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Kunming

Kunming is a prefecture-level city and capital of Yunnan Province, in southwestern China. Because of its year-round temperate climate, Kunming is often called the "Spring City" or "City of Eternal Spring".

Tourist Attractions
Xishan Forest Park
Stone Forest Park
Yunnan Ethnic Village
Yuantong Temple
Qiongzhu Temple
Dianchi Lake
Golden Temple
Daguan Park and Daguanlou

World Horticultural Exposition Garden
Jewelry Flowers and Birds Market in Kunming
Kunming is among the most famous historical and cultural cities and one of the top tourist cities in China. Due to its pleasant climate, plateau scenery, age-old history, diverse ethnic customs, and unique plants and animals, Kunming attracts domestic and foreign tourists all year round. As the tourism center of Yunnan province, Kunming has also been a transport hub, from where tourists can go easily to places such as Dali, Lijiang and Shangrila. Kunming is located in an earthquake zone and the last earthquake happened in 2009.

Over 24 million domestic tourists visited Kunming in 2007, with 800,000 foreign tourists visiting annually. Kunming's total revenue from tourism in 2007 was 16.8 billion yuan, an increase of 8.0% over 2006.

Kunming hosts 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.

Kunming is the political, economic, communications and cultural center of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government. It is also home to several universities, museums, galleries and other important economic, cultural, and educational institutions. The headquarters of many of Yunnan's large businesses are in Kunming as well. It was important during World War II as a Chinese military center, American air base, and transport terminus for the Burma Road. Located in the middle of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, Kunming is located at an altitude of 1,900 m above sea level and at a latitude just north of the Tropic of Cancer. It covers an area of 21,501 km² and its urban area covers 6,200 km². Kunming has an estimated population of 5,740,000 including 3,055,000 in the urban area and is located at the northern edge of the large Lake Dian, surrounded by temples and lake-and-limestone hill landscapes.

Kunming consists of an old, previously walled city, a modern commercial district, residential and university areas. The city has an astronomical observatory, and its institutions of higher learning include Yunnan University, Yunnan Normal University and a medical college. On the outskirts is a famed bronze temple, dating from the Ming dynasty. Kunming was formerly called Yunnanfu; literally meaning "Yunnan Capital") until the 1920s.

It is the leading transportation hub (air, road, rail) in SW China, with a rail connection to Vietnam and road links to Burma and Laos. Kunming currently has a new international airport under development, which is slated to be the fourth largest international airport in China. Situated in a fertile plain 640 km southwest of Chongqing, Kunming is an important trading center between the far west and central and south China. It is one of China's largest producers of copper. Copper is smelted with nearby hydroelectric power. Coal is mined, and the city has a few iron and steel complexes. Other manufactures include phosphorus, chemicals, machinery, textiles, paper, and cement. Although it was often the seat of kings in ancient times, Kunming's modern prosperity dates only from 1910, when the railroad from Hanoi was built. The city has continued to develop rapidly under China's modernization efforts. Kunming's streets have widened while office buildings and housing projects develop at a fast pace. Kunming has been designated a special tourism center and as such sports a proliferation of high-rises and luxury hotels.

From 2005 to 2010, the city of Kunming plans to nearly double in size, in terms of both population (to eight million people) and area, and it hopes to be one of the trade, transport, financial and cultural centers of Southeast Asia. Kunming's transport links to Southeast Asia and elsewhere, particularly its air links, are steadily expanding, with direct routes already existing to all major Chinese cities, most major Southeast Asian cities and some major cities in Japan and South Korea. Key development issues for Kunming include a local educated and talent pool that is less sophisticated than larger Chinese cities and the need for increased transport links.

History
Early history
Historically the domain of Yunnan's earliest inhabitants and first civilization, Kunming long profited from its position on the caravan roads through to South-East Asia, India and Tibet. Early townships in the southern edge of Lake Dianchi (outside the contemporary city perimeter) can be dated back to 279 BCE, although they have been long lost to history. Early settlements in the area around Lake Dian date back to Neolithic times but it was not until during the 3rd century BCE that the Dian Kingdom was established by General Zhuang Qiao of the Chu Kingdom who led his army from the middle reaches of the Yangtze River to the site of present-day Kunming.

The Han Dynasty (205 BCE - 220 CE), seeking control over the Southern Silk Road running to Burma and India, brought much of Yunnan into China's orbit, though subsequent dynasties could do little to tame what was then a remote and wild borderland. In 109 BC, Emperor Wudi of Western Han (reigned 141 - 87 BCE) incorporated areas of Kunming as part of the Han empire and it was named Yizhou prefecture (Dianchi was the county seat) and helped connect Sichuan with Vietnam. During the Sui dynasty (581–618), it was renamed Kunzhou.

