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A guide to Kunming China - a Natural Wonderland

So you want to go to China but you’re not sure where to go? Let us tell you about the City of Eternal Spring - Kunming.

Author: Toria Peirson
21 Nov 10:02

When travelling in the south of China, you’re bound to come across Kunming. Not only is it the capital of the Yunnan province but it is also the transportation core for southern China. The natural beauty in the city of Kunming is astounding with the gorgeous Magnolia Denudata being the city tree and the Camellia Japonica as the city flower. Not only being a city known for its visual beauty it also boasts a rich history. An ancient tribe became the first inhabitants who settled in the area around 30’000 years ago. The city of Kunming is of course a modern metropolis with a wealth of skyscrapers which form an interesting city scape alongside the natural beauty of the area. Locals have a laid-back attitude of life in the city which is perfect for taking a few days out of a hectic travelling and taking a more laid back approach to exploring China and one more thing which will persuade you to visit this amazing city- the weather is nearly always gorgeous.

HISTORY OF KUNMING

Although the area of Kunming has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, the city was only established over 2200 years ago. That’s still a very long time! Many early townships were created around the lake Dian which meant civilization in the area which was beginning to grow in around 200 BC adopted a unique and new culture called ‘Dian Culture’. The ancient city was captured in the Han Dynasty in around 100 BC and it gave the empire some control of the Silk Road as Kunming was a thriving trade area in the southern parts of the Silk Road network. Kunming’s official history as a city began in 765 AD when the Nanzhao kingdom expanded the, then, small city eastwards. The city of Kunming first became the capital of the Yunnan province all the way back in 1276 and from then on the city’s trading activities grew and grew. They city was thriving and even Marco Polo described it as “a large and splendid city” when he visited in 1282. The city fascinated and intrigued him which is very similar to how the modern traveller feels when they visit Kunming.

In the 1300s, Kunming was recaptured from Mongol power by the Ming Dynasty. Fast forward to the 1830s and the name ‘Kunming’ was getting tested. By this time the area was wealthy however in 1856 a rebellion caused the city to lose most of its wealth and it caused the destruction of many buddhist temples. After this rebellion Kunming started to lean westwards in its development, which would subsequently create the western city it is today, and started to build railway tracks and modern ports. The city of Kunming became a commercial trade area for the second time in its history when they opened their foreign trade port in 1908. The first of many universities was built in 1922 and was the first step of Kunming's path to being the renowned student city it is today.

WHY IS KUNMING THE CITY OF ETERNAL SPRING?

The city of Kunming is known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to a few things:

  • Firstly the city is in nonstop bloom so the city always feels like it’s in the peak of spring even in the middle of summer.
  • The temperatures keep the city in a constant spring-like climate throughout the year as they range from mild winters with an ultimate low of 2°C (that’s very rare) and an ultimate high of 24°C in the height of summer
  • Even in winter, the city remains spring-like with an average of 20 sunny days per month
  • Kunming is the most pleasant of southern cities throughout winter as there are rarely any below freezing days.

Kunming is a pleasant utopia for even the most climate conscious travellers so much so that travellers often travel throughout the year due to the small disturbance in temperatures.

TOP 3 ATTRACTIONS IN KUNMING
  • Stone Forest - Stone forest has a literal title. The whole park is predominantly large natural structures of stone and is a visual spectacle to say the least. The park is listed as Unesco World Heritage site and it’s clear to see why. Geographers say that the park was first formed over 270 million years ago! Wow… Stone Forest is about 80km away from Kunming and to get there you can drive which will take about 1:20 hours or you could take a coach. The coach trip may take a bit longer as you will have to change coaches once you get to downtown Shilin.The park costs ¥175 for entry for an adult.

  • Golden Temple - The Golden Temple is located in Golden Temple Park! Inventive, I know. Despite the deceiving name, the temple is made out of copper and is actually the largest copper temple still-standing in China. The golden temple is well protected with walls, fences and battlements. There are also statues representing army generals, a little boy and a little girl there to protect it. There are many buses running to Golden Temple Park so travelling there should be a piece of cake. Entry to the park costs ¥30. If you don’t fancy walking up the stairs- there's a good few- you can get a small rail ride up to the top of the compound for a small cost.

  • Western Hills and much much more - If you looking for a fun-filled, jam-packed day out make sure you head to the Western Hills. The Western Hills are on the outskirts of Kunming right next to Dianchi lake. Many buses run to the hills entrance as it’s such a popular spot so you won’t have trouble reaching this gorgeous are of Kunming. When on the hills you will have the joys of hiking in fresh air and in what is deemed one of the most peaceful places in China. After you’ve had enough of JUST walking and relaxing there are many spots you can go to satisfy your curiosity:

    • Huating Temple - Huating Temple was built- then destroyed- then built again - then destroyed- then built AGAIN… and so on until the most recent rebuilding in the 1920s. The Huating temple is one of the the largest Buddhist temples of the whole of the provence and as you already know- it has A LOT of History. Let your interest be taken by the Golden Buddhas in the temple and over 500 arhats which all have different, intricate faces.
    • Sanqing Pavilion - Sanqing pavilion is every Ed Sheeran fan’s dream - It’s a castle on a hill. Seriously though, this gorgeous building is surrounded by luscious greenery and is over 300m high. It offers gorgeous views of Dianchi lake and the mountains whilst offering a wealth of culture as the temple leans towards the Taoist religion.
    • Dragon Gate - If you can handle heights then dragon gate is perfect for you. It is probably the best view of Dianchi lake and has gorgeous stone carvings and statues. It has a gob-smacking drop which is emphasised by the fact that dragon gate juts out from the cliff. Dragon Gate is the the top thing to to do whilst in the Western Hills.

      Let’s just say a day to the Western Hills is a day well spent. When having to pay an entrance fee I suggest getting the ¥100 combo ticket which allows entrance AND all the extras such as Dragon Gate and the temple plus lots more.

So now that you know about Kunming we hope you decide to plan a trip there yourself.

Kunming has so much more than what’s said above so we’re going to leave the city for you to make an adventure of your own. If you’re a nature lover or the polar opposite and you’re an urban king/queen - Kunming will be perfect for you. Enjoy...

Toria Peirson

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