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Yunnan ( , ; literally "South of the Clouds") is a province of the People's Republic of Chinamarker, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately 394,000 square kilometers (152,000 square miles). The capital of the province is Kunmingmarker. The province borders Myanmarmarker (Burma), Laosmarker, and Vietnammarker.

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.

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 language close to Yi and modern Burmese. The Mongolsmarker 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.

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. In general, the province still depends on the natural resources. Secondary industry is currently the largest industrial tier in Yunnan, contributing more than 45 percent of GDP. Tertiary industry contributes 40 percent and agriculture 15 percent. Investment is the key driver of Yunnan's economic growth, especially in construction.

The main challenge that Yunnan faces is its lack of major development. Its low productivity and competitiveness restrict the rapid development of the province. The province also faces great challenges in social issues such as environmental protection, poverty elimination, illegal migration, drug trafficking and HIV/AIDS.


Camellia reticulata, a plant native to Yunnan Province, is the emblem of this province.


The Yuanmou Man, a Homo erectus fossil unearthed by railway engineers in the 1960s, has been determined to be the oldest known hominid fossil in China. By the Neolithic period, there were human settlements in the area of Lake Dianmarker. These people used stone tools and constructed simple wooden structures.

Around the third century BC, the central area of Yunnan around present day Kunming was known as Dian. The Chu general Zhuang Qiao (庄跤) entered the region from the upper Yangtze Rivermarker and set himself up as "King of Dian". He and his followers brought into Yunnan an influx of Chinese influence, the start of a long history of migration and cultural expansion.

In 221 BC, Qin Shi Huang unified China and extended his authority south. Commanderies and counties were established in Yunnan. An existing road in Sichuan the "Five Foot Way" was extended south to around present day Qujingmarker (曲靖), in eastern Yunnan. In 109 BC, Emperor Wu sent General Guo Chang (郭昌) south to Yunnan, establishing Yizhou commandery and 24 subordinate counties. The commandery seat was at Dianchi county (present day Jinning 晋宁). Another county was called "Yunnan", probably the first use of the name. To expand the burgeoning trade with Burmamarker and India, Emperor Wu also sent Tang Meng (唐蒙) to maintain and expand the Five Foot Way, renaming it "Southwest Barbarian Way" (西南夷道). By this time, agricultural technology in Yunnan had improved markedly. The local people used bronze tools, plows and kept a variety of livestock, including cattle, horses, sheep, goats, pigs and dogs. Anthropologists have determined that these people were related to the people now known as the Tai. They lived in tribal congregations, sometimes led by exiled Chinese.

During the Three Kingdoms, the territory of present day Yunnan, western Guizhoumarker and southern Sichuan was collectively called Nanzhong. The disollution of Chinese central authority led to increased autonomy for Yunnan and more power for the local tribal structures. In AD 225, the famed statesman Zhuge Liang led three columns into Yunnan to pacify the tribes. His seven captures of Meng Huo, a local magnate, is much celebrated in Chinese folklore.

In the fourth century, northern China was largely overrun by nomadic tribes from the north. In the 320s, the Cuan (爨) clan migrated into Yunnan. Cuan Chen (爨琛) named himself king and held authority from Lake Dianmarker (then called Kunchuan [昆川]). Henceforth the Cuan clan ruled Yunnan for over four hundred years. In 738, the kingdom of Nanzhao was established in Yunnan by Piluoge (皮罗阁), who was confirmed by the imperial court of the Tang Dynasty as king of Yunnan. Ruling from Dali, the thirteen kings of Nanzhao ruled over more than two centuries and played a part in the dynamic relationship between China and Tibet. In 937, Duan Siping (段思平) overthrew the Nanzhao and established the Kingdom of Dali. The kingdom was conquered by the Mongol Empire in 1253. During the Yuan Dynastymarker Kublai Khan appointed the first governor, Turkmen Sayid Ajall, in Yunnan in 1273. Before that, the area had been ruled by a local king and a Mongol prince under the Great Khan. Yunnan and Hunanmarker were main bases for Mongol military operations in Indo-China. The Ming Dynastymarker destroyed the Yuan loyalists in 1381.

In 1894, George Ernest Morrison, an Australian correspondent for The Times, travelled from Beijing to British-occupied Burmamarker via Yunnan. His book, An Australian in China, details his experiences.

