Province of southwest China, bounded to the north by Tibet and Sichuan, to the east by Guizhou and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, to the south by Vietnam and Laos, and to the west by Myanmar (formerly Burma); area 436,200 sq km/168,373 sq mi; population (2013 est) 46,866,000. The capital is Kunming. There are tin, copper, lead, gold, zinc, coal, salt, and cigarette industries. Rice, tea, timber, wheat, cotton, and tobacco are grown, and rubber is produced.
History Yunnan was not incorporated into China until conquered by the Mongols in 1274. Under Mongol rule, the province thrived; the 13th-century Venetian traveller Marco Polo visited the capital. The province had a large Muslim population descended from Chinse converts who fled the cities of the southeast coast to escape persecution. In the mid-19th century a Muslim revolt led by the Sultan of Dali, a city in the west of the province, was brutally suppressed by Chinese government forces, reducing the Muslim population to a fraction of its former numbers.
Yunnan benefitted greatly from the events of the war against Japan, which caused many refugees and industrial establishments to relocate to the province. It assumed great strategic significance, particularly as the Burma Road was constructed from Kunming to Lashio in Burma at this time.
Geography The province consists mainly of an elevated plateau broken by mountain ranges and river gorges. The mountains are highest in the north where they reach more than 5,000 m/16,400 ft; in the south they rise no higher than 3,000 m/9,850 ft. The headwaters of some of Asia's most important rivers lie in the province, including those of the Chang Jiang, the Mekong (in Yunnan, the Lancang Jiang), and the Salween (Nu Jiang). The province is crossed by the Burma Road. Cities and towns include Dongchuan, Gejiu, Lijiang, and Wuding.
Climate Yunnan has a mild, moist climate because of the province's location on south-facing mountain slopes, receiving the influence of both the Pacific and Indian oceans. January average temperatures range from 8°C/46°F to 17°C/63°F; July averages vary from 21°C/70°F to 29°C/84°F. Average annual rainfall ranges from 600 mm/24 in to 2,300 mm/90 in, with over half the rain occurring between June and August.
Economy Level land for agriculture is extremely scarce and only about 5% of the province is under cultivation. Timber on the mountains is a valuable resource. The principal crops are wheat, barley, tobacco, and rapeseed; some sugar cane is also grown in the valleys of the southeast.
Yunnan has considerable mineral wealth, including tin, copper, gold, lead, and jade. Gejiu is the most important tin-mining and smelting centre in China. Copper is found at Dongchuan, iron ore at Wuding, and coal at Xuanwei and Kaiyuan. The Chinese government's policy to locate new industry in interior areas with substantial mineral wealth, led to major industrial development in Yunnan, especially in the Kunming area; the main industries are iron and steel production and copper-smelting, while others include commercial vehicles, chemicals, fertilizers, textiles, and optical instruments.
Communications There are rail connections between Kunming and Chengdu in Sichuan province, with Guiyang in Guizhou province, and with Nanning in Guangzi autonomous region. The metre-gauge railway line to Hanoi in Vietnam, broken in 1979, was restored in 1996.
People About two-thirds of Yunnan's population are Han Chinese and some 28 different minorities are represented in the province, including Yi, Bai, Hmong, Dai, Hani, Lisu, and Tibetan peoples.
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