1% of the total land area of China, second to Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, Heilongjiang, Sichuan, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia.
There are 16 provincial administrative divisions in Yunnan, including 8 cities and 8 autonomous prefectures of ethnic nationalities. The 8 cities directly under the jurisdiction of the provincial government are Kunming, Qujing, Yuxi, Zhaotong, Baoshan, Lijiang, Pu’er, and Lincang. The 8 autonomous prefectures of ethnic groups include Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Prefecture, Dehong Dai & Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, Nujiang Lisu Autonomous Prefecture, Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Honghe Hani &Yi Autonomous Prefecture, Wenshan Zhuang & Miao Autonomous Prefecture, and Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture. Moreover, these cities and prefectures are sub-divided into 129 counties or county-level administrative regions.
Situated on the second topographical terrace of China, Yunnan is a typical highland province sloping from the northwest to the southeast. In the northwest, Yunnan leans against the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau which is the largest plateau in the world with the fame of “The Roof of The World”. Therefore, the landform of Yunnan is high in the northwest where the highest point of the province lies: Kawagebo Peak of Meili Snow Mountain with an elevation of 6,740 meters. Close to the Pacific Ocean in the southeast, the landform of Yunnan gradually slopes. The lowest point of the province is the confluence of the Yuanjiang River and Nanxi River in Hekou County in the southeast at an altitude of merely 76.4 meters. Therefore, an astonishing altitude gap of 6663.6 meters exists between the highest point and the lowest point of Yunnan.
In Yunnan, mountainous land accounts for 94% of the total area, and flatland (basins) only cover 6% of the total. Consequently, there are many mountain ranges in Yunnan, among which the elevations of 30 mountain peaks are over 2,500 meters. The altitudes of some snow mountains even surpass 5,000 meters, such as Meili Snow Mountain, Taizi Snow Mountain, Baimang Snow Mountain, Yulong Snow Mountain, Haba Snow Mountain, and so on. Since Yunnan is located in the joint of the Eurasian Plate and Indian Plate, the collision of the two plates millions of years ago results in the frequent movements of the earth’s crust. Consequently, high mountains and deep valleys come into being due to the extrusion of the plates. Besides mountains, Yunnan is abundant in Karst landform.
Since Yunnan used to be a section of a shallow ancient sea, layers of thick limestone gradually formed due to the effect of sunshine and water. Because of the movements of the earth’s crust, those limestone grounds in the ocean were raised up to form tablelands, hence the wide-spread Karst landform throughout the province. The most representative ones are Stone Forest and Jiuxiang Karst Cave in Kunming, Sallow Cave in Jianshui, Puzhehei Scenic Region in Wenshan Prefecture, and Alu Ancient Cave in Luxi County.
Situated in the low-latitude yet plateau region, Yunnan is dominated by the subtropical highland monsoon climate. In autumn and winter, Yunnan is under the control of the dry continental monsoon from the northwest; while in spring and summer, the province is affected by the humid oceanic monsoon from the southwest.
Generally speaking, the climate in Yunnan is comfortable. However, the complex landform of Yunnan makes the weather in different regions vary from each other. For example, in some areas in the northwest, winter is so long and cold that there are hardly any summer days; in some central areas of Yunnan, the weather is spring-like all year round; however, some southern regions are characterized by frequent hot weather and abundant rainfall.
To be specific, the characteristics of the climate in Yunnan can be summarized in the following: Firstly, Yunnan is featured numerous climatic types. Due to the obvious altitude difference from the northwest to the southeast, Yunnan covers the tropical zone, subtropical zone, warm temperate zone, cold temperate zone, and frigid.
Secondly, the climate of the province has a small difference in annual temperature but a large difference in daily temperature. The seasonal temperature often ranges from10 centigrade to 15 centigrade. However, the temperature in a day generally ranges from 12 centigrade to 20 centigrade. Thirdly, the altitude changes make the temperature obviously alter. Normally, when the elevation rises by 100 meters, the temperature will decrease by 0.6 centigrade. Therefore, in the mountainous regions of Yunnan, the weather at the foot of a mountain can be totally different from the weather at the waist or top of the mountain.
A famous local saying goes like this: “One can experience four seasons in one mountain, and the weathers within several miles are quite different.” Fourthly, there is plenty of rainfall in Yunnan, but the distribution is uneven. About 85% of rainfall appears from May to October which is defined as the rainy season of the province. The dry season lasts from November to April next year. Finally, the frost-free period in Yunnan is very long due to the strong sunshine in the province.
The various landforms and distinctive climatic features make Yunnan a province with abundant natural resources. Yunnan hence enjoys the fame of “Three Kingdoms”, namely “Kingdom of Plants”, “Kingdom of Animals” and “Kingdom of Nonferrous Metals”.