Mid-Imperial China
Founded in 765 CE, Kunming was known to the Chinese as Tuodong (拓东) city in the Kingdom of Nanzhao (737-902) during the 8th and 9th centuries. Tuodong later became part of the successor Kingdom of Dali (937-1253). Eventually this changed when Tuodong came under the control of the Yuan Dynasty invasion of the southwest in 1252-1253. In 1276 it was founded by the Mongol rulers as Kunming County and became the provincial capital of Yunnan. The city grew as a trading center between the southwest and the rest of China. It is considered by scholars to have been the city of Yachi Fu (Duck Pond Town) where people had used cowries as cash and ate their meat raw, as described by the 13th-century Venetian traveler Marco Polo who traveled to the area and wrote about his fascination of the place.

Ming and Qing dynasties
In the 1300s, Kunming was retaken as the Ming Dynasty defeated the Mongols, which built a wall surrounding present-day Kunming. Ming General Wu Sangui defeated Manchu invaders 300 years later and held the city until his death in 1678, long after the rest of China had fallen under Manchu rule. During the Ming (1368 - 1644) and Qing (1644 - 1911) dynasties, it was the seat of the superior prefecture of Yunnan.

The area was first dubbed Kunming in the period towards the decline of the Yuan Dynasty and later still in 1832, the beginnings of a real city were acknowledged within the city walls and significant structures within their confines. Founding of the city can, therefore be said to have been a predominantly 19th century affair. It was also in this century that the city grew to become the major market and transport centre for the region.

Kunming suffered at the hands of rebel leader Du Wenxiu, the Sultan of Dali, who attacked and besieged the city several times between 1858 and 1868. Little of the city's wealth survived the 1856 Panthay Rebellion, when most of the Buddhist sites in the capital were razed. Decades later Kunming began to be influenced by the West, especially from the French Empire. In the 1890s, an uprising against working conditions on the Kunming-Haiphong rail line saw 300,000 laborers executed after France shipped in weapons to suppress the revolt. The meter-gauge rail line, only completed by around 1911, was designed by the French so that they could tap Yunnan's mineral resources for their colonies in Indochina.

Kunming was a communications center in early times and a junction of two major trading routes, one westward via Dali and Tengchong County into Myanmar, the other southward through Mengzi County to the Red River in Indochina. Eastward, a difficult mountain route led to Guiyang in Guizhou province and thence to Hunan province. To the northeast was a well-established trade trail to Yibin in Sichuan province on the Yangtze River. But these trails were all extremely difficult, passable only by mule trains or pack-carrying porters.

Modern history
Old Kunming quarter, containing the narrow and curved Sister Buildings behind the Victory Monument on Guanghua Jie, located across the street to the north of the old Bird and Flower Market.Kunming reverted to county status in 1912, under the name Kunming, and became a municipality in 1935. The opening of the Kunming area began in earnest with the completion in 1906-1910 of the Yunnan-Vietnam Railway to Haiphong in north Vietnam (part of French Indochina). Kunming became a treaty port opening to foreign trade in 1908 and soon became a commercial center. In the 1930s its importance grew still further when the first highways were built, linking Kunming with Chongqing in Sichuan and Guiyang in Guizhou to the east. Kunming's rail link to Hanoi was cut during World War II, restored in 1957, cut again in 1979, and reopened in 1996.

Geography and climate
Lake DianKunming is located in east-central Yunnan province. It is located between north latitude 24°23´ and 26°22´N, and east longitude 102°10´and 103°40´E, with a total area of 21,600 square km. Its widest stretch from the east to the west amounts to 140 km and its largest expansion from the north to the south amounts to 220 km.

Situated in a fertile lake basin on the northern shore of the Lake Dian and surrounded by mountains to the north, west, and east, Kunming has always played a pivotal role in the communications of southwestern China. Lake Dian, titled as "the Pearl of the Plateau", is the sixth largest fresh water lake in China, is the largest lake in Yunnan and has an area of approximately 340 square kilometers.

Located at an elevation of 1,890 m on the Yungui Plateau with low latitude and high elevation, Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China, characterised by short, cool dry winters with mild days and crisp nights, and long, warm and humid summers, but much less hot than the lowlands. The weather never gets very hot in summer; the temperature has only exceeded 30C (86F) on a handful of occasions. However, freak snowfalls do occasionally occur in winter.

Controlled by a temperate plateau monsoon climate (Koppen classification Cwb), average highs are 15 C in winter and 24 C in summer. With its perpetual spring-like weather which provides the ideal climate for plants and flowers, Kunming is known as the "City of Eternal Spring". The city is covered with blossoms and lush vegetation all the year round.

