21-09-2023 6.764 Views


Far from the splendours of the Middle Kingdom, there is another China, full of charm and exoticism, with tropical accents, that of the mountains and high hills of Yunnan. Of course, the influence of the rest of the country is felt there, but the originality of the Yunnan lies above all in the fertile mix of the cultures of Tibetan and Mongolian origin with that of the local ethnic groups – Baisha, Dongba, Yi and Hani – without forgetting the influences of the neighboring countries, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. An original culture that is also part of grandiose landscapes due to the patient toil of man like the terraced rivers of Yuanyang, the terrible forces of nature such as the gorges of the Tiger Jump or the subtle alliance of the art of man and the generosity of nature… A journey that will remain an unforgettable experience !





The frescoes of Baisha

Tiger Leaping Gorges

Shangri La



Shilin « the Stone Forest »







Kunming, originally called Yunnanfu, is located in the centre of the Yunnan Plateau, at 1,800 m above sea level. It is the most direct gateway to southwestern China. Nicknamed the "city of the Eternal Spring" because of its mild climate, it is a modern city, spread out in a wide plain, near Lake Dian.

The city was founded during the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). However, Kunming did not become a city until the 13th century. The city of Tuodong was renamed Kunming under the Yuan dynasty in 1276.

During the Second World War, Kunming was the Allied Military Command Centre for Southeast Asia, which included the Americans, the British, the Chinese and the French. From Hanoi to Kunming, the French railway of Yunnan still exists and still allows to descend to the south of Vietnam; this road was able to supply the nationalist China at the time. 

The visits :

Yuantong Temple (Temple of the understanding of all things): this temple was built during what many consider to be the golden age of China, the Tang Dynasty. Seeming to float on the Emerald Lake, the atmosphere is serene, ethereal.

One enters the Temple of Yuantong through a portico guarded by two marble lions with a fierce look. On the door arepainted the 4 Chinese characters meaning «holy place of understanding of all things». Inside, this temple consists of different monastic buildings and pavilions arranged in square. Among these, the main pavilion, Daxiong Baodian, whose beams and pillars are beautifully decorated as well as the temple doors that are adorned with splendid calligraphy. This pavilion houses magnificent Buddha statues from the Ming Dynasty. There is also the Tongfo Dian Pavilion, offered by the Thai government, which houses a bronze Sakayamuni statue. At the center of this monastic complex is a water basin, on which stands in the center an octagonal pavilion dedicated to the goddess Guanyin whose statue is preserved inside.

The Emerald Lake Park: located in the heart of the city of Kunming, the capital of the province of Yunnan, it is a pleasant place for walking. It is frequented from the early hours of sunrise by many local residents who come daily to practice tai chi, play traditional musical instruments such as erhu or even meet to share a game of mahjong or go play. In the park there are many small pagodas with shimmering colors, under which you can rest while enjoying the view of the emerald lake covered with lotus flowers. Nothing like a pedal boat ride on the lake to enjoy the tranquility of the place!


In the northwest of Yunnan Province, the Bai de Dali Local Minority Prefecture is at the crossroads of the road networks to Burma (Myanmar) and Tibet, between the cities of Kunming and Lijiang. The famous Cangshan Mountain is to the west, and Erhai Lake to the east of the city. Dalí is a must for his cultures and natural landscapes in any trip to Yunnan.

The ancient city of Dalí is surrounded by square enclosures and four imposing gates coinciding with the four cardinal points. The city is tiled by pedestrian streets lined with many shops of jewels, textiles, tea and handicrafts …

Dalí is well known for its marble, exhibited in paintings in all the shops of the old town. When you stroll through the old town of Dalí, you should not miss the park in the downtown paved streets, where you will see people playing mahjong or cards. You will also see birds in cages on the trees, cadencing the game of their master by their song. It is better to move away from the tourist streets and take small alleys, full of life and surprises!

Marble-based handicrafts: Dalí’s marble polishing reveals veins whose shapes are reminiscent of water waterfalls, mountains or clouds in classic Chinese prints. Dalí’s marbles, nicknamed "dream stones", decorate living room furniture and even constitute some walls of large houses.