Yunnan was transformed enormously by the events of the war against Japan, which caused many east coast refugees and industrial establishments to relocate to the province. It assumed great strategic significance, particularly as the Burma Road was constructed from Kunmingmarker to Lashiomarker in Burma during this time.


From 1916 to 1917, Roy Chapman Andrews and Yvette Borup Andrews led the Asiatic Zoological Expedition of the American Museum of Natural Historymarker through much of western and southern Yunnan, as well as other provinces of China. The book, Camps and Trails in China, records their experiences.

Other notable explorers include Heinrich Handel-Mazzetti, George Forrest , Joseph Francis Charles Rock who from 1922–1949 spent most of his time studying the flora, peoples and languages of southwest China, mainly in Yunnan, and Peter Goulart, a White Russian who studied Naxi culture and lived in Lijiang from 1940 to 1949.


Lugu Lake, northern Yunnan.

Yunnan is the most southwestern province in China, with the Tropic of Cancermarker running through its southern part. The province has an area of 394,000 square km, 4.1% of the nation's total. The northern part of the province forms part of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateaumarker. The province borders Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Guizhoumarker Province in the east, Sichuanmarker Province in the north, and Tibet Autonomous Region in the northwest. It shares a border of 4,060 km with Burmamarker in the west, Laosmarker in the south, and Vietnammarker in the southeast.


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 regionmarker has moderate temperatures. The western canyon region is hot and humid at the valley bottoms, but there are freezing winds at the mountaintops.


The terrain is largely mountainous, especially in the north and west. A series of high mountain chains spreads across the province. There is a distinct canyon region to the west and a plateaumarker region to the east. Yunnan's major rivers flow through the deep valleys between the mountains.

The average altitude 1,980 m. The mountains are highest in the north where they reach more than 5,000 m; in the south they rise no higher than 3,000 m. The highest point in the north is the Kawagebo Peakmarker in Deqin Countymarker on the Diqing Plateaumarker, which is about 6,740 meter high; and the lowest is in the Honghe Rivermarker Valley in Hekou County, with an elevation of 76.4 meters.

The eastern half of the province is a limestone plateau with karst scenery and unnavigable rivers flowing through deep mountain gorges; the western half is characterized by mountain ranges and rivers running north and south. These include the Nujiang (Thai: Salween) and the Lancangjiang (Thai: Mekong). The rugged, vertical terrain produces a wide range of flora and fauna, and the province has been called a natural zoological and botanical garden.


Bordering provinces are Tibet, Sichuanmarker, Guizhoumarker and Guangxi. Bordering countries are Vietnammarker (the main border crossing by road and rail is at HekouLao Caimarker, the only land border crossing open to non-Chinese/non-Vietnamese), Laosmarker (at Boten) and Burmamarker (with the main border crossing at Ruilimarker, the only land border open to non-Chinese/non-Burmese).


There are several major lakes in Yunnan. The province has nine lakes with areas of over 30 square kilometers. They include:


Yunnan is the source of two rivers, the Xi River (there known as the Nanpan and Hongshui) and the Yuan Rivermarker. The Hongshui is a principal source stream of the Xi River. Rising as the Nanpan in eastern Yunnan province, it flows south and east to form part of the boundary between Guizhoumarker province and Guangxi autonomous region. Flowing for 345 km, it unites with the Yu River at Guiping to form what eventually becomes the Xi River.

The province is drained by six major river systems:

National parks

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Hani rice terraces of Yuanyang Countymarker were submitted in 2008 by the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of China. Its status as a culturally significant site is still under consideration.


The eastern half of the province is a limestone plateau with karst scenery and unnavigable rivers flowing through deep mountain gorges; the western half is characterized by mountain ranges and rivers running north and south. These include the Salweenmarker and the Mekong River. The rugged, vertical terrain produces a wide range of flora and fauna, and the province has been called a natural zoological and botanical garden.

Yunnan has vast mineral resources that are its chief source of wealth. It is China's leading tin producer and has large deposits of iron, coal, lead, copper, zinc, gold, mercury, silver, antimony, and sulfur.



Yunnan is China's most diverse province, biologically as well as culturally. The province contains snow-capped mountains and true tropical environments, thus supporting an unusually full spectrum of species and vegetation types. During summer, the Great Plateau of Tibetmarker acts as a barrier to monsoon winds, trapping moisture in the province. This gives the alpine flora in particular what one source has called a "lushness found nowhere else."

