Kunming

Location : located between 10210' - 10340', 2422' -2633' east longitude and north latitude
Neighboring Areas :
Sichuan Province and Guizhou Province; Tibet Autonomous Region and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Physical Features :
average altitude of 400 above sea level, surrounded by hills and facing the beautiful "Dian Chi" lake to the south
Population :
3.89 million
Urban Population :
1.69 million
Area :
21,018 sq km
Nationalities : Han, Hui, Manchu, Yi, Bai, Dai, Zhuang, Hani, Naxi and Mongolian
History :
inhabited by Chinese for 2000 years; remaining a remote outpost until the 8th century, thereafter, becoming a secondary capital of the kingdom of Nanzhao which centered to the northwest of it at Dali, obtained wide fame in the Ming dyansty
Climatic Features :
low-latitude monsoon climate with sunlight of 2250 hours, frost-free of 230 days; no bitter cold in winter or no extreme hot in summer
Average Temperature :
15.1C
Rainfall : annual average of 1075mm
Products :
grain, wheat, horsebean, corn, potato and fruits such as peach, apple, orange, grape, and chestnut

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Black Dragon Pool

Black Dragon Pool is situated at the foot of Longquan Hill in the northern outskirts of Kunming, 17 kilometers from the downtown area. Surrounded by towering old trees and bamboo groves, the pool has never got dry even in the years of drought. Legend goes that there used to be ten violently destructive dragons doing wrong in the world. About 750 A.D., Lu Dongbin, a famous Taoist priest in the Tang dynasty, suppressed nine dragons and left the tenth, a black dragon, remained in the pool. Hence the name Black Dragon Pool.

Came into being in 1394, Black Dragon Pool is divided into two parts by a stone bridge. The color of the water in the south pool is green and the north yellow. Although the water of these two parts meets each other, fish in one pool never visits the other one. There are two Taoist temples in Black Dragon Pool, the lower one is Black Dragon Palace and the upper Longquan Temple. The Black Dragon Palace was first built in 1394 during the Ming dynasty. Enshrined in the temple are the Dragon King, god and goddess of thunder, god of rain and god of wind. Built in a two-courtyard structure, it provides a quiet and comfort place for relaxation.

Longquan Temple is a restored Ming dynasty temple, which used to be the largest Daoist (Taoist) center in southwest China. The temple, perched on a hillside overlooking the pool, is built on three levels. The first contains many famous ancient trees in its courtyards, in which a Tang dynasty plum tree, over 1000 years old, is the most famous one. The second level building now serves as an art gallery and the top level is a restored temple building. Main buildings in Longquan Temple include Thunder-Lightning-Deity Hall, the Hall of the North Pole, Sanqing Hall, the Hall of the Jade Emperor and some other halls for worshipping Daoist immortals. Besides, the Black Dragon Pool owns the greatest plum garden in China, in which over 87 kinds of plums were planted.

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Daguan Park

Daguan Park, located 7 kilometers west of Kunming, is known for its longest antithetical couplet in China. First built in 1682 by a monk, the park once served as a Guan in (Avalokistesvara's) Temple. In 1690, large-scale construction was carried out with flowers, trees, ponds, causeways, pavilions and halls added to it. The park provides a spectacular view across sparkling Dianchi Lake to the distant Western Hills. Among the ancient architectures in this park, the three-storey Daguan Pavilion, which is decorated with flying eaves and splendid paintings, is the highlight of Daguan Park.

On the pavilion's lakeside facade hang two 5-meter-long tablets on which a couplet was written by Sun Ranweng, a famous poet of the Qing dynasty. Consisting of 180 Chinese characters, this couplet is reputed as the longest couplet throughout China. The upper scroll depicts the beautiful scenery of Kunming, while the lower scroll contains the author's comments on some important historical events in Yunnan. Personal feelings and beautiful sceneries mix together in this couplet, adding more charm to this park. Standing on the pavilion, people could have an overview of the park and the sceneries nearby.

On every Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Cake Festival), as custom, Kunming locals normally go to Daguan Park to enjoy flowers and the full moon. Deeply immersed in thick moonlight, the park looks more enchanting than ever.

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Dianchi Lake

Dianchi Lake, which formed based upon a fault crossing the central Yunnan Plateau, is located at the foot of the Western Hills, southwest of Kunming. Occupying an area of 300 sqkm, the lake, 150 km in circumference and 40 km from north to south, is the sixth largest fresh water lake in China. Being a highland lake with an elevation of 1885 meters, the lake is also reputed as a "Pearl on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau.

