/yoo nan", -nahn"/; Chin. /yyuun"nahn"/, n. Pinyin.
1. a province in S China. 20,510,000; 168,417 sq. mi. (436,200 sq. km). Cap.: Kunming.
2. former name of Kunming.
Also, Wade-Giles, Yünnan.

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or Yün-nan

Province (pop., 2000 est.: 42,880,000), southern China.

It is bordered by Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, and Guangxi and Tibet autonomous regions. It has an area of 168,400 sq mi (436,200 sq km), and its capital is Kunming. Its population is one of China's most ethnically mixed, comprising more than 20 nationalities. The terrain is very mountainous, especially in the north and west. It is crossed by three major river systems
the Yangtze (Chang; there known as the Jinsha), the Mekong, and the Salween
and is the source of two others
the Xi (there known as the Hongshui) and the Yuan. Because of its isolation, the region was independent during the historical development of China. The Mongols overran it in the 13th century. In 1855–73 it was the scene of the great Panthay (Muslim) revolt. Part of the province was seized by the Japanese in World War II. Yunnan is now noted for its agricultural production, especially of rice, as well as for having an extensive mining industry.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Yün-nan,  (Pinyin)  Yunnan,  

      sheng (province) of China. The fourth largest province of China, it is a mountain and plateau region on the country's southwestern frontier. It is bounded by the Tibet Autonomous Region on the northwest, Szechwan on the north, and the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi and Kweichow Province on the east. To the south and southeast it adjoins Laos and Vietnam, and to the west it borders Burma for 600 miles (950 kilometres). The area of Yunnan is 152,100 square miles (394,000 square kilometres). The provincial capital is K'un-ming.

      The name Yunnan has been in use since the region was made a province under the Yüan (Mongol) dynasty (1206–1368). Literally meaning “Cloudy South,” it denotes the location as south of the Yün-ling (“Cloudy Mountain”) Range. Although richly endowed with natural resources, Yunnan remained an underdeveloped region until recent times; and for centuries the ethnic, religious, and political separatism of the province posed obstacles to the efforts of a central government to control it. Although the province remains relatively underdeveloped and isolated, its economic, political, and cultural integration into the Chinese nation essentially is complete.

Physical and human geography

The land
Relief and drainage
      Yunnan's topography is determined by a series of high mountain chains that, starting close together from the Tibetan border, branch out southeastward across the province in fanlike fashion. Running roughly northwest to southeast, these high ranges are, from west to east, the Kao-li-kung, the Nu, and the Yün-ling. Branching farther out from the Yün-ling are some secondary ranges—the Wu-liang and the Ai-lao in the central south area, the Liu-chao in the southeast, and the Wu-meng in the northeast.

      The province consists of two distinct regions separated by the Ai-lao Mountains—the canyon region to the west of it and the plateau region to the east. In the canyon region the great mountains descend from an altitude of more than 18,000 feet (5,500 metres) above sea level in the north to 6,000 feet in the south. Flowing through the deep, V-shaped valleys between these mountains are the major rivers of the province: the Salween (Nu (Salween River)), flowing between the Kao-li-kung and Nu mountains; the Mekong (Lan-ts'ang (Mekong River)), between the Nu and Yün-ling ranges; and the Black (Li-hsien (Black River)), between the Wu-liang and Ai-lao mountains. The towering height of the mountains in the north is such that valley floors lie at heights averaging 4,000 to 5,000 feet below the mountaintops. The river currents, too swift for navigation, represent an enormous potential for hydroelectric power. In the southern part of the canyon region the mountains are much lower and the valleys more open, with many upland plains and fertile irrigated fields.

      The eastern plateau region, stretching from the Ai-lao Mountains to the Kweichow–Kwangsi border, is separated from Szechwan by the Chin-sha (Jinsha River) (Yangtze) River. Streams on the western fringe of the plateau drain into the Red (Yüan (Red River)) River, which flows along the eastern slope of the Ai-lao Mountains to enter the Gulf of Tonkin via Vietnam. The water of the central and eastern parts of the plateau drains into the Nan-p'an River, which is a headstream of the Hsi River of Kwangsi and Kwangtung. In the north and northeast of the plateau P'u-tu Lake and the Niu-lan and Heng rivers drain northward at right angles into the Chin-sha. The elevation of the entire plateau varies from 7,000 feet at its western end to 4,500 feet on the Kweichow border, where intermontane basins provide large stretches of level country suited for agriculture. Yunnan has more lakes than most Chinese provinces, many of them formed when grabens (large areas that dropped along fault lines) filled with water. Tien Lake in K'un-ming and Erh Lake in Ta-li are among the lakes of great beauty.