Firstly, Yunnan boasts the largest number of plant species in China. In China, there are 30,000 kinds of higher plants, of which 18,000 can be found in Yunnan, accounting for over 60% of the total. Yunnan has a variety of precious trees such as Dragon Spruce, Chinese Yew, and Himalayan Cypress. Yunnan also possesses various economic plants, such as tea, fruits, medicinal herbs, flowers, rubber, tobacco, and coffee. The most famous tea in Yunnan is called Pu’er tea, which is produced in the middle and lower reaches of the Lancang River.
Since the production area of the tea used to be under the administration of Pu’er Prefecture in Qing Dynasty, the tea produced there was named after Pu’er. Because the tea is featured a strong scent, a sweet aftertaste, and a good medical effect, it was approved as a tribute to the imperial court of the Qing Dynasty. At present, Pu’er tea in Yunnan has been well-known at home and abroad due to its unique taste and good quality. Besides Pu’er tea, Yunnan also has black tea and flower tea such as Osmanthus tea, Chrysanthemum tea, Jasmine tea, and Rose tea. Yunnan is also endowed with various fruits such as mango, pineapple, durian, papaya, red waxberry, litchi, cherry, grape, banana, etc. Boasting medicinal herbs, Yunnan enjoys the reputation of “The Treasure House of Medicinal Herbs”.
There are more than 2,000 kinds of medicinal herbs in Yunnan, of which the most famous ones are Pseudo-ginseng, Gastrodia, and Cordyceps. In Chinese, Pseudo-ginseng is also named “Sanqi” which stands for two numbers “three and seven”. The name “Sanqi” results from the structure of the plant: Each plant has three branches and each branch bears seven leaves, hence the name. Raw and cooked Pseudo-ginseng have different medicinal effects. The raw can cure swelling and pain caused by injuries, and the cooked is an effective nourishing drug. Gastrodia is mainly produced in Zhaotong in the northeast of Yunnan. Gastrodia has medicinal effects to cure convulsion and delirium. Cordyceps in Yunnan grows in Diqing Prefecture and Nujiang Prefecture in the northwest of Yunnan where snow mountains and plateau meadows offer suitable conditions for the growth of Cordyceps. In fact, Cordyceps is a compound of worms and fungus. In winter, it is a worm with fungus in its body.
However, in summer, the fungus inside the worm will grow into a plant that takes root in the solidified dead worm. Cordyceps is an effective tonic herb for weakness after illness. Yunnan is entitled “The Natural Garden” for the rich flower species. There are eight famous flowers in Yunnan, namely camellia, azalea, fair primrose, lily, orchid, rough gentian, and meconopsis. Fresh-cut flower production and dried flower processing are developing rapidly in Yunnan. Here appears one of the richest villages in the province—Dounan Village, where an international flower production base has been founded and flowers produced here are sold all over China and exported to many other countries in the world.
Secondly, Yunnan is reputed as the “Kingdom of Animals”. The fauna fossils unearthed in Maotianshan Mountain in 1984 were proved to be the precious fossils of early living beings in the Cambrian Period. The discovery is regarded as one of the greatest scientific discoveries in the 20th century due to its significant value for the scientific research of early living beings’ evolution. These fauna fossils well preserved the intact traces of varied early living beings; hence they offer scientists the possibility to do further research on the “great eruption of life” in the Cambrian period. Consequently, Maotianshan Mountain was approved to be the World Geological Heritage by UNESCO. In addition, the quantities of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and freshwater fish rank first in China. There are many precious animals under state-level protection in Yunnan, such as green peacocks, snub-nosed monkeys, gibbons, bison, and wild elephants.
Thirdly, Yunnan is rich in mineral resources, of which nonferrous metals are the most advantageous. Due to the dramatic moments of the earth’s crust, a lot of huge folds and faults have formed. The unique geological condition hence brings about the abundant mineral resources in Yunnan. The reserves of lead, zinc, and tin in Yunnan number the top in China. The deposits of copper and nickel here rank third in China. In addition, there are many other metals with abundant deposits, such as germanium, copper, nickel, silver, and aluminum. Therefore, nonferrous metal processing is one of the backbone industries in Yunnan.
