Written by Matthew Hastzell
Photography by Wietse Jongsma
Yunnan is one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse provinces in China. It’s not so much a land of specific tourist attractions (such as the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors), but a land that invites slow exploration.
You could divide the appeal of Yunnan into two categories: natural, and cultural.
On the natural side, Yunnan is extremely diverse, from the snow-capped Himalayan peaks in the north, to tropical rainforests in the south. Most of Yunnan’s population live on a plateau or in valleys in between rugged mountain ranges. Yunnan is a global biodiversity hotspot. It contains more species of flowers, birds, animals, mushrooms, and trees than any other province in China. There are many beautiful places where you can go hiking in the wilderness and not see any sign of civilization for days. Plus, the climate of Yunnan is delightful, with most places not getting too hot or too cold. For those sick of the pollution and banal modernization in the rest of China, Yunnan can be a real attractive getaway.
The other main draw of Yunnan is its cultural diversity. Yunnan is home to more than half of the 56 ethnic minorities which are recognized in China. Many of them live in the borderlands of the province, near Tibet, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Several of these groups live across the borders, too, where they are known in other countries as “Hill Tribes”. Although improvements in transportation and communication have brought about a significant amount of modernization and integration with the dominant Han culture of China in recent years, there are still many elements of traditional culture on display in Yunnan (sometimes for the express purpose of tourism, sometimes not). In many out of the way places you can still find minority people who dress up in their local costumes daily. Many still speak their minority languages. You’ll find different religious practices, customs, beliefs. Festival times are one of the most colorful, when you can see traditional dances and hear traditional music.
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Photography was taken from the following Flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/11497410@N08/albums/72157658301772122/with/24301543404/