This topographic range combined with a tropical moisture sustains extremely high biodiversity and high degrees of endemism, probably the richest botanically in the world's temperate regions. Over 15,000 species of higher plants, of which perhaps 2,500 are endemic, can be found in the province. The fauna is nearly as diverse. Yunnan Province has less than 4% of the land of China, yet contains about half of China's birds and mammals.

Yunnan Snub-nosed Monkey, also known as the Black Snub-nosed Monkey, is an endangered species of primate in the Cercopithecidae family.

See also Distribution of orchid species


Yunnan has been designated a:
  • "Center of Plant Diversity" (IUCN/WWF: Davis et al. 1995)
  • "Global 200 List Priority Ecoregion" for biodiversity conservation (WWF: Olsen and Dinerstein 1998)
  • "Endemic Bird Area" (Birdlife International: Bibby, C. et al. 1992) and
  • "Global Biodiversity Hotspot," as a part of the Hengdu Mountain Ecosystem (Conservation International: Mittermeier and Mittermeier 1997)

Natural resources

Yunnan not only has more plant species of tropical, subtropical, temperate, and frozen zones than any other province in the country, but also has many ancient, endemic plants, as well as species introduced from foreign countries. Among the 30,000 species of plants in China, 18,000 can be found in Yunnan. Yunnan is also home to a variety of animal species, most notably the southeast Asian gaur, a giant forest-dwelling ox, the tiger, and the Asian Elephant. Some already disappeared and are most likely extinct, like the Yunnan Box Turtle and the Yunnan Lar Gibbon.

A main source of wealth lies in its vast mineral resources and mining is the leading industry in Yunnan.. Yunnan has proven deposits of 86 kinds of minerals in 2,700 places. Some 13% of the proved deposits of minerals are the largest of their kind in China, and two-thirds of the deposits are among the largest of their kind in the Yangtze River valley and in south China. Yunnan ranks first in the country in deposits of zinc, lead, tin, cadmium, indium, thallium, and crocidolite. Other deposits include iron, coal, copper, gold, mercury, silver, antimony, and sulfur. More than 150 kinds of minerals have been discovered in the province. The potential value of the proven deposits in Yunnan is 3 trillion yuan, 40% of which come from fuel minerals, 7.3% from metallic minerals, and 52.7% from nonmetallic minerals.

Yunnan has sufficient rainfall and many rivers and lakes. The annual water flow originating in the province is 200 cubic kilometers, three times that of the Yellow River. The rivers flowing into the province from outside add 160 cubic kilometers, which means there are more than ten thousand cubic meters of water for each person in the province. This is four times the average in the country. The rich water resources offer abundant hydro-energy. China is constructing a series of dams on the Mekong to develop it as a waterway and source of power; the first was completed at Manwan in 1993.


Administrative divisions

Yunnan consists of sixteen prefecture-level divisions:

Map # Name Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Type
1 Kunmingmarker 昆明市 Kūnmíng Shì Prefecture-level city
2 Qujingmarker 曲靖市 Qǔjìng Shì Prefecture-level city
3 Yuximarker 玉溪市 Yùxī Shì Prefecture-level city
4 Baoshanmarker 保山市 Bǎoshān Shì Prefecture-level city
5 Zhaotongmarker 昭通市 Zhāotōng Shì Prefecture-level city
6 Lijiangmarker 丽江市 Lìjiāng Shì Prefecture-level city
7 Pu'ermarker 普洱市 Qǔjìng Shì Prefecture-level city
8 Lincangmarker 临沧市 Líncāng Shì Prefecture-level city
9 Dehong marker 德宏傣族景颇族自治州 Déhóng Dǎizú Jǐngpōzú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
10 Nujiang marker 怒江傈僳族自治州 Nùjiāng Lìsùzú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
11 Diqing marker 迪庆藏族自治州 Díqìng Zàngzú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
12 Dali marker 大理白族自治州 Dàlǐ Báizú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
13 Chuxiong marker 楚雄彝族自治州 Chǔxióng Yízú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
14 Honghe marker 红河哈尼族彝族自治州 Hónghé Hānízú Yízú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
15 Wenshan marker 文山壮族苗族自治州 Wénshān Zhuàngzú Miáozú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture
16 Xishuangbanna marker 西双版纳傣族自治州 Xīshuāngbǎnnà Dǎizú Zìzhìzhōu Autonomous prefecture

Of those 16 prefecture-level divisions, Yunnan has 129 county-level divisions, and 1455 township-level divisions.