River Systems and Lakes
Altogether, there are more than 600 rivers running through Yunnan which can be classified into six river systems, namely Jinsha-Yangtze River system, Nanpan –Zhujiang River system, Yuanjiang–Honghe River system, Lancang-Mekong River system, Nujiang-Salween River system, and Dulong-Dayin-Ruily-Irrawaddy River-system. The first two are domestic rivers that run into the Pacific Ocean. The other four river systems are international rivers flowing across Laos, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam and finally running into the Indian Ocean. Splendid rivers create many magnificent scenic spots, among which the most famous one is the Three Parallel Rivers. Originating from the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, the Jinsha River, the Lancang River, and the Nujiang River closely run southeastward in parallel for about 400 kilometers in the northwest of Yunnan.
The shortest distance between them is only 76 kilometers. However, when they flow into Shigu and Bijiang areas, the three rivers separate and run in different directions respectively: the Jinsha River flows eastward; the Lancang River runs southward; however, the Nujiang River rushes southwestward. Therefore, the distance between them gradually becomes wider and wider. Finally, when they flow into the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean, the distance between the outlets where they empty into the oceans is over 3,000 kilometers, hence forming a “boom shape” river system.
Due to such a unique landscape, this region has been developed into an attractive scenic spot that covers an area of 17,000 square kilometers, comprising Diqing Prefecture, Nujiang Prefecture, Lijiang region, and part of Dali Prefecture. The scenic region is characterized by dense forests, natural reserves, snow mountains, glaciers, plateau lakes, alpine Karst landform, wild animals, plateau meadows, and lava scarps. The biological, geological, and scenic diversity here offers the region a great potential for tourism and scientific research. In 1988, it was approved as a state-level scenic region by the State Council. In 2003, the Three Parallel Rivers was listed in the World Natural Heritages by UNESCO. At present, this scenic region is drawing more and more attention from home and abroad.
There scatter numerous plateau lakes in Yunnan. Thirty-seven of them cover an area of more than one square kilometer, and the whole water capacity is about 30 billion cubic meters. The largest lake in Yunnan is Dianchi Lake in Kunming, covering an area of 306.3 square kilometers with a water capacity of 1.57 billion cubic meters. Erhai in Dali is the second largest lake in Yunnan, covering an area of 250 square kilometers with a water capacity of 2.88 billion cubic meters. With an average depth of 87.5 meters, Fuxian Lake in Chengjiang County is the deepest lake in Yunnan which is followed by Lugu Lake, Chenghai Lake, and Yangzong Lake.
In Yunnan, the greatest attraction to visitors is the colorful cultures of diversified nationalities. Among the 56 nationalities in China, Yunnan has 52 nationalities, of which 26 have a population of more than 5,000. The diversity of nationalities in Yunnan ranks first in China. Yunnan has a total population of over 43 million, of which the population of ethnic peoples accounts for 1/3 (about 14 million). Among the 25 ethnic groups, 15 are the native and unique nationalities in Yunnan. They are Bai, Hani, Dai, Lisu, Wa, Lahu, Naxi, Jingpo, Bulang, Pumi, Achang, Jinuo, Nu, De’ang, and Dulong. There are 16 ethnic groups living in cross-border areas, namely Dai, Zhuang, Miao, Jingpo, Yao, Hani, De’ang, Wa, Lahu, Yi, Achang, Lisu, Buyi, Nu, Bulang, and Dulong. The colorful and mysterious religions, customs, constructions, folklores, costumes, and folk art are of great potential in tourism.
In Yunnan, there exist various religions that are closely related to the cultures of numerous nationalities. In general, the followings are the main religions in Yunnan: Buddhism, Daoism, Islam, Christianity, and primitive religions. All kinds of religions coexist harmoniously in the province.
Buddhism was introduced to Yunnan in the 7th century. Buddhism in the province comprises all the sects of Buddhism, namely Mahayana Buddhism (Han Buddhism/ Big Raft Buddhism), Hinayana Buddhism (Pali Buddhism/Southern Buddhism/ Small Raft Buddhism), and Tibetan Buddhism (Lamaism), and Aryan Buddhism. Generally speaking, Mahayana Buddhism is mainly practiced by Han, Bai, Yi, and Naxi peoples; Hinayana Buddhism is mainly worshiped by Dai, Bulang, Achang, and De’ang peoples; while the main followers of Tibetan Buddhism are Dai, Bulang, Achang, and De’ang peoples; Acaryan Buddhism is popular in Yi, Bai, and Han peoples. Consequently, there are many famous Buddhist temples in Yunnan.
As a local religion in China, Daoism was introduced into Yunnan at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty (317—420 A.D.). It was said that the King of Nanzhao Kingdom, Xinuluo, got the religious inspiration from a Daoist Master, hence becoming a local Daoist God. Daoism was then gradually combined with local ethnic cultures, hence forming Daoist music wide-spreading in Yunnan.