The lake, capable of tossing up violent storms, is especially beautiful when the dawn or dusk comes. People describe the lake's moods as "virility seasoned with tenderness." High rectangular sails ribbed with bamboo battens float on the water and gently sway in the breeze. The shoreline of Dianchi Lake is dotted with small fishing hamlets surrounded by fertile fields.

Since the ancient times, Dianchi Lake has been a touring spot. Sailing on the lake, visitors can fully enjoy the beauty of the highland lake. In recent years, the water in Dianchi Lake has been severely polluted and the lake now is groaning for effective ecological and legal protection. Since the 1990s, the government has dealt with the pollution of the lake and people hope that in the near future, a clean Dianchi Lake would appear again.

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Golden Temple

Golden Temple, located on Mingfeng Hill, 11km northeast of Kunming, is also known as Taihe Palace (the Hall of Supreme Harmony) and Tongwa Temple (the Bronze Tile Temple). 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-god Zishi, who was supposed to live at the northern extremity of the universe. They built a copper temple to represent his palace there, which gleam like gold under sunlight. Hence the name.

After three decades, the temple was transported intact to Mt. Jizu, and later in 1670, a new temple, designed by Wu Sangui, was cast to replace the former one. However the temple was destroyed during the Yunnan Muslim rebellion in the mid-19 century. Built 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.

In the Golden Temple is still preserved a double-edged sword with the pattern of the Big Dipper on it, 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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Qiongzhu Temple (Bamboo Temple)

On the wooded slopes of Yu'an Hill, about 12 km northwest of Kunming, stands Bamboo Temple, which is the first temple built after Zen Buddhist had been introduced to Yunnan early in 1279. Legend goes that two princes of Nanzhao Kingdom under the reign of Tang dynasty went hunting in the hills outside Kunming in the year 638. A magic rhinoceros led them deep into a forest where they met a group of silver-haired and ruddy-complexioned monks carrying staves of bamboo. When they were sill in amazement, these monks vanished in a purple cloud, only leaving their walking sticks planted in the ground. These bamboos promptly sprouted leaves and quickly became a bamboo forest. In order to honor the supernatural encounter, the devout brothers built a Buddhist temple here and named it Bamboo Temple.

According to historic record, the temple was first built around 1280 during the reign of Kublai Khan (the first emperor of the Yuan dynasty). It was said that before the Song dynasty, a religious sect of Buddhism, similar to Lamaism in Tibet, was commonly adopted. At the turn of the Song and Yuan dynasties, a famous monk who had studied Buddhism for about 25 years in Central Plains of China preached Buddhism at the Bamboo Temple. With time passing by, the temple became more and more famous in Yunnan as the first Buddhist temple in which Buddhism from the interior of China was introduced.

Burned down and renovated in the 15th century, it was restored from 1883 to 1890. Elaborately designed, the temple is harmonious with the surroundings. It consists of five parts, including Tianwang (Heaven King) Temple, Fanyin Pavilion, Tiantailai Pavilion, Daxiong Temple and Huayan Pavilion.

The highlight of this temple lies in the 500 life-size statues of luohan. These statues were seven years' artistic creations of a famous sculptor, Li Guangxiu from Sichuan and his five apprentices. Before this great task, they had plunged themselves deep into the thick of life to study the images and mental attitude of various people. Distinctive in respective facial expressions and postures, these vivid sculptures were reputed as "a pearl in the treasure house of oriental sculpture". Popular belief claims that, by beginning with any statue and counting down the row to your right as far as the number of your age, you will find a luohan that best exemplifies your inner self.

In the temple there are also many valuable inscriptions and couplets on tablets and pillars, providing information of the history, geography and culture in the 13th and 14th. Now, this temple attracts countless visitors each year.

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Western Hills

Located 15km west of Kunming, Western Hills is a range of four mountains stretching over 40 kilometers along the western shore of Dianchi Lake, looking like a Sleeping Beauty with long tresses trailing away to the south. With an elevation of 1900-2350 meters, Western Hills contains the best scenery and some of the finest temples in the entire region.

Huating Temple (Huating Si)

Built in the 11th century, it used to be a county temple of the Nanzhao Kingdom. Rebuilt in 14th century, it continued to grow and later became the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming. The main temple contains a trinity of gilded lacquer Buddhas seated on lotus thrones. It is characterized by blue hair, august gesture and sumptuous setting. Comparing with the serious Buddha, the 500 luohan on the sidewalls, similar to those in the Bamboo Temple, then appear frivolous and easygoing.