Secretaries of the CPC Yunnan Committee: The Secretary of the CPC is the highest ranking and most important position in Yunnan.
  1. Song Renqiong (宋任穷): 1950–1952
  2. Xie Fuzhi (谢富治): July 1952-August 1959
  3. Yan Hongyan (阎红彦): August 1959-January 1967
  4. Zhou Xing (周兴): June 1971-October 1975
  5. Jia Qiyun (贾启允): October 1975-February 1977
  6. An Pingsheng (安平生): February 1977-July 1985
  7. Pu Chaozhu (普朝柱): July 1985-June 1995
  8. Gao Yan (高严): June 1995-August 1997
  9. Linghu An (令狐安): August 1997-October 2001
  10. Bai Enpei (白恩培): October 2001 – incumbent

Governors of Yunnan: The Governor is the second highest office in Yunnan, after the Secretary of the CPC Yunnan Committee. The Governor, who is elected by the Yunnan Provincial People's Congress, is responsible for all economic, environmental, political, personnel and foreign affairs issues concerning Yunnan.
  1. Chen Geng (陈赓): March 1950-February 1955
  2. Guo Yingqiu (郭影秋): February 1955-November 1958
  3. Ding Yichuan (丁一川): November 1958-January 1965
  4. Zhou Xing (周兴): January 1965–1966
  5. Tan Furen (谭甫仁): August 1968-October 1970
  6. Zhou Xing: October 1970-October 1975
  7. Jia Qiyun (贾启允): October 1975-February 1977
  8. An Pingsheng (安平生): February 1977-December 1979
  9. Liu Minghui (刘明辉): December 1979-April 1983
  10. Pu Chaozhu (普朝柱): April 1983-August 1985
  11. He Zhiqiang (和志强): August 1985-January 1998
  12. Li Jiating (李嘉廷): January 1998-June 2001
  13. Xu Rongkai (徐荣凯): June 2001 – November 2006
  14. Qin Guangrong (秦光荣): January 2007 -incumbent



A Tai woman in Yunnan, belonging to one of the many ethnic minorities of the province.
Yunnan is noted for a very high level of ethnic diversity. It has the highest number of ethnic groups among all provinces and autonomous regions in China. Among the country's fifty-six recognised ethnic groups, twenty-five are found in Yunnan. Some 38% of the province's population are members of minorities, including the Yi, Bai, Hani, Tai, Dai, Miao, Lisu, Hui, Lahu, Va, Nakhi, Yao, Tibetan, Jingpo, Blang, Pumi, Nu, Achang, Jinuo, Mongolian, Derung, Manchu, Shui, and Buyei. Several other groups are represented, but they live neither in compact settlements nor do they reach the required threshold of five thousand to be awarded the official status of being present in the province. Some groups, such as the Mosuo, who are officially recognised as part of the Naxi, have in the past claimed official status as a national minority, and are now recognised with the status of Mosuo people.

Ethnic groups are widely distributed in the province. Some twenty-five minorities live in compact communities, each of which has a population of more than five thousand. Ten ethnic minorities living in border areas and river valleys include the Hui, Manchu (the Manchu, remnants of the Qingmarker administration, do not live in compact settlements and are in all respects indistinguishable from the Han), Bai, Naxi, Mongolian, Zhuang, Dai, Achang, Buyei and Shui, with a combined population of 4.5 million; those in low mountainous areas are the Hani, Yao, Lahu, Va, Jingpo, Blang and Jino, with a combined population of 5 million; and those in high mountainous areas are Miao, Lisu, Tibetan, Pumi and Drung, with a total population of four million.

An oft-repeated proverb tells the story of three brothers who were born speaking different languages: Tibetan, Naxi, and Bai. Each settled in different areas of Yunnan and Tibet, respectively, the high area, the middle area, and the low area.


Most dialects of the Chinese language spoken in Yunnan belong to the southwestern subdivision of the Mandarin group, and are therefore very similar to the dialects of neighbouring Sichuanmarker and Guizhoumarker provinces. Notable features found in many Yunnan dialects include the partial or complete loss of distinction between finals and , as well as the lack of . In addition to the local dialects, most people also speak Standard Chinese (Putonghua, commonly called "Mandarin"), which is used in the media, by the government, and as the language of instruction in education.