Islam was introduced to Yunnan when Mongolian troops came to Yunnan and overthrew the Dali Kingdom in 1253. There are many Islamic constructions such as mosques in Yunnan. There were some outstanding Muslims in the history of Yunnan, such as Muying, who was the governor of Yunnan in the Ming Dynasty, and Zhenghe, who was a great navigator in the Ming Dynasty.
The introduction of Christianity to Yunnan in 1843 brought some western culture into Yunnan. Since some western missionaries practiced Christianity in ethnic regions, Christianity was combined in ethnic cultures. Meanwhile, writing systems were created and used in some ethnic groups such as Naxi, Lisu, Yi, and Lahu.
Primitive religions of ethnic people comprise abundant contents and numerous forms that involve nature worship, animal worship, plant worship, totem worship, ghost worship, ancestry worship, and sexuality worship. One ethnic group might have many idols to worship. For instance, the Yi people worship their ancestor Xinuluo as a local guardian, and they simultaneously worship the tiger, spider, and rooster as their totems. The existence of primitive religion is attributed to ethnic people’s powerlessness towards nature. With the development of productive force, the influence of primitive religions becomes weaker step by step.
There are various diversified specialties in Yunnan. For example, marble craftwork in Dali is a famous. Due to the fine texture, the natural marbles can be made into vases, stationery (e.g. ink slab), screens, and other ornaments after being polished. The natural veins on the surface resemble the traditional Chinese paintings, hence the elegant indoor decorations.
Jade carving in Tengchong is another well-known specialty in Yunnan. Since Tengchong county borders Burma, jade processing and trading are prosperous. The local jade carvings have been famous for more than 500 years due to their fine texture, beautiful shapes, and elegant workmanship. Tengchong hence got the fame “Home of Jade”.
Woodcarving is the most famous folk art in Jianchuan County. It is characterized by strong ethnic flavor, ancient patterns, elegant designs, refined workmanship, and life-like images of plants, animals, and people. They can be the ideal decorations and ornaments for houses.
Tie-dye cloth (bandhnu) is a traditional handicraft of Bai people. It is made of cotton cloth and colorant extracted from herbs and plants. After the procedures of pattern-designing, sewing, dyeing, thread-removing, poaching, and washing, bold and vivid designs will appear on the blue background of the cloth. Tie-dye cloth can be made into wall decorations, tablecloths, slipcovers, hats, and clothes.
There are many other specialties with strong ethnic flavors, such as embroideries of Yi people, brocades of Dai people, and batik cloth in Wenshan prefecture. They are excellent handicrafts that can be the ideal souvenirs for visitors.
There are a lot of local delicacies that are unique and delicious. Cross-bridge Rice Noodles are well-known at home and abroad due to their special soup, unique way of serving, fresh taste, rich nutrition, and interesting origin. Steam-Pot Chicken is another representative local food of Yunnan. Its special cooking way by using the pottery pot keeps the original taste of chicken well. Roast Duck in Yiliang County is famous for its distinctive way of roasting, and it tastes crispy and tender. Ham from Xuanwei is world-famous because of its long history, tender texture, and pleasant aroma.
In 1915, Xuanwei Ham Can won a gold award at Panama Exhibition and got the high praise of Dr. Sun Yat-sen. At present, various ham products have been exported to Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macao, Japan, some European countries, and America. In addition, Yunnan also boasts wild edible mushrooms, such as Collybia Albuminosa and Matsutake Mushroom.
With the rapid economic development of Yunnan, great changes have taken place in local transportation. Up to now, transportation in Yunnan is very convenient. In terms of aviation, 12 Airports have been constructed and put into use. They are the airports in Kunming, Dali, Xishuangbanna, Mangshi, Lijiang, Simao, Baoshan, Zhaotong, Shangri-La, Lincang, Puzhehei, and Tengchong. At Present, airports in Honghe, Nujiang, Huize, and Lugu Lake are being planned. The number of airports in Yunnan ranks first in China. In water transportation, two river systems play important roles: Jinsha-Yangtze River System and Lanncang-Mekong River System. The former is the longest shipping route in China with a distance of 2,884 kilometers.
The latter is an international shipping route connecting China and the counties in Southeast Asia because the Lancang-Mekong River runs through six Asian counties including China, Burma, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. The Railway network in Yunnan connects the province with inland railways. For example, Guizhou-Kunming Railway, Chengdu-Kunming railway as well as Neijiang-Kunming Railway, and Nanning-Kunming railway respectively connect Yunnan to the inland railways in the east, north, and southeast. Kunming-Vietnam Railway is the first railway in Yunnan and the only one connecting Yunnan and Southeast Asia.
