After Britain's 1852 annexation of lower Burma lucrative trade with China through its back-door seemed more than a distant possibility. But after a successful first mission up the Irrawaddy and into Yunnan in 1868, the second British mission six years later ended in tragedy.
Yuanyang county, south of the Red River in the province's southeast, is famous for its Hani rice-terraces. With its splendid vistas and ethnic mix it is also a great area for hiking. Here we describe a moderate day-hike starting at the market-town of Niujiaozhai, passing through Yi and Hani villages and ending with stunning sunset vistas over the rice-terraces of Longshuba.
Western missionaries were not always welcome in Yunnan. And when in 1867 they opened a mission in the upper Mekong valley, on the gates of Tibet, they incurred the wrath of Tibet's rulers.
With the Bird and Flower Market and the Muslim Quarter fallen, little remains of 'Lao Kunming', the characterful old town of former times. Now it is all high-rises, wide avenues, chain-shops. Everywhere? No, a small part of Kunming is holding out...
Did the great Venetian traveller reach Yunnan? Almost certainly not, but still his accounts are the first words Europeans heard about this far-away region.
Heijing is a small town in the northern Chuxiong mountains. Salt once made Heijing one of Yunnan's richest towns. Now its architectural splendours are being rediscovered.
The Nujiang Canyon, on Yunnan's western frontier, was until the 1930s a blank area on the map that not even Chinese troops dared to enter. In 1905 two British explorers made the first foray into this land of the Black Lisu.
The Wumeng Mountains' bright red soil, the buckwheat's yellow and Yunnan's dramatic skies make the region around Dongchuan a paradise for photographers.
As villages go, Zhizuo could hardly be more remote. Some 70km from the county town, first along a winding mountain road, then on a deeply rutted track without public transport: even in the dry season it takes several hours and a bit of stamina to reach. Yet, at least on the first full moon of the year, the effort is worth it, as Zhizuo holds one of Yunnan's most colourful festivals, the Dress Competition Festival or Caizhuangjie 赛装节.
In China even the 'old towns' are new. Under the 古镇, or ancient town, moniker old towns are razed and their population driven out to make space for sanitized versions of Chinese history that drive the tourist dollar.
When in April 2017 guesthouses and restaurants around western Yunnan's Erhai Lake were suddenly summarily ordered closed until further notice, big character slogans also began proclaiming: "Protecting Erhai: The Seven Big Activities" 保护洱海七大行动. The slogan suggests that the closure of tourist facilities is just one part of a wider campaign to clean up the Erhai environment.
The history of maps in Yunnan began more than a thousand years ago. But it was the Jesuits who revolutionised mapping in China, producing the first accurate maps of the provinces, including remote Yunnan.
Until the middle of last century, Shaxi was a flourishing village on the caravan road to Tibet. The following decades made it a place that history forgot. Now Shaxi is undergoing an award-winning restoration.
Ask for the Watersplashing Festival, or Poshuijie 泼水节, and everyone will tell you to go to Jinghong, capital of Yunnan's Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous Region: the 'biggest and best' Dai celebrations to mark their New Year are taking place there. And big it is. Thousands of Han Chinese and foreign tourist flock to Jinghong every year. Jinghong's Poshuijie certainly is big -- and very commercial. If big crowds and big events are your thing, go to Jinghong.
Jim Goodman, veteran researcher and writer on Yunnan and its people, has just republished his 1997 book "Children of the Jade Dragon: the Naxi and Yi of Northwest Yunnan". In its new preface he looks back at the changes the last twenty years have brought.
Bai 白族话 is the language spoken by the Bai people 白族 in the Dali area. While Chinese has become the lingua franca, Bai is still actively spoken by many, particularly older people, but it does not have a native written form and comes in many dialects. Here we list the available resources for learning this difficult language.