      Despite its tropical latitude, the eastern plateau region is noted for its moderate temperatures. Because of the high elevation, summers are cool and winters are mild. The June–July temperature averages 71° F (22° C), and the December–January temperature averages 48° F (9° C). The farmers enjoy a growing season of 10 months. In the western canyon region the high mountains and deep valleys create vertical climatic zones. Sultry heat with high humidity dominates the bottom of the valleys, a temperate zone prevails at 6,000 to 11,000 feet, and freezing winds envelop the top of the mountains. Yunnan, under the influence of rain-bearing monsoon winds blowing from both the Pacific and Indian oceans, enjoys good rainfall. The bulk of rain falls during the months from May through October, the rain being heavier in the western canyon region than in the eastern plateau region. Average annual rainfall in K'un-ming is about 49 inches (1,245 millimetres), whereas in T'eng-ch'ung it is about 58 inches.

Plant and animal life
      In the western canyon region, pine and other coniferous trees thrive up to 6,000 feet above sea level. Here are located some of China's largest timber reserves, covering nearly one-quarter of the province. From 6,000 to 11,000 feet above sea level, shrubs of the azalea and rhododendron family carpet the hills. The gorgeous colours of azaleas, camellias, roses, and fairy primroses make the mountain meadow country a gigantic botanical garden. At 11,000 to 15,000 feet above sea level, fir, bamboo, dwarf juniper, and flowering herbs grow on mountain podzolic (bleached) soil.

      A wide variety of domesticated animals are kept in both the western canyon region and the eastern plateau region. In the tropical forests of the south, monkeys, bears, elephants, and porcupines are found in large numbers.

Settlement patterns
      Approximately one-tenth of Yunnan's population is urban; the rest is rural. Following the development of industries in recent years, urban growth has been marked by the emergence of medium-sized cities rather than giant metropolitan complexes. The only exception to this is K'un-ming, the provincial capital, which experienced significant growth due to rapid industrial development. Other important cities include Ko-chiu (Gejiu), the “tin capital”; Tung-ch'uan, centre of the copper industry; Hsia-kuan (Dali), the junction of highways to Tibet and Burma; and Lu-hsi, near the border with Burma.

The people
      Yunnan's population is noted for the great complexity of its ethnolinguistic groups. Out of the total population, the Han (Chinese) form the bulk of both the city and the agricultural population on the plains and valleys devoted to rice cultivation. Descendants of the conquering armies and immigrants who arrived through the centuries, they have both pushed back the non-Han peoples and intermarried with them. There is a large number of Hui (Chinese Muslims), the descendants of the Muslim immigrants sent in to help rule the province after the 13th century. The non-Han population of Yunnan remains substantial; it comprises more than 20 recognized nationalities and numerous other minority peoples, accounting for nearly one-third of Yunnan's population. In distribution, these groups are highly intermixed; not one county is inhabited by a single nationality.

      The Yi are the largest minority group in the province. Once rulers of large parts of Yunnan, the Yi are a hill people with subsistence agriculture and proud warrior traditions. Linguistically, they belong to the Tibeto-Burman (Tibeto-Burman languages) group. Second largest in population are the Pai (Bai) in northwestern Yunnan. Long Sinicized, the Pai are rice cultivators who are among the original inhabitants of the region. Other peoples in the Tibeto-Burman linguistic family are the Hani, Lisu, and Lahu of the Yi subgroup; the Na-hsi (Naxi) (Naxi), who are a branch of the Hsi-fan subgroup; the Tibetans (Tibetan), who inhabit the far northwest corner of the province and practice Tibetan Buddhism; and the Ching-p'o, who speak the same language as the Kachin of upper Burma.