In order to promote cooperation and communication with Southeast Asian counties, the Pan-Asian Railway network is under construction and is to be completed in 2012 and by then Yunnan will be the land traffic hub connecting Southeast Asia and South Asia. In 2010, Yunnan Provincial government has increased the investment for Pan-Asian Railway construction so as to speed up the connection of Chinese railways and the Southeast Asian railway network. Additionally, the expressway network in Yunnan has covered the whole province with a mileage of 1,129 kilometers. The construction of the international expressway from Kunming via Laos to Bangkok has been completed and put into use in March 2008. This 1,807-kilometer-long expressway offers convenience for the land traffic from China to Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries.
Yunnan is a wonderful tourist destination due to the varied climates, long history, colorful ethnic cultures, rare animals, primitive forests, snow-mountains, steep cliffs, beautiful lakes, fantastic Karst landform, and grand volcanoes. By the end of 2003, there have been 156 nature reserves in Yunnan, of which Xishuangbanna Nature Reserve, Gaoligongshan Mountain Nature Reserve, Ailaoshan Mountain Nature Reserve, Cangshan Mountain-Erhai Lake Nature Reserve are state-level nature reserves. Up to date, five tourist regions have come into being in Yunnan: The central tourist region is featured by Karst landform travel.
The center of this region is Kunming where visitors can enjoy Stone Forest, Jiuxiang Cave, and Western Hill. The northwestern tourist region is characterized by snow mountains and ethnic cultures. Dali, Lijiang, and Shangri-La are the centers of this region. Visitors can enjoy the green Cangshan Mountain, clear Erhailake, and interesting customs of Bai people in Dali, the grand Yulong snow-mountain, the special ancient town, and the unique culture of Naxi people in Lijiang, the snow-mountains, blue lakes, and mysterious Tibetan culture in Shangri-La.
The western tourist region is renowned for its ethnic customs and volcanic wonders. Baoshan, Ruili, and Tengchong are the centers of this region. Visitors can enjoy the wonderful forest scenery of Gaoligongshan Mountain, the customs of Dai people and Jingpuo people, prosperous border trading, natural hot springs, and volcano clusters in Tengchong. The southern tourist region is characterized by ethnic customs, Buddhism culture, and tropical rainforests. The center of this region is Jinghong where customs of Dai people, temples of Hinayana Buddhism, elegant pagodas, dense rainforest, lovely animals, and various tropical fruits will impress visitors. The southeastern tourist region is acclaimed for Karst caves and farmland scenery. The tourist centers of this region are Jianshui and Luoping. The Confucian temple, Private Garden of Zhu Family, Swallow Cave, Alu Ancient Cave, and terraced fields of Hani people are impressive scenic spots in Jianshui. Luping is reputed for miles of rape flowers and crystal Duoyi River.
The Development of Tourism in Yunnan
With the economic development of Yunnan, several backbone industries such as the tobacco industry, tourism, biology industry, and mineral-mining industry gradually turn up. As a sunrise industry, tourism in Yunnan is developing rapidly and hopefully will become one of the most prosperous industries in the near future.
The rich tourism resources of Yunnan, such as the long history, and fascinating customs of ethnic groups, the special landform, the marvelous and majestic natural landscape, and the stereoscopic climate, make the province an ideal vacation resort. Due to its unique charm, Yunnan attracts more than 70 million visitors from home and abroad for vacation and sightseeing every year. Visitors have already established a beautiful impression about Yunnan: “A Colorful Paradise for Travel”.
Tourism in Yunnan has been developing rapidly for more than 20 years. By the end of The 10th National five-year Development Plan, the tourism income of Yunnan has exceeded 40 billion yuan, and the scale of fixed assets of tourism in Yunnan has surpassed 60 billion yuan. Therefore, tourism has become the backbone industry of Yunnan. In addition, the construction of international roads and railways (Kunming-Bangkok Expressway & Asian Railway) connecting Southeastern and Southern Asia and the further economic cooperation between tourist regions of China and other countries help to create a wider developing space and more commercial opportunities for Yunnan.
A large number of travel agencies and hotels develop well together with the prosperous tourism in Yunnan. There are many famous travel agencies in Yunnan such as Kunming China International Travel Service, Yunnan China Travel Service, Yunnan Overseas Travel Corporation, Kunming China Comfort Travel Service Co. Ltd. in Yunnan, and so on. There are six five-star hotels of which five are in Kunming, namely Green Lake Hotel, Kaiwah Plaza, Bank Hotel, Horizon Hotel, Greenland Hotel. One is in Lijiang, named Guanfang Hotel. At present, there are more than 660 hotels of various levels in Yunnan.
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source: Guida Yunnan