|Colorful wooden temple interior depicting Vajrayana scenes (Syydehaas/flickr.com)|
YUNNAN (雲南) is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country spanning approximately 152,000 sq. mi (394,000 sq. km) with a population of 45.7 million (2009).
The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders the Buddhist countries of Burma, Laos, and Vietnam.
It 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.
|Tibetan devotees on pilgrimage, prostrating along the way (Syydehaas/flickr.com)|
|Golden angelic avian (garuda) uses dragon (naga) as a mount (Syydehass)|
Of the approximately 30,000 species of higher plants in China, Yunnan has perhaps 17,000 or more. Its reserves of aluminum, lead, zinc, and tin are the largest in China, and there are also major reserves of copper and nickel.
Yunnan became part of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) during 2nd century BCE. It became the seat of a Tibeto-Burman speaking kingdom known as the Kingdom of Nanzhao in the 8th century AD.
Nanzhao was multi-ethnic, but the elite most likely spoke a northern dialect of Yi, which became established as the prestige dialect of the Nuosu language. 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 majority Han [just as Tibet] 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.
|Ancient cowboys, Dian bronze, 3rd cent. BCE|
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 Dian. These people used stone tools and constructed simple wooden structures.
Around the 3rd 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 River 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.