      A second major linguistic family represented in Yunnan is the Tai group. Most of the Tai peoples inhabit the semitropical lowlands, raise paddy rice, and practice Buddhism; they are ethnically related to the Shan tribes of Burma and the Thai (Siamese) of Thailand. Another important linguistic group is the Mon-Khmer, represented by the Wa, former headhunters who inhabit several counties along the border with Burma. The smaller Pu-lang and Peng-lung tribes also speak a Mon-Khmer language. The Miao and Yao (Mien) peoples of southeastern Yunnan make up a separate linguistic group; they are hill dwellers whose traditional slash-and-burn method of clearing land for cultivation has been replaced by more sedentary farming practices. Descended from the aborigines of neighbouring Kweichow, the Miao until recently had no written language. Finally, a significant number of Chuang (Zhuang) inhabit the southeastern part of Yunnan, adjacent to Kwangsi.

The economy
      The province has one of the world's largest tin deposits, and the leading industry is tin mining. It is mined in the southeastern part of the province. In prewar years, China exported a major portion of the tin mined there, but now despite increased production, most goes to satisfy an increased domestic demand. Tin resources have been augmented by the discovery of additional deposits. Yunnan is also a large producer of copper, which is mined chiefly in the Hui-tse region. The copper industry in Hui-tse, which supplied most of the metal for minting coins in the Ch'ing (Manchu) dynasty (1644–1911/12), has been in the process of modernization and expansion. This has led to the creation of a special municipality at Tung-ch'uan, just south of Hui-tse. Tung-ch'uan is also the centre of lead and zinc mining.

      Yunnan has moderate deposits of coal and iron, but thus far, no oil has been discovered. Other mineral products include antimony, tungsten, mercury, phosphorus, silver, placer gold, cinnabar (the ore of mercury), and manganese. Tungsten and phosphorus are mined near K'un-ming. Gypsum, sulfur, fluorite, arsenic, alum, and asbestos also exist in large quantities. Deposits of bauxite provide the basis for an aluminum industry. Marble quarried at Ta-li (Dali) is eagerly sought, both as building material and as material for interior decoration. The saltpetre extracted from the rock salt mined at K'un-ming is used to make fertilizers, explosives, and food preservatives.

      Red soil of various ages covers both the eastern and western regions of Yunnan. Although only about 6 percent of Yunnan's land is arable, the wide climatic variations assure the province a variety of crops. Rice is by far the basic food grain raised in Yunnan. In the upland plains, in the open valleys, and on the terraced hillsides, rice is the principal summer crop, with corn (maize) an important secondary crop. Other summer crops in the rice regions include sweet potatoes, vegetables, sugarcane, and tea. Winter crops in the rice regions include wheat, barley, beans, peas, and rapeseed. Among the hill peoples, corn, barley, and wheat are raised in summer in drier fields. Peaches, persimmons, walnuts, and chestnuts are also produced locally. In the extreme south, especially in the low-lying valleys, such produce as bananas, coconuts, and coffee is grown. Yunnan is one of China's major producers of tobacco; other industrial crops include cotton and hemp. The western canyon region holds enormous timber reserves and produces some tung oil. Livestock raised in Yunnan include water buffalo, ponies, mules, cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs. Ham from the city of Hsüan-wei is celebrated as a gourmet's delight.

      Manufacturing industries using traditional techniques produce paper, sugar, leather, hemp, native cloth, woolen yarn, and rugs. These traditional industries are vital to the province's economy because peasant purchasing power has increased faster than modern industry has been developed to provide items for purchase. Profiting from the government's policy of locating new industries in interior provinces with large natural resources, Yunnan has experienced great industrial growth. The K'un-ming (Kunming) region is a giant industrial complex, consisting of steelworks, iron- and copper-smelting facilities, and plants for manufacturing fertilizers, trucks, industrial chemicals, optical instruments, textiles, and processed foods.

      Because of its rugged and broken terrain, Yunnan has long suffered from poor communications. Until World War II the only rail link with the outside world was the French-built railroad from K'un-ming to Hanoi and Haiphong in Vietnam. Since the mid-1950s, railroads have been built to link K'un-ming with both Kweichow and Szechwan and thus to other parts of China.

      It is in the development of highways that Yunnan has made the fastest progress, opening links with neighbouring provinces and achieving a balanced network within the province. K'un-ming, Hsia-kuan, and P'u-erh (to the southwest) form the triangular axis of Yunnan's road system, from which radiate numerous highways. The most famous of these routes is the Burma Road, running from Hsia-kuan to Lashio in Burma. The vigorous road-development program has produced significant effects. Travel and trade with Kweichow, Kwangsi, and Szechwan have increased, and the close links with Tibet and Sinkiang have proved their strategic value. But most important has been the momentum for development and modernization in the remote regions inhabited by non-Han peoples. The slow transport of goods on men's backs or by pack animal is relied upon in the more isolated areas; but truck transport reaches most villages, making available large quantities of modern tools, fertilizers, and daily necessities to the farmers, while making it possible to ship farm products to near or distant markets where they can be sold to the best advantage of the producers.