The period from May to October is the rainy season and the rest of the year is dry. The city has a mean annual rainfall of 1,000 mm, with an annual sunshine period of 2,250 hours and an annual frost-free period of 230 days.

Kunming's highest point is Mazong Ridge of the Jiaozi Mountain in Luquan with an elevation of 4,247 m, and its lowest point is the joint of the Xiaojiang River and the Jinsha River in Dongchuan District, with an elevation of 695 m. Its downtown area is 1,891 m above sea level.

About 96 km (60 miles) southeast of the city is the Stone Forest, a karst formation developed as a tourist attraction consisting of rock caves, arches, and pavilions. It is part of the larger karst-based landscape of the area.

Society and culture
The city center has three major squares and five major streets: Jinma Biji Square, Nanping Square and Dongfeng Square along with Nanping Jie, Jinbi Lu, Renmin Lu, Zhengyi Lu and Jingxin Jie. Qingnian Lu, Zhengyi Lu, and Renmin Lu are the main commercial areas in Kunming; the most popular pedestrian streets are Nanping Jie, Jingxing Birds-Flowers' Market, and Jinma Biji Fang.

Architecture
The oldest traditional Chinese architecture buildings and structures date back to the Ming and Tang dynasties.

Central Kunming
Kunming SquareKunming's public focus is the huge square outside the Workers' Cultural Hall at the Beijing Lu-Dongfeng Lu intersection, where in the mornings there are crowds doing taijiquan and playing badminton. Weekend amateur theatre are also performed in the square. Rapidly being modernized, the city's true center is west of the square across the adjacent Panlong River (now more of a canal), outside the Kunming Department Store at the Nanping Lu/Zhengyi Lu crossroads, a densely crowded shopping precinct packed with clothing and electronics stores. The river is polluted, black and oily. Surrounding the area are plenty of new high-rises.

The center is an area of importance to Kunming's Hui population, with Shuncheng Jie - one of the last old streets in the center of the city - previously forming a Muslim quarter. Until shortly before 2005, this street was full of wind-dried beef and mutton carcasses, pitta bread and raisin sellers, and huge woks of roasting coffee beans being earnestly stirred with shovels. Under Kunming's rapid modernisation, however, the street has been demolished to make way for apartments and shopping centers. Rising behind a supermarket one block north off Zhengyi Lu, Nancheng Qingzhen Si is the city's new mosque, its green dome and chevron-patterned minaret visible from afar and built on the site of an earlier Qing edifice.

Running west off Zhengyi Jie just past the mosque, Jingxing Jie leads into one of the more bizarre corners of the city, with Kunming's huge Bird and Flower Market convening daily in the streets connecting it with the northerly, parallel Guanghua Jie. The market offers many plants such as orchids that have been collected and farmed across the province. In the small grounds of Wen Miao, a now vanished Confucian temple off the western end of Changchun Lu, there is an avenue of pines, an ancient pond and pavilion, and beds of bamboo, azaleas and potted palms - a quiet place where old men play chess and drink tea.

Cuisine
Kunming at nightKunming's cuisine is distinctly Yunnanese and combines fresh ingredients afforded by the moderate climate with mild herbs and spices giving its cooked dishes sufficient flavour but lacking the pungency associated with food from other regions of the country. The city's climate fosters the growth of literally hundreds of species of mushroom which are consequently a predominant feature of many dishes. There are other regional Chinese cuisines, with a few upmarket restaurants serving international dishes. Back lanes running north off Dongfeng Xi Lu or Jinbi Lu have the famous stalls and restaurants where the locals offer specialties such as grilled cheese, hotpots, fired snacks rolled in chilli powder, loaves of excellent meat-stuffed soda bread, and rich duck and chicken casseroles. The special dish of Kunming is guò qiáo mĭxiàn, a boiling, spicy soup with noodles under a layer of oil. Meat is added to the broth kept hot by the layer of oil. The legend behind "crossing bridge noodles" involves a student studying for the imperial exam (which was given once per year). He went to study on an island a short ways away from his wife and village. Everyday his wife would bring him food, but because of the distance (she had to cross a bridge) the food would get cold. The student's wife figured out that by layering the broth with oil, she could keep the food hot.

-Some of the most famous Kunming food is as follows:
Over the Bridge Rice Noodles
Steam Potted Chicken
Er Kuai (Rice Cake)
Smoked Smelly Bean Curd - popular night stall snack
The Eight Treasures of Yunnan - type of stuffed cake
Notable restaurants include:

Qiao Xiangyuan Restaurant - special local food
Jinbichun Restaurant - has a history of over 100 years
World Expo Jixing Yuan Restaurant

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