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KUNMING

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province with a population of nearly 2 million, is known as the "city of eternal spring." Located in the middle of the Yunan Plateau of 6,300 feet above the sea level, the city enjoys the subtropical climate and is skirted by mountains to the north, east, and west, while to the south lies a large lake called Dianchi. Kunming has a mild climate with flowers blooming in most year round. Kunming has a history spanning more than 3,000 years. It is known to have been a small settlement as early as 109 B.C., trading in salt, silver, gold, silk and lumber. Through the eighth to the 13th centuries, it was the secondary capital of a small kingdom in the region, before falling to the
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Mongols in1374. A small group of Mongols still exists at Tonghai, about 75 miles south of Kunming. The city becomes famous to the tourists not only for its nice climate and beautiful scenery, but also a society of multi-minority nationalities with 26 ethnic groups including the Han. Therefore, the minority singing and dance show can be seen everywhere.
While in Kunming, one should also try to catch a glimpse of the various costumes of the many ethnic groups. The best chance is probably during the Water Splashing Festival, a traditional gala held in mid of April to celebrate the minority new year of the Dai, Blang, Benglong, Achang and Wa peoples. At the festival, people splash water on each other as a symbol of best wishes for a long life and a good harvest. The biggest celebration is usually held in Xishuangbanna, a fertile tropical area about 400 miles south of Kunming.

Western Hill,

The West Hill, located in the city suburbs adjacent the famous lake Dianchi, is really made up of four hills, which form a contour resembling a sleeping beauty, whose hair flows down to the water. For this reason the West Hill is also called a sleeping beauty mountain with the Dragon Gate as the most famous place that one has to climb up. A forest stretches for several miles, containing ancient buildings such as the Huating Temple, the Taihua Temple, and the Sanqing Pavilion, nestling almost unseen, among the thick foliage. On top of the West Hill you can get a fantastic view of Lake Dianchi, which covers area of 130 square miles and was formed by a geological fault in the central Yunnan Plateau.

Stone Forest

The Stone Forest, one of China's most famous scenic spots and located in the Lunan Yi Nationality Autonomous County, is about 75 miles southeast of Kunming. It is a massive collection of limestone pillars, split by raindrops and eroded to their present fanciful forms. Covering a total area of 350 square km, it stands with the big and small stone forests, and other scenic spots such as the "Moon Lake", "Dadie Waterfall", and "Subterranean Stone Forest in Zhiyun Cave". Since the Ming dynasty, Stone Forest has long been one of the most famous scenic spots in China. Taking the shapes of pagodas, pillars, swords or animals, a huge number of vertically carved, fantastically shaped limestone pillars scattered here and there, in which one of them is engraved with two big words "Stone Forest", forming a marvelous landscape.
Range from 2 meters to 33 meters in height, these pillars look like a dense forest. Major scenic spots in Stone Forest include Sword Peak Pond, Jade Lake, Lotus Blossom Peak, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadie Waterfall, Zhiyun Cave, Moon Lake, and Peak View Pavilion etc. As soon as the visitors enter the forest, one can enjoy the peculiar sight of the countless stone peaks assuming a thousand different shapes, all fanciful and picturesque, and the goldfish leisurely wagging the tail in the pond.
The splendor of this place is enhanced by another feature, that is, the custom of the local Sani people, which is a branch of the Yi nationality. Sani people are industrious, unconstrained and hospitable and all Sani girls are experts at spinning, weaving and embroidering. The Sani people, especially the young people, are very good at singing and dancing. Each day at sunset, boys and girls would gather at the village platform and colorful programs would be held there. The boys play the three-stringed plucked instruments while the girls dance enthusiastically with the drumbeats. All visitors are welcome to join their lovely dances.

Golden Temple

The Golden Temple is located on Mingfeng Hill, 11km northeast of Kunming. The temple was originally built in 1604 during the Ming dynasty. Chen Yongbin, the governor of Yunnan at the time, launched the construction to honor the Daoist hero Zishi, who was supposed to live at the northern extremity of the universe. They built a copper temple to represent his palace there, which gleams like the gold under sunshine, hence the name. However the temple was destroyed during the Yunnan Muslim rebellion in the mid of 19 century and rebuilt in 1890 with 250 tons of solid bronze. The present temple, 6.7 meters in height and 7.8 meters in width, is reputed as the largest bronze hall in China. Except staircases and balustrades, which are made of marble, the walls, columns, rafters, roof-tiles, altars, Buddha statues, wall decorations, even the banner near the gate tower, were all made of copper. Up to now, the Golden Temple is still preserved a double-edged sword with the pattern of the Big Dipper, which weighs more than 20 kilograms and is thought to be a magic weapon of Zhen Wu, a Daoist deity, to guard the hill. With natural scenery mingled with sites of historical interest, here became a large scenic resort in Kunming.


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