Yunnan's ethnic diversity is reflected in its linguistic diversity. Languages spoken in Yunnan include Tibeto-Burman languages such as Bai, Yi, Tibetan, Hani, Jingpo, Lisu, Lahu, Naxi; Tai languages like Zhuang, Bouyei, Dong, Shui, Tai Lü and Tai Nüa or northern lao dialect; as well as Hmong-Mien languages.

The Naxi, in particular, use the Dongba script, which is the only ideographic writing system in use in the world today. The Dongba script was mainly used to provide the Dongba priests with instructions on how to carry out their rituals: today the Dongba script features more as a tourist attraction. The most famous western Dongba scholar was Joseph Rock.


By the end of 1998, among the province's population, 419,800 had received college education or above, 2.11 million, senior middle school education, 8.3 million, junior middle school education, 18.25 million, primary school education, and 8.25 million aged 15 or above, illiterate or semi-literate.


Rice cultivation in Yunnan.

The region maintains a strong agricultural focus. Agriculture is restricted to the few upland plains, open valleys, and terraced hillsides. Level land for agriculture is extremely scarce and only about 5 percent of the province is under cultivation. Rice is the main crop; corn, barley, wheat, rapeseed, sweet potatoes, soybeans (as a food crop), tea, sugarcane, tobacco, and cotton are also grown. On the steep slopes in the west livestock is raised and timber, a valuable resource, is cut (teak in the southwest).

Tobacco is the main (export) product and makes up a big part of the provincial GDP. Furthermore, Yunnan has a strong competitive potential in the fruit and vegetable industries, especially in low value-added commodities such as fresh and dried vegetables and fresh apples.

Yunnan is one of the regions in the world with the most abundant resources of wild edible mushrooms. In China, there are 938 kinds of edible mushrooms, and over 800 varieties can be found in Yunnan. In 2004, around 7,744 tons of wild edible mushrooms were exported, making up for 70% of the total export of this product in China. The so-called 'pine mushroom' is the main product in Yunnan and is exported to Japanmarker in large quantities.

Another interesting industry with a clear growth potential is the coffee sector. Yunnan is currently China's most important producer of Arabica coffee. Besides the export of roasted coffee, coffee-related products such as extracts, essences and substitutes may be promising products. Yunnan is the birthplace of tea. Still, ancient tea trees can be found in Yunnan of which tealeaves are processed. Tea is becoming an important export product. Especially in the US and Japan the demand is growing.

Due to China's growing consumption of dairy products (a trend heavily supported by the national government), Yunnan's dairy industry is also developing more rapidly and receiving large subsidies from the government develop a competitive edge in Southwest China, but is also aiming to export to its ASEAN neighbors.

Then last but not least, a growing sector, heavily supported by the local government is the horticultural sector. The flower industry in Yunnan province started to develop towards the end of the 1980s. Currently, Yunnan is the most important province nationwide in the field of flower growing. Yunnan province accounts for 50% of China's total cut flower production. The size of the planting area for cut flowers in Yunnan province amounts to 4000 hectares. In 2003, the output totaled 2.3 billion stems. In 2002 the flower industry in Yunnan had a total output of RMB 3.4 billion. Export amounted to USD 18 million. Apart from sales on the domestic market, Yunnan also exports to a number of foreign countries and regions such as Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore.

The rapid developments in this field soon attracted the attention of Dutch horticultural companies and Dutch investments in flower related projects and businesses are steadily growing.


Yunnan is one of China's relatively undeveloped provinces with more poverty-stricken counties than the other provinces. In 1994, about 7 million people lived below the poverty line of less than an annual average income of 300 yuan per capita. They were distributed in the province's 73 counties mainly and financially supported by the central government. With an input of 3.15 billion yuan in 2002, the absolutely poor rural population in the province has been reduced from 4.05 million in 2000 to 2.86 million. The poverty alleviation plan includes five large projects aimed at improving infrastructure facilities. They involve planned attempts at soil improvement, water conservation, electric power, roads, and "green belt" building. Upon the completion of the projects, the province hopes this will alleviate the shortages of grain, water, electric power and roads.

