Updated: 2011-08-15 11:06
Yunnan is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the far southwest of the country. It spans approximately 394,000 square kilometers (152,000 square miles) and has a population of 45.7 million (2009). The capital of the province is Kunming. The province borders Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam.
Yunnan 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. In the west, the relative height from mountain peaks to river valleys can be as much as 3,000 m. Yunnan is rich in natural resources and has the largest diversity of plant life in China. Of the approximately 30,000 species of higher plants in China, Yunnan has perhaps 17,000 or more. Yunnan's reserves of aluminium, lead, zinc and tin are the largest in China, and there are also major reserves of copper and nickel. Yunnan has over 600 rivers and lakes, which provide an annual water supply of 222 billion cubic meters. Projected hydropower reserves stand at 103 GW, with an exploitable capacity of 90 GW.
Yunnan became part of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) during 2nd century BC. It became the Tibeto-Burman speaking kingdom known as Kingdom of Nanzhao in the 8th century AD. Nanzhao was multi-ethnic, but the elite most likely spoke a northern dialect of Yi, which was established as the prestigious dialect (see Nuosu language). The Mongols conquered the region in the 13th century. Local control was exercised by warlords until the 1930s. As for other parts of the southwest of China, Japanese occupation in the north during World War II forced a migration of Han people 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.