Lijiang is located northwest of Yunnan, between the Yunnan Plateau -Guizhou and the Qinghai Plateau- Tibet, 527 km from the city of Kunming. To the north is Shangri-la, to the south is Dalí, to the west is the autonomous prefecture of Lisu of the Nujiang River.

Lijiang is one of China’s most popular tourist destinations. The altitude of Lijiang city center is 2418 m. The ancient city of Lijiang is one of the four well preserved ancient cities of China (the other three ancient cities are the city of Langzhong of Sichuan, the city of Pingyao of Shanxi, the city of Shexian of Anhui). The remarkable conservation of its heritage has made it recognized as «World Cultural Heritage» by UNESCO in 1997.

Finally, like the rest of the province, Lijiang is represented by a wide range of ethnic minorities, including the Naxi (which represents 60% of the population), the Bai, the Yi and the Lisu.


The village of Baisha is located 10km north of the city of Lijiang; it is an ancient and very pretty village, the first settlement of the Naxi inhabitants, the place of origin of the tribal chief of the Mu clan, and also the first political center of the Naxi minorities.

The frescoes of Baisha, dating from the early Ming Dynasty, were painted over a period of more than 300 years, until the Qing Dynasty. At that time, the tribal chief, Mu Wang, employed some Han painters, Tibetan painters and painters from the Bai ethnic minority, as well as Dongba and Taoist followers to create and finish these paintings. The frescoes of the Dabaoji monastery are the essences of Lijiang, they are completely preserved, there are Taoist and Buddhist statues, and also statues of the Tantric Buddha of Lamaism. There are inscriptions in Chinese and Tibetan. These painters pierced the religious boundaries, and described the social life and the production situation of the inhabitants of Naxi in a realistic way.


The 17 km long Tiger Leaping Gorges are one of the most impressive and deep canyons in the world.

This huge canyon, at the bottom of which flows the bubbling waters of Jinsha Jiang, is located in Yunnan province, about 60 kilometers north of the city of Lijiang. At some places in the gorges, the width above the precipice is only about thirty meters. According to Chinese legend, at the narrowest point of the gorge, a tiger wanting to escape a hunter who was chasing him would have jumped, by a big leap, the 30 meters that separated him from the other shore, hence the name !

You can walk along all the gorges, via a hiking trail that goes from the town of Quiaotou to that of Daju. You will come across, on the way, the inhabitants of the Naxi ethnic group who live in small hamlets scattered along the gorges. On this trail, you will also have the opportunity to discover a rich biodiversity, numerous waterfalls and splendid views of the gorges. Take the time to admire the snow-capped peaks of the Haba Mountains and Jade Dragon Mountain in the distance. However, be careful, as the gorges become dangerous in July and August due to landslides caused by the seasonal rains.


The autonomous Tibetan Prefecture of Shangri-La Diqing is located northwest of Yunnan, CLOSE to Sichuan and Tibet, and has three counties, Zhongdian (Shangri-la), Dêqên, and Weixi, under its jurisdiction.

Shangri-la Prefecture has common borders with Sichuan Province, Tibet and Myanmar. Shangri-la County was renamed Zhongdian until 2001, when it was renamed Shangri-la for tourism, a name derived from James Hilton’s famous novel “Lost Horizon”, where Shangri-la-the is a mythical valley deep in Tibet and seat of a society described as perfect by the author.

The area is ideal for hiking enthusiasts who will discover beautiful mountain landscapes including the most famous are the Meili, Baimang, Haba and the Mingyong Glacier. Nature offers beautiful corners of paradise, such as the Baishuitai terraces or the nature reserves of Napahai and Bitahai, real havens of peace for the animals as well as for the inhabitants of various local ethnic groups such as the Tibetans, Naxi, Yi and Lisus. In this county, you will discover the folk dances and matrimonial customs of these ethnic minorities, but also craft manufacturing such as Yak wool clothing.

In the main cities of Deqin, Weixi, and Zhongdian county chief town, there are many opportunities for sightseeing such as Tibetan monasteries, parks that house lakes and pagodas, museums on ethnic minorities, local markets and so many others. Shangri-la County has a lot of cultural and natural wealth. If you are taking a trip to Yunnan, it is imperative that you go to Shangri-la! Shangri-la Valley National Park is 110 km northwest of Shangri-la County, and 220 km south of the Daocheng Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, at an altitude of over 3,000 m, where the ecological environment is well protected.