      Most of the rivers in Yunnan are unnavigable, except for short distances or in broken stretches. Steam launches ply between towns on the shores of Erh Lake, but they cannot sail beyond there to connect with other waterways. Aviation, however, has added an important dimension to transportation in Yunnan. K'un-ming is the hub of both domestic and international services of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), China's national airline.

Administration and social conditions
      Like those of the other provinces, Yunnan's administrative divisions are hierarchically organized. Immediately below the province, there are two prefecture-level municipalities (shih), seven prefectures (ti-ch'ü), and eight autonomous prefectures (tzu-chih-chou), designated for various minority nationalities. At the next lower level there are municipalities (shih), counties (hsien), and autonomous counties (tzu-chih-hsien). The lowest political units are the villages and towns. At all levels, People's Congresses are the organs of government authority. The executive functions of government are performed by the People's Councils elected at each level by their respective People's Congresses. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with its own congresses and committees at every level, exercises a controlling power over this system of government.

      The large number of autonomous districts and autonomous counties reflects the government's intent to end the traditional antagonism between Han and non-Han peoples. The policy seeks to preserve the language, customs, and cultural traditions of the minority peoples and to afford equal opportunity to all racial groups. Adequate representation of the nationalities on every level of government is a prerequisite. At the same time, the government is determined that the minorities should undergo the same socialist transformation as the Han majority.

      Besides the regular school system, spare-time schools of all types bring adult education to farms, factories, offices, and other places. Evening classes or off-work study sessions enable working people to go to school without leaving their jobs. The movement to upgrade the education of adults complements the campaign against illiteracy. A basic Chinese vocabulary in simplified strokes is taught to millions of illiterate people in short but intensive courses. For the minority peoples an effort is made to spread the knowledge of their own written language if one exists. Nonetheless, Yunnan's illiteracy rate is second only to that of Tibet, largely due to inadequate education among ethnic minorities.

      In higher education, Yunnan has one “key school”—Yunnan University in K'un-ming. There is also a growing number of technical schools, among which the most prominent are the Yunnan College of Forestry, Yunnan Agricultural University, Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science, K'un-ming Medical Colleges No. 1 and No. 2, Yunnan College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and K'un-ming Institute of Technology. Other notable establishments of learning are the K'un-ming branch of the Academia Sinica (Chinese Academy of Sciences), the Feng-huang-shan Astronomical Observatory, and the Yunnan Provincial Library.

Health and welfare
      Since 1949 Yunnan has made giant strides in sanitation and public hygiene. Such previously widespread diseases as trachoma (a contagious eye disease), smallpox, malaria, measles, snail fever, and bubonic plague have been brought under control. Iodization of water has put an end to the high incidence of goitre. In curative medicine, improvements have been slow. Clinics providing free medical care are available in all the counties, but modern hospitals are found only in the major cities. There is an expanding demand for larger medical staff, more hospital beds, and more modern equipment. The government has been promoting a massive movement to expand cooperative medical service and to collect local medicinal herbs.

      A minimum of social welfare is available to the people. Local work-unit welfare funds provide care for the sick, the disabled, the aged, and victims of drought or flood. For industrial workers there are measures for accident prevention and insurance programs that provide for hospital treatment, sick leave, disability compensation, maternity leave, old-age benefits, and death benefits. The government has been steadily improving the housing situation and expanding recreational facilities, including hot springs, swimming pools, cinemas, and theatres.

Cultural life
      Yunnan's cultural life is one of striking contrasts. Archaeologists have discovered sepulchral mounds containing magnificent bronzes at Chin-ning, south of K'un-ming, dating to the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). At Chao-t'ung, in the northeastern part of the province, frescoes belonging to the Tung (Eastern) Chin dynasty (AD 317–420) also have been uncovered. Other historical landmarks of Chinese culture in subsequent ages abound. Yet the roots of the tribal life of the non-Han peoples remained untouched until the mid-20th century. Although the CCP abolished some minority practices, such as Yi slaveholding and Wa headhunting, the post-Mao Zedong policy for the liberalization of nationalities permitted many local customs and festivals to flourish again. In contrast to the period of the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), when minority culture and religious practices were repressed, Yunnan has come to tolerate and even celebrate its cultural diversity.