Yunnan's four pillar industries include tobacco, agriculture/biology, mining, and tourism. The main manufacturing industries are iron and steel production and copper-smelting, commercial vehicles, chemicals, fertilizers, textiles, and optical instruments. Yunnan has trade contacts with more than seventy countries and regions in the world. Yunnan established the Muse border trade zonemarker (located in Ruilimarker) along its border with Myanmar. Yunnan mainly exports tobacco, machinery and electrical equipment, chemical and agricultural products, and non-ferrous metals. In 2008, its total two-way trade (imports and exports) reached US$9.6 billion. The province signed foreign direct investment contracts involving US$1.69 billion, of which US$777 million were actually utilized during the year. Yunnan's unemployment rate at the end of 2008 was 4.21%.

Yunnan's nominal GDP in 2008 was 570 billion yuan (US$83 billion), an annual growth rate of 11%. Its per capita GDP was 12,587 yuan (US$1,842). 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. Gejiumarker city is well known as "the Kingdom of Zinc" with the reserves ranked first in the country. The Yunxi brand refined tin is one of the main products in Gejiu, which is registered on the London Metal Exchangemarker (LME). Besides, reserves of germanium, indium, zirconium, platinum, rock salt, sylvite, nickel, phosphate, mirabilite, arsenic and blue asbestos are also high. Significant copper deposits are found at Dongchuanmarker, iron ore at Wuding, and coal at Xuanwei and Kaiyuanmarker. Economic policy to locate new industry in interior areas with substantial mineral wealth, led to major industrial development in Yunnan, especially in the Kunming areamarker.

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 Provincemarker.

Economic and Technological Development Zones

Major Economic Indicators of Yunnan

Description 2005 2006 2007
Nominal Gross Domestic Product (RMB 100 million) 3,472.9 4,006.7 4,721.8
Real Gross Domestic Product Growth (%) 9.0 11.9 12.3
Urban Per Capita Annual Disposable Income (RMB) 9,265.9 10,069.9 11,496.0
Rural Per Capita Net Income (RMB) 2,041.8 2,250.5 2,600.0
Consumer Price Index (Same period of preceding year=100) 101.4 101.9 105.9
Retail Sales of Consumer Goods (RMB 100 million) 1,034.4 1,188.9 1,394.5
Year-on-year Growth (%) 13.0 14.9 17.3
Value-Added of Industry above Designated Size (RMB 100 million) 998.8 1,271.5 1,700.0
Year-on-year Growth (%) 13.3 27.3 17.0
City, County and Above Investment in Fixed Assets (RMB 100 million) 1,592.3 1,924.1 2,798.9
Year-on-year Growth (%) 43.1 20.8 26.1
Value of Exports (USD 100 million) 23.9 30.6 47.4
Year-on-year Growth (%) 18.1 28.3 39.6
Value of Imports (USD 100 million) 26.1 33.2 40.4
Year-on-year Growth (%) 52.3 27.1 42.7
Utilised Foreign Direct Investment (USD 100 million) 1.9 3.0 5.0
Ref: Yunnan Statistics Bureau

2005 Composition of GDP (%)
  • Primary: 18.9
  • Secondary: 41.7
    • Industry: 34.6
  • Tertiary: 39.4

2005 Output Share of Leading Industry Groups (% share of gross industrial output)
  • Tobacco production: 26.4
  • Smelting and pressing of non ferrous metals: 12.8
  • Production and supply of electric power and heat: 11.6
  • Smelting and pressing of ferrous metals: 10.4
  • Raw chemical materials and chemical products: 9.7
  • Agricultural non staple food, food and beverage: 5.6

2005 Composition of Per Capita Expenditure of Urban Household (%)
  • Food: 42.4
  • Clothing: 9.5
  • Household articles: 4.4
  • Medicine & medical services: 9.1
  • Transportation & communications: 12.9
  • Recreation, cultural & education: 10.6
  • Housing & utilities: 8.7


Since the 1960s, improvements have been achieved in the overall educational level, which can be seen in the increase in average years of regular education received. The development of part-time school have brought adult, distance and continuing education to farms, factories, offices, and other places. Evening, time off work / study leave classes allow people to receive education without leaving their jobs. Policies to upgrade adult education have begun to complement the campaign against illiteracy. A basic Chinese vocabulary in simplified strokes is taught to millions of illiterate people in short, intensive courses. Despite progress made, Yunnan's illiteracy rate remains one of the highest in China mainly due to insufficient education among minority peoples.