Historically, Xizhou was an essential place for military affairs during the period of the Nanzhao Kingdom. The industrial and commercial side of the city was in full development, and the city was one of the most important business centers of Yunnan.

Xizhou is a good place to observe the culture and architecture typical of the Bai minority. A characteristic courtyard of the Bai residences consists of 3 rooms to the east, north and west and a decorative wall to the south. These residences usually have carved beams, raised eaves with pretty green, gold, blue and white paintings.

Xizhou is also the city of embroideries and wax dyes that can be used to decorate shoes, hats, clothes, home fabrics and tapestries. Visit the Xizhou Market, where you’ll see all kinds of products, from groceries and everyday consumables to handmade items. The most interesting is trying on the traditional dress of the women of the Bai minority. Several Bai festivals take place in Xizhou, almost one a month. One of the most amazing festivals is called the Three Spirits Festival in April. Young people gather to choose their lovers and future women. During the festival, locals do all kinds of Bay dances dressed in their traditional costumes.


Shaxi once played an important role as a crossroads on the road of tea caravans and horses, an important branch of the Silk Road. Just 1,000 years ago, this city was to become the main hub between Tibet and southwestern China. In exchange for Yunnan tea, the Tibetans traded their famous horses to the Song dynasty officials throughout southern and eastern China, to help them in their defense against invasions from the North. The Tea and Horse Caravan Road was then born, and Shaxi became an important trading center along this road.

Even if today the exchanges between Tibet and China are no longer carried out by this road, Shaxi keeps this atmosphere of city crossroads shopping. These old cobbled streets still look like those of 1000 years ago. The minorities of the region, especially the Bai and Yi, are always in the center of the village every Friday. Descending from the surrounding mountains, they exchange their goods with other merchants or individuals through the old streets of Shaxi.

The UNESCO recently listed Shaxi as one of the 100 most endangered sites in the world, so Shaxi has recently seen the funding needed to preserve its cultural and architectural heritage.


The Shilin Stone Forest, covering 26,000 ha, is located approximately 120 kilometres southeast of Kunming City. Only 80 ha are accessible to visitors. These 5 to 30 m rock needles are a true curiosity of nature; they are due to wind erosion for more than 200 million years. It is a beautiful karst landscape, unique in the area, which is really worth a visit!

Its limestone peaks, of dissimilar shapes and sizes, have inspired the imagination of the local residents of the Sani minority. Thus, one of these peaks would represent Ashima, their national heroine embodying all the virtues of the Sani woman. According to legend, an ogre wanted Ashima to marry his son but she refused. Consequently, the ogre kidnapped her. Ashima’s brother came to save her from the claws of the ogre who, to prevent them from fleeing, caused a flood that was fatal for Ashima. The soul of the latter would then have taken refuge in the rock that carries since the name of Ashima. Two more peaks symbolize an old man on a walk and a woman waiting for her husband.

Come and walk around inside this natural labyrinth of stones with lush vegetation, where you will be welcomed by girls in costume of the ethnic minority Sani. You will be able to take a route arranged through these peaks and ending on a high pavilion that offers a magnificent panoramic view of the whole stone forest. Or you can choose to get off the beaten track and venture into this stone jungle that maintains a magical atmosphere. The visit of the stone forest requires 2 to 3 hours. As it is a very famous site in China, there are always many visitors during the day, especially in the afternoon.


One of the most beautiful ancient cities of South Yunnan, Jianshui is located 210 km south of Kunming and globally halfway between Kunming and Yuanyang. If Jianshui looks like any other Chinese city you visit on a trip to China at first glance, there are no fewer treasures, starting with the temple of Confucius, the second largest in China. A walk in the old Jianshui district will immerse you in the heart of a preserved Chinese village, in the first row of which is the residence of the Zhu family, superb traditional residence where we advise you to spend the night. Outside the city there is another former home, the Zhang family clan, in the pretty village of Tuanshan. All these sites make Jianshui an ideal destination between Kunming and Yuanyang !