      In classical antiquity, Yunnan was inhabited by aboriginal tribes that were beyond the reach of Chinese civilization though they acknowledged Chinese suzerainty under the Ch'in (221–206 BC) and Han (206 BC–AD 220) dynasties. Governmental power rested with tribal chiefs, and Chinese settlers penetrated only the eastern parts of the province. Under the T'ang dynasty (AD 618–907) a Tai kingdom, known as Nanchao (Nanzhao), flourished in the Ta-li region. First sanctioned as a bulwark against Tibetan incursions, Nanchao eventually threatened Chinese power, which declined during the period of the Wu-tai (Five Dynasties; 907–960) and the Sung dynasty (960–1279).

      This state of affairs came to an end during the Yüan dynasty (Yuan dynasty) (1206–1368). The Mongols destroyed Nanchao in 1253, and, having named the area Yunnan, they made it a province of the Yüan Empire. Marco Polo visited the region in the latter part of the 13th century. To resettle the region, which had been depopulated by warfare, the governor brought in large numbers of Hui (Chinese Muslims) from northwestern China. Thus, the Mongol conquest drew Yunnan into the orbit of Chinese affairs but failed to reduce local interracial tension between Han and non-Han minorities.

       Ming dynasty rulers (1368–1644), seeking to tighten their control over the province, used military units to promote the migration of the Chinese people from the Yangtze Valley to Yunnan. The province was governed through a system of hereditary t'u-ssu; that is, local leaders serving as agents of the Chinese magistrates. This policy of indirect rule was continued under the Ch'ing dynasty (Qing dynasty) (1644–1911/12) and the republic (1911–49), when efforts to bring the province more thoroughly under the control of the central government were undertaken, with varying degrees of success.

      Regional separatism coupled with ethnic and religious differences made Yunnan a frequent scene of strife. In 1674–78, Wu San-kuei (Wu Sangui), originally sent by the Ch'ing government to crush opposition in Yunnan, used the province as a base for rebellion against the Ch'ing government. In 1855–73 Muslims, led by Tu Wen-hsiu (alias Sultan Sulaymān), who obtained arms from the British authorities in Burma, staged the Panthay Rebellion, which was crushed with great cruelty by the Chinese Imperial troops, aided by arms from the French authorities in Tonkin. In 1915 Ts'ai Ao, onetime governor of the province, launched his drive in Yunnan to defeat the monarchist movement of Yüan Shih-k'ai (Yuan Shikai), the president of the republic, who attempted to make himself emperor of China. Then, spanning the decades between World Wars I and II, the warlords T'ang Chi-yao and Lung Yün ruled the province as a satrapy, keeping it beyond the control of the central government, fostering cultivation of the opium poppy, and inflicting great suffering on the people by the collection of high taxes.

      During the 19th century Yunnan fell victim to British and French imperialism. Already established in Vietnam, France regarded Yunnan as its sphere of influence and built the Hanoi–K'un-ming railway at the turn of the century to exploit the resources of the province. In 1910 the British (British Empire), then established in Burma, induced the t'u-ssu of P'ien-ma (Hpimau) to defect from the central Chinese government and occupied his territory in northwestern Yunnan. Britain also forced China to give up a tract of territory in what is now the Kachin State of Burma (1926–27), as well as the territory in the Wa states (1940).

      The war against Japan (1937–45) brought progress and modernization to Yunnan, as the Nationalist government developed the province into a war base against the Japanese. Factories, universities, and government agencies were transplanted there from the coastal regions, and fresh manpower, capital, and ideas poured into the province. Industries were established, and efforts were made by the government to develop the resources of the region. The Burma Road made Yunnan the corridor through which supplies flowed to Allied war bases in all parts of China, and K'un-ming became a major U.S. Air Force base. A major advance by the Japanese Army along the upper Salween River in 1944 was halted at the city of T'eng-ch'ung, indicating the vital role that Yunnan played in the nation's defense. A decade of war forced Yunnan out of its stagnation, while its strategic location made it possible to instill the ideal of national unification in place of separatism; and the process of modernization was accelerated after the establishment of the People's Republic in 1949.

Ping-chia Kuo Robert Lee Suettinger Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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