In higher education, Yunnan has one "National Key University"—Yunnan University in Kunmingmarker. There is also a growing number of technical schools, among which the most prominent are the Southwest Forestry University, Yunnan Agricultural University, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Kunming Medical University, Yunnan University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Kunming University of Science and Technology. Other notable establishments of learning are the , the Yunnan Astronomical Observatorymarker, and the Yunnan Provincial Library.As of 2000, there were 24 institutions of higher learning in Yunnan, with an enrollment of over 90,400 students and a faculty of 9,237; 2,562 secondary schools with an enrollment of more than 2,137,400 students and 120,461 teachers; and 22,151 primary schools with an enrollment of 4,720,600 pupils and a faculty of 210,507. The gross enrollment rate of school-age children was 99.02%.

See also: List of universities and colleges in Yunnan


Yunnan Province is responsible for about 50% of officially reported malaria cases in China.

It is presently considered to be the main source of plague in China.




Yunnan was first connected by railway not to the rest of China, but to the Vietnamese port of Haiphongmarker by a French engineered narrow gauge railway, the Sino-Vietnamese Railway completed in 1910. It took another fifty years for the province to be connected by rail to the rest of China with the completion of the ChengdumarkerKunmingmarker line. Later a line connecting Kunming to Guiyangmarker followed. Two further lines have been added recently: a southern line connecting to Nanningmarker and a north-eastern line connecting to Sichuanmarker via Yibinmarker.

An extension now also links Kunming to Dalimarker, with the stretch to Lijiangmarker nearing completion. Plans are underway on extending the old line to Vietnam, while a new and very ambitious plan to link from Dali to Ruilimarker has been announced in 2006. Another plan to extend the railway line from Kunmingmarker all the way to Singaporemarker, with connections to the other South East Asian countries, will be opened in 2017.

Road and railroad traffic has been recently improved, and Kunming is now a transportation center; an important railroad runs from Kunming to Hanoi, Vietnam, while transportation to Myanmar is maintained by the Burma Road.

Burma Road

The Burma Road was a highway extending about 1,126 km (700 mi) through mountainous terrain from Lashiomarker, northeast Burma northeastward to Kunming, China. Undertaken by the Chinese after the start of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 and completed in 1938, it was a vital transportation route for wartime supplies to the Chinese government from Rangoon and shipped by railroad to Lashio from 1938 to 1946. An extension runs east through China from Kunming, then north to Chongqing. This traffic increased in importance to China after the Japanese took effective control of the Chinese coast and of Indochina. It was seized by the Japanese in 1942 and reopened when it was connected to the Stilwell Roadmarker from India. The Ledo Roadmarker (later called the Stilwell Road) from Ledo, Indiamarker, into Myanmar was begun in December 1942. In 1944 the Ledo Road reached Myitkyinamarker and was joined to the Burma Road. Both roads have lost their former importance and are in a state of disrepair. The Burma Road's importance diminished after World War II, but it has remained a link in a 3,400-km road system from Yangonmarker, Myanmarmarker, to Chongqingmarker.


Road construction in Yunnan continues unabated: over the last years the province has added more new roads than any other province. Today expressways link Kunming through Dali to Baoshan, Kunming to Mojiang (on the way to Jinghong), Kunming to Qujing, Kunming to Shilin (Stone Forest). The official plan is to connect all major towns and neighbouring capitals with expressways by 2010, and to complete a high-speed road network by 2020.

All county towns are now accessible by paved, all-weather roads from Kunming, all townships have a road connection (the last to be connected was Yangla, in the far north, but Dulongjiang remains cut off for about six months every year), and about half of all villages have road access.

Second-level national highways stretch 958 km, third-level highways, 7,571 km and fourth-level highways, 52,248 km. The province has formed a network of communication lines radiating from Kunming to Sichuan and Guizhou provinces and Guangxi and Tibet autonomous regions, and further on to Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand.

Luofu Expressway

After the opening of the Suolongsi to Pingyuanjie expressway, Luofu expressway, the first between Yunnan and Guangxi Province, opened on October 2007. It has made material and passenger transportation between the two provinces much more convenient. Moreover, Luofu Expressway has also become the main road from Yunnan to Guangxi and the coastal ports. Luofu Expressway begins from the crossroads of Luo Village between Yunnan and Guangxi Provinces and ends at Funing County of Wenshan Statemarker. The total length of the expressway is 79.3 kilometers which has shortened the commute between Yunnan and Guangxi from the previous 3 and half hours to just 50 minutes.


