The average elevation of Yunnan is 1,980 metres (6,500 ft.). This rich geographical variation and remoteness lead to one of the highest concentrations of plant species and ethnic diversity in China. Many cultural enclaves are shielded from the dominant Han culture.
Their presence are marked with clear visual distinctions, from the way they speak, dress, to the dwelling they maintain. This cultural diversity coupled with its complex terrain makes Yunnan a favorite subject among Chinese traditional literature and folklore.
The beauty of this Dali kingdom, as described by Jin Yong, blends fantasy with snippets of historical facts into a world rivalling Garden of Eden and Skuhavati in purity and spirituality.
Upon entering the region, Liang’s army begin to suffer from diseases and raids from tribal guerillas. Strange sights and unusual landscapes induced fear among the army and challenged their morale. Eventually, through Liang’s military prowess and knowledge of the nature, he navigated successfully through the hostile territory and led his army to victory. He prevailed and won the loyalty of the tribal leader Meng Huo by capturing and releasing him seven times in a row.
One work in particular, the Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils, tells a story about a prince of the Dali Kingdom in Yunnan region. The beauty of this Dali kingdom, as described by Jin Yong, blends fantasy with snippets of historical facts into a world rivalling Garden of Eden and Skuhavati in its purity and spirituality. Jin Yong’s ability to blur imagination and reality greatly expanded Yunnan’s mystical allure to generations of readers ever since his first publication in the 1950s.
With a history going back more than 1,000 years, Lijiang Old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once a central hub for trade routes in the southwestern part of China.
One such village situate in a valley in the Hengduan mountain range flanked by magnificent rice terrace and narrow dirt roads. It features irrigation system inhabited by a type of ray-finned fish referred by the locals as Nukian. A small restaurant is located in one of the wooden houses beside the terrace. On that particular day, they served Nukian fish, wild vegetables, and herbs harvested earlier in the morning; all of it is deceivingly simple and incredibly fresh.
Like many other historically significant landmarks in China, Lijiang Old Town is witnessing an influx of tourists. The growth of a tourism industry in recent years have displaced a portion of its original inhabitants. Nonetheless, many of the Nakhi people, the primary ethnic group in the region, still resides in the areas of Old Town secluded and protected from the busier streets of commercial establishments.
Enriched by a rich history celebrating the beauty of the region, Yunnan is fast becoming one of the trendiest tourist destinations witnessing double-digit growth rates in its tourism sector.
With the Chinese tourism sector gradually opening its door to investments by foreign tour operators, it is likely to see more infrastructures dedicated to the support of foreign travellers who wishes to visit Yunnan in the near future.
Accompanying this increased commercialization, however, comes increased accessibility. With effort and patience, one should find it not difficult to cut through the facade to build meaningful experiences.