The temple of Confucius in Jianshui is the second largest in China after that of Qufu, the birthplace of the great master Confucius. This temple was built in 1285. After 50 renovations, it covers an area of 76,000 m². Having a history of more than 700 years, this temple is very well preserved. Its construction style conforms to that of the Qufu Confucius Temple in Shandong Province. The north and south axes are symmetrical, the individual buildings are well distributed. It has 37 main buildings. It is grandiose and well structured.


Yuanyang’s terraced rice fields extend over a vast area south of the Red River, in the Honghe, Yuanyang, Lvchun and Jinping districts of Yunnan Province. Yuanyang is the largest, it has more than 11,300 ha of terraced rice paddies. The entire Yuanyang District is a mountainous region, most of which was exploited in rice fields by the Hani minorities. The slopes of terraced rice fields range from 15 to 75 degrees. A rice field can have up to 3,000 terraces!

Hani’s terraced rice paddies of the Yuanyang District consist of three important points: the point of Bada, comprising the villages of Qingkou, Quanfuzhuang, Malizhai and Zhulu, with over 1,000 ha of terraced rice paddies; the point of the mouth of the Tiger, including the villages of Mengpin, Dongpu, Amengkong and Baoshanzhai, with more than 400 ha of terraced rice fields; and the point of Duoyishu, including the villages of Duoyishu, Aichun and Dawazhe. The vast paddy fields with forests, mountains and clouds, make an immense natural painting.

In Yuanyang, the Hani minorities live from 1,400 to 2,000 m above sea level in the mountains, and the climate ismild. The ancestors of the Hanis began clearing the wild lands and turning them into rice paddies into terraces more than 1200 years ago. Hani minorities built 4,653 irrigation canals, of which 622 canals can irrigate more than 3 ha each.

We repique in May, we harvest in September, and we water the rice fields from December. So the best season for photographers is from October to March, and especially in February because all the mountains are covered by multicolored flowers (but you have to dress warm because of the big difference in temperature between morning and evening).


It is a village in western Yunnan province in China, located between the border of Myanmar and the Mekong River, in a breeding region. Baoshan has a long and rich history. Formerly, the village was an important stop on the old southwest silk road.

With a beautiful landscape in the surroundings, the village has retained its traditional and warm appearance. From there, you will be able to see the magnificent view and immerse yourself in the past of the era of the Silk Road.


Tengchong County is one of the most beautiful in western Yunnan. There are many tours to do among volcanoes, hot springs, Laifeng Park, Dieshui River, Longtai and Yunfeng Mountains, State Funeral Tomb, and Heshun, Overseas Chinese Village… It is also a region rich in mineral resources including jade and other precious stones.

Located at the base of Leifeng Mountain, Tengchong County is mainly made up of volcanoes and magmatic soils. There are more than 80 sources of steam, hot water, and hot air. The most famous geothermal sites are the Ruidian Caloric Field, the Shiqiang Hot Springs, the Liuhuang Pond, and the Huanggua and Zaotanghe Springs. They each present different phenomena. There are sources of carbonic acid and sulphur, surrounded by lush vegetation; sources of sulphuric acid, with no vegetation; sources of carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide producing toxic fumes that are fatal to all wildlife; sources of carbonic acid and sulphur, on the other hand, are beneficial for health.

In Laifeng Park, on the mountain of the same name, you can visit a historical museum, a hall of historical relics and a hall of geomorphology. On the north side of Laifeng Mountain is the Tomb of the State Funeral where thousands of Chinese soldiers, victims of the Sino-Japanese war, were buried. The Triple Cloud Ladder and the Taoist temple, located halfway up Yunfeng Mountain, are also sites not to be missed.


Located on the border with Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar, the Xishuangbanna region is the most tropical region for any trip to China. With its forests, lush jungle, sugarcane fields, bamboo and beautiful minority villages, you could think of yourself in any country in Southeast Asia. But it’s still China, the Han here account for 30% of the local population. The remaining 70% are made up of the many minorities present, such as the majority Bai, or the Hani, Lahu, Yi, Bulang, Jinuo or Yao. 

When you arrive in the capital of Xishuangbanna, head to the surrounding countryside, to discover during a hike or a day exploration these wonderful minorities and their beautiful villages and markets !

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