Generally, rivers are obstacles to transport in Yunnan. Only very small parts of Yunnan's river systems are navigable. However, China is constructing a series of dams on the Mekong to develop it as a waterway and source of power; the first was completed at Manwan in 1993.

In 1995, the province put an investment of 171 million yuan to add another 807 km of navigation lines. It built two wharfs with an annual handling capacity of 300,000 to 400,000 tons each and four wharfs with an annual handling capacity of 100,000 tons each. The annual volume of goods transported was two million tons and that of passengers transported, two million.


The province has twenty domestic air routes from Kunmingmarker to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhoumarker, Chengdumarker, Haikoumarker, Chongqingmarker, Shenyangmarker, Harbinmarker, Wuhanmarker, Xi'anmarker, Lanzhoumarker, Hangzhoumarker, Xiamenmarker, Nanningmarker, Shenzhenmarker, Guiyangmarker, Changshamarker, Guilinmarker, Lhasamarker and Hong Kongmarker; ten provincial air routes from Kunmingmarker to Jinghongmarker, Mangshi, Lincang, Tengchong, Lijiangmarker, Dalimarker, Zhongdianmarker (Shangri-la), Zhaotongmarker, Baoshan and Simaomarker; and ten international air routes from Kunmingmarker to Bangkokmarker, Calcuttamarker, Chiang Maimarker, Yangonmarker, Singaporemarker, Seoulmarker, Hanoimarker, Ho Chi Minh Citymarker, Kuala Lumpurmarker and Vientianemarker.

The Wujiaba Airport in Kunmingmarker is a national first-class airport and the other airports are second-class terminals. A new airport for Kunming, build east of the city, at Dabanqiao began construction in 2006, but is not expected to be completed until 2015.


Yunnan's cultural life is one of remarkable diversity. Archaeological findings have unearthed sacred burial structures holding elegant bronzes in Jinning, south of Kunmingmarker. In Zhaotongmarker in northeastern Yunnan, there has been discovered, frescos of the Jin Dynasty . Many Chinese cultural relics have been discovered in later periods. The lineage of tribal way of life of the indigenous peoples persisted uninfluenced by modernity until the mid-20th century. Tribal traditions, such as Yi slaveholding and Wa headhunting, have since been abolished. After the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), when many minority culture and religious practices were suppressed, Yunnan has come to celebrate its cultural diversity and subsequently many local customs and festivals have flourished.

Eighteen Oddities of Yunnan



One of Yunnan's famous products is Pu-erh tea, named after the old tea trading town of Pu-erhmarker, as well as the Yunnan Golden Needle tea.


Chinese medicine

Yunnan is host to 15,000 species of plants, including 60 percent of the plants used in traditional Chinese medicine.


Yunnan Province, due to its beautiful landscapes, mild climate and colorful ethnic minorities, is one of China's major tourist destinations. Most visitors are Chinese tourists, although trips to Yunnan are organized by an increasing number of foreign travel agencies as well. Mainland tourists travel by the masses; 2.75 million Chinese visited Yunnan last October during National Holiday. Also a different trend is slowly developing; small scale and environmentally friendly ecotourism. At the moment projects in this field are often being set up with help of NGO's.

In 2004, tourism revenues amounted to 37 billion RMB, and thus accounting for 12, 6% of the provincial GDP. Another fact indicating the importance of tourism in Yunnan Province is capital Kunming hosting the China International Travel Mart every two years. This tourism trade fair is the largest of its kind in Asia and serves as an important platform for professionals in the sector. More than 80 countries and regions were present during the 2005 edition.

Tourist centres in Yunnan include:

Places of interest

The Three Pagodas
The Gucheng Mosque of Yunnan


Professional sporting teams in Yunnan include, Yunnan Bulls in the Chinese Basketball Association. Football teams include Yunnan Lijiang Dongba and the defunct Yunnan Hongta.

See also


Further reading

  • Stephen Mansfield (2007) China: Yunnan Province. (Bradt Travel Guide China: Yunnan Province) ISBN 1841621692
  • Ann Helen Unger and Walter Unger. (2007) Yunnan: China's Most Beautiful Province. (Orchid Press) ISBN 3777483907
  • Damien Harper. (2007) China's Southwest. (Lonely Planet Country & Regional Guides) ISBN 1741041856
  • Patrick R. Booz. (1998) Yunnan. (Odyssey Passport: McGraw-Hill Contemporary) ISBN 0844296643


External links

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