For most of its history Xishuangbanna existed as an autonomous state on the remote southern periphery of China, run by the same Dai family since the 12th century. Lying in the tropical zone, on the northern rim of Southeast Asia, with flora and fauna not only unlike the rest of China, but even unique in Yunnan province, it has had close ethnic and cultural relations with its neighbors in Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. The valleys are home to the Dai nationality, while several ethnic minorities inhabit the hills. Xishuangbanna: the Tropics of Yunnan narrates the history and development of the Dai people, their culture, society and religion, from ancient times through the period of incorporation into the Chinese state. It also covers the characteristics of the lifestyle, culture and celebrations of the peoples of the mountains, as well as the economic and political changes of recent times and their effects on both hill and plain.