feature stories

Cultural Kuming – City of Eternal Spring

Kunming is the largest city in China’s southern Yunnan Province, bordering Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam. High up in the plateaus, Kunming is a little away from it all. While still home to over six million people, Kunming feels unhurried, known for beautiful mountains and pleasant weather. While still majority Han Chinese, Yunnan is one of China’s most diverse regions, with significant communities of more than 25 other peoples like the Yi, Hui, Bai, and Miao. Though the government has big plans for the city to become a major hub for an international pan-Asian high-speed train network linking China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore to be completed in 2022, Kunming for now is holding its own for now as China’s slightly overlooked “city of eternal spring” city. As one of the least polluted cities in China, Kunming is known for being free and relaxed -- up in the mountains and far from the capital and financial centres, there’s more space to explore and experiment.

The historic horse and tea route linked Kunming to Tibet and India, linking Yunnan’s many different peoples, cuisines, and languages with thousands of others through caravan trade. As the Han dynasty empire expanded through the 2nd century CE, parts of Yunnan were brought into the fold, alternatively governed over the centuries by different Mongol or Manchu rulers (and occasional stretches of independence.) In 1908, Kunming became one of China’s many treaty ports, forced open to trade through unequal treaties, and later became a backup wartime capital, air force and military base during the many tumultuous wars of the 20th century. During the Cultural Revolution, the government sent off political exiles to distant, remote Kunming.