Taihua Temple (Taihua Si)
With an elevation of 2350m, Taihua Temple is located in a deep forest 2 kilometers away from Huating Temple. First built in the Yuan dynasty, it is the oldest temple in Western Hills. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt for several times, and the present one dates back to 1687.

The temple is famous for its rare flowers and trees. Many camellia, magnolia, sweet-scented osmanthus and others trees were planted in and outside the temple, made the temple the best place to enjoy the flowers. The main hall in this temple is Hall of the Precious Hero (Daxiong Baodian), where Buddhas of the Three Ages: Sakyamuni, Maitreys and Kasyapa-matanga are enshrined. Behind the main hall stands an altar to Guanyin. Reputed as Deliverer of Sons, Guanyin is widely enshrined by newlyweds and barren couples who hope to get a male baby.

Sanqing Pavilion (Three Pure Pavilion)
To the south of Huating Temple is Three Purity Pavilion. Different from the former temples, this temple follows Taoist architectural style. Originally built in the early 14th century as a summer resort for a Mongol prince of the Yuan dynasty, the pavilion later was renovated as a Daoist shrine. The two-storey pavilion now serves as a teahouse. Statues of Zhen Wu and Taishang Laojun were enshrined there. A stone carving, depicting a green snake winding around a tortoise stands by the road. Snake and tortoise are symbols of longevity and it is said that one who touches the carving would live longer.

Dragon Gate (Longmen)
Totally cut on a natural precipice, Dragon Gate is the highlight of Western Hills. With an elevation of 2,500 meters, it is the highest temple on the hill.

In 1781, a necessitous Daoist monk named Wu Laiqing, motivated by devotion, began chipping his way up the cliff with hammer and chisel. After his death, two devoted gentlemen, aided by villagers from the foot of the mountain, continued his project. After years' hard work, they finally inched the route precariously upward to a natural cliff-top platform, completing Wu Laiqing's visionary plan in 1853. Many inscriptions and steles are found here and there in Dragon Gate. Near Air Corridor stands an arch on which the characters "Longmen" (Dragon Gate) were inscribed. Looking down from here, one may have a bird's view of Kunming city and Dianchi Lake.

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Yunnan Stone Forest

The Stone Forest, one of China's most famous scenic spots and known as "the most fantastic scenery under heaven", is located in the Lunan Autonomous County of Yi Nationality, about 75 miles southeast of Kunming. It in fact is a massive collection of grey limestone pillars, split by rain water and eroded to their present fanciful forms. Covering a total area of 350 square kilometer, it includes 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, walls, pillars, ganodermas, 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 between 6 ft and 98 ft in the height, these pillars, from a distance, look like a dense forest. No wonder that strolling among them, one would trow that he is in a maze.

Major scenic spots in Stone Forest include Sword Peak Pond, Jade Lake, Lotus Blossom Peak, Big Stone Forest, Naigu Stone Forest, Dadie Waterfall, Zhiyun Cave, Qifeng Cave, Long Lake, Moon Lake, and Peak View Pavilion. As soon as the visitors enter the forest, the "Sword Peak Pond" would burst into your eyesight, with its purely jadeite-colored water. Leaning against the red railing by the pond, 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. Walking on, the numerous fantastic stone peaks, rock pillars, stone flowers, rock levels, and rock flows which appear in succession would make you believe that you are in a kingdom which only exist in fairy tales.

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. If lucky enough, you would be invite to join the dancing and get a good guide at the same time.

The most attractive festival of Sani people is the Torch Festival which comes every lunar year on June 24 th. On that day the entire Stone Forest is permeated with a festival atmosphere. Traditional performances like wrestling, bull-fighting are shown in the forest. When the land is enveloped in a curtain of night, young men, holding torches in their hands run after girls to propose marriage in the light of colored lanterns. This tradition continues for many years and till today it has more fascination for visitors than ever.

About the formations of stone forest, legend goes that the immortals smashed a mountain into a labyrinth for lovers seeking some privacy. While about this unique phenomenon of Stone Forest, modern science gives a reasonable answer. According to geologist's studies and verifications, the Stone Forest was a vast expanse of sea in the carboniferous period of Paleozoic era which commenced 270 million years ago. Later the sea receded due to the movement of the earth's crust and the limestones deposited on the seabed rise up, hence formed the land. Eons of weathering and erosion dissolved the stone and broadened the fissures, and finally molded them into groups of pillars, which from a distance resemble a dense mass of trees.

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  Information provided by China National Tourism Administration.

 

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