History of Kunming

Mother Earth Travel > China > Kunming > History

Archeological evidence appears to indicate that Kunming has been inhabited for approximately 2,000 years. Records can be traced back to 722-481 BC when the first Chinese began inhabiting the area. Following this time, the area surrounding present-day Kunming has been witness to a succession of various kingdoms and dynasties.

The Kingdom of Dian was first established around Kunming during the Warring States period, and the township of Yizhoujun was established in 109 BC. The Nanzhao Kingdom took over Yizhoujun, making it one of its capitals. However, in 1274, the Mongols under Genghis Khan, captured the area (and pretty much most of China) as part of their quest to rule the world. Next, came the Ming Dynasty who claimed Kunming, then known as Yunnanfu. In the 19th century, tumultuous events marked the city due to several rebellious attacks against the reigning Manchus by the Muslims, led by the Sultan of Dali. This stream of violence and destruction was to continue for about fifteen years until the rebellion was finally overthrown.

During the turn of the century, the imperial forces of Britain and France made their way to Kunming, both of whom wanted to exploit the area's natural resources. This paved the path for Kunming's development into modernism. During the Second World War, Kunming proved to be invaluable for the Allied Forces and Nationalists fighting against the Japanese. Because it was located far from the Japanese forces, Kunming became the city to supply aid and supplies for the troops. Supplies were carried to troops on the famous Burma Road. Munitions factories sprang up in Kunming, as well as a thriving black market. With an influx of Chinese refugees from the east fleeing the Japanese, Kunming expanded as a city, establishing itself as an industrial and manufacturing base.

Under the reign of Mao Zedong, Kunming faced socially turbulent years during the Cultural Revolution. Many individuals were persecuted, exiled and tortured by the fanatical Red Guards. Many cultural relics were destroyed as well, although a few temples and buildings managed to survive. Geographically isolated from the government power base up north, Kunming and Yunnan province has always stood apart from the rest of China. It was often the place to send people into exile during the revolution.

One of the major developed cities in Southwest China, modern-day Kunming is thriving. Recently, it has seen the growth of its tourism industry and increasing foreign investment. The city is rapidly modernizing with more office and residential buildings being built everyday.