Kunming

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Kunming is the provincial capital of Yunnan province, which borders with Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam to the south. At an elevation of 1,891m, the city is surrounded by mountains on three sides, with one side facing Dianchi Lake. With Wumeng Mountains in the north stemming the south-blowing cold air and moisture in the south from the Bengal Bay warm monsoon, Kunming enjoys a delightfully moderate climate year-round and is reputed to be known as "Spring City." There is a fairly even spread of temperature from April to September (15 C). The city can be visited at virtually any time of the year and one needs to only pack light clothing. Because of its favorable natural conditions, it has been chosen as the venue for the International Horticulture Exposition.

Kunming city proper covers five districts: Wuhua, Panlong, Guandu, Xixian and Dongchuan; one city which is Dongchuan city; and eight counties: Chenggong, Jinning, Fumin, Yiliang, Shilin, Songming, Luquan and Xundian. The city has a total population of 4.67 million, of which about six percent are minority nationalities, including Yi, Hui and Miao. Also, some 150,000 Vietnamese refugees from the China-Vietnam wars have made home here.

The center of the city is focused around the Kunming Department Store area - to the southeast of which is the main bustling shopping-dining-theatre district. Another major shopping mall in the city is the landmark, Zhengyi Department Store, which is situated in the northwest part of town. Lying north and northeast is the older back-alley maze. By travelling eastward beyond this old quarter, and crossing Fengjian Road, you can see some of the city's scenic attractions like Cuihu (Green Lake) Park, Yuantong Temple and the zoo. At the west side of town, on Daguanjie Road, there are throngs of farm produce markets. Beyond in the west lies Western Hill Park, which offers one of the best of the city's out-of-town sights.

Green Lake Park

West of Yuantong Temple, and only 15 minutes along Yuantong Street, one approaches the city's largest park, Green Lake Park, which is decked out with long embankments and waterways. Many pavilions and buildings have been newly built, where art exhibitions, floral displays or some other exhibitions are frequently on show. To the southwest of the park lies Daguan Street where there is a large free market selling farm produce brought in from the nearby farms, which is mingled with cobblers and other merchants. In the double-story shop fronts along Daguan Street, one can catch a rare glimpse of the rapidly disappearing traditional wooden architecture.

Wuhua and Panlong Districts

These two districts constitute the center part of the city, which then extends to Guandu and Xishan Districts. With Zhengwen Street in the Wuhua District as the north-south axis and Dongfeng Street as the east-west axis, the city has kept its historical layout, despite the vicissitudes of time. Lined along Wuhua Hill Street, East Dongfeng Street, Shulin Street and near the Maitreya Temple area, are some of the important provincial and municipal government buildings. The area around Zhengyi Street, Nanping Street, East Dongfeng Street, Wucheng and Changchung Roads is the city's commercial center, while the financial center is spread along Nanping Street, Zhengyi Street and Beijing Road.

Dotted along Beijing Road, Dongfeng Street and Huangcheng Road are a host of hotels and restaurants of different sizes and tastes. Lying in the north part of the city is the academic district where there is a cluster of well-known scientific research institutes, universities and colleges. A residential construction boom has been witnessed along the First and Second Ring Roads over the past few years.

History of Kunming

Archeological evidence appears to indicate that Kunming has been inhabited for approximately 2,000 years. Records can be traced back to 722-481 BC when the first Chinese began inhabiting the area. Following this time, the area surrounding present-day Kunming has been witness to a succession of various kingdoms and dynasties.

The Kingdom of Dian was first established around Kunming during the Warring States period, and the township of Yizhoujun was established in 109 BC. The Nanzhao Kingdom took over Yizhoujun, making it one of its capitals. However, in 1274, the Mongols under Genghis Khan, captured the area (and pretty much most of China) as part of their quest to rule the world. Next, came the Ming Dynasty who claimed Kunming, then known as Yunnanfu. In the 19th century, tumultuous events marked the city due to several rebellious attacks against the reigning Manchus by the Muslims, led by the Sultan of Dali. This stream of violence and destruction was to continue for about fifteen years until the rebellion was finally overthrown.

During the turn of the century, the imperial forces of Britain and France made their way to Kunming, both of whom wanted to exploit the area's natural resources. This paved the path for Kunming's development into modernism. During the Second World War, Kunming proved to be invaluable for the Allied Forces and Nationalists fighting against the Japanese. Because it was located far from the Japanese forces, Kunming became the city to supply aid and supplies for the troops. Supplies were carried to troops on the famous Burma Road. Munitions factories sprang up in Kunming, as well as a thriving black market. With an influx of Chinese refugees from the east fleeing the Japanese, Kunming expanded as a city, establishing itself as an industrial and manufacturing base.

Under the reign of Mao Zedong, Kunming faced socially turbulent years during the Cultural Revolution. Many individuals were persecuted, exiled and tortured by the fanatical Red Guards. Many cultural relics were destroyed as well, although a few temples and buildings managed to survive. Geographically isolated from the government power base up north, Kunming and Yunnan province has always stood apart from the rest of China. It was often the place to send people into exile during the revolution.

One of the major developed cities in Southwest China, modern-day Kunming is thriving. Recently, it has seen the growth of its tourism industry and increasing foreign investment. The city is rapidly modernizing with more office and residential buildings being built everyday.

 

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