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Lake Dongtinghu, linked by several canals with the Changjiang river, obtains 40% of its water from the latter and the rest from four other large rivers. In the dry season from October to April, however, water flows from the lake into the Changjiang, so that the lake’s water level falls and its area is reduced by almost a third. A boat trip on the lake is not to be missed.

Population History Economy above sea-level which gradually reduce in height towards the east and south-east. In the north-west the average altitude is 5000m/16,500ft; the highest peak is 6740m/22,120ft. The upper reaches of the Changjiang (Yangtse), Lancangjiang (Mekong), Nuijang (Nushan/Salween), Yuanjiang and Xijiang rivers have carved out deep valleys through the mountains.

The differences in topography and altitude within the province have produced varying climatic zones. While extremely raw and cold weather predominates in the north, the climate south of the Tropic of Cancer is dry and hot. The valleys and lake regions, especially the capital Kunming and its surroundings, on the other hand, enjoy a very mild climate all the year round. Temperatures average 22°C/72°F in July and 9°C/48°F in January, and annual rainfall is 1000mm/40in.

About a third of the population of Yunnan belong to national minorities, including the Yi, Bai, Naxi, Hani and Dai. Approximately a half of China’s various nationalities live here.

Yunnan, which was originally inhabited solely by non-Han peoples, found itself under Chinese dominance in the Qin and Han periods (221 b.c. to a.d. 220), but nevertheless remained substantially independent. The Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) then absorbed the region. Separatist movements led to much unrest. In the early 20th c. the French and British tried to expand their empires here. After 1949 the government imposed obligatory industrialisation programmes.

Because ofthe rich natural deposits found here mining plays a major partin the economy. The main deposits are tin, followed by copper, coal, iron and phosphorus. 6% of the total area is fertile agricultural land, growing mainly rice but also maize, wheat, yams, coffee, sugar-beet and tobacco.

Places to visit

In addition to the provincial capital of Kunming (see entry), the towns of Dali and Jinghong (see entries) in the Autonomous Region of Xishuang-banna are also worth a visit.

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