Kunming History

Prehistoric Time

Although the existing Kunming City is just 2,400 years old, the earliest activities of human beings in this region can be traced back to over 30,500 years ago. In the light of archaeological finds, primitive people settled in the area around the current Dianchi Lake in the Neolithic period. Apart from agricultural production, these primitive people also earned their living by fishing, hunting and stock raising. Therefore, the Dianchi region is also considered to be one of the important cradles of humankind. 

Dian Kingdom

 
Bronze Coin Container (476BC-221BC)
A round the time of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 B.C.-221 B.C.), an alliance of the tribes dotted around Dianchi founded a strong slave state called the Dian Kingdom. And, the supreme ruler of the kingdom was named King Dian. At the end of the Warring States Period (476 B.C.-221 B.C.), those tribes were conquered by the Chu State, the general of which became the King Dian later. It is the first record of the central Chinese civilization being introduced into the Dianchi region. Coming to the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.B-24), the Emperor Wu set up Yizhou Shire here and authorized the King Dian to rule the Dian Kingdom as before. The current Kunming City was just a small prefecture then, called Guchang County under the control of the Yizhou Shire. However, the former Guchang County is, undoubtedly, the first city built within the current urban area of Kunming City.

It is worth mentioning that the various kind of bronze vessels made in this period have gained high praise. Either for their workmanship or in their pattern and color, the bronze vessels discovered in the sites of the Dian Kingdom can compare with those ones made in the Central Plains. As a result, it is said that the first peak of the Kunming's civilization appeared in the Dian Kingdom.

The Self-development of the Dian Region

 
Bronze artifacts in Yunnan Museum
During the time that the Kingdom of Shu (215-263) in the Three Kingdom Period (220-228) started the continuous wars with the other two strong kingdoms, the wealthy Dian region, as well as the areas of the west Guizhou and the southwest Sichuan, became Shu's powerful base. Moreover, this region had also received rapid and solid development after the Shu's Prime Minister, Zhuge Liang, unified the ethnic minorities and carried out a series of strict disciplines.

However, due to the incapability and unrest of the later Jin Dynasty (265-420), the Dian region was, in effect, controlled by the strong local Family Cuan. In the early Sui Dynasty (581-618), Dian was one of several prosperous and rich regions in southwest China. However, the Sui's Emperors declared and waged warfare against the Family Cuan who suffered a gradual decline from then on. At the same time, the Emperor founded Kunzhou City here. In 746-747 of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Family Cuan was captured by its strong neighbor Nanzhao State which set up its political center in the Dali City and gained much support from the Tang's Emperor.

The Further Development in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties

 
Cultural relics showing civilization in history
After the fall of the Family Cuan, the Nanzhao, Dali and some other states controlled the Dian region successively. Because those states' economic and political centers were in Dali City, Kunming City lost its dominant position in the region for a long time. In the year 1254, the Mongolians, who built the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), defeated the Dali State and moved the center of the Dian region from Dali to Kunming again. During the whole Yuan Dynasty, the city developed to be more flourishing and richer so that it attracted a great number of overseas travelers such as the noted Marco Polo.

However, the majority of Kunming residents were descended from backward barbarian tribes until the arrival of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In order to counterbalance the population, the government organized a great number of Han immigrants and soldiers to go to the Dian region. In 1382, the local government started to reconstruct the city, a new wall was built around the city. It was just the preliminary layout of the current Kunming City. Apart from that, a number of villages around the city proper were also built for the soldiers to live in. Nowadays, these villages are some of the featured toscen in the suburbs.

The Unsteady Development in the Qing Dynasty

 
Sculpture of Vajri
When the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) of the Manchu captured the imperial throne, the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty escaped to Kunming and continued his kingship, existing in name only. In 1659, Wu Sangui - a general and then a rebel of the Qing Dynasty, overcame the city and governed the whole of Yunnan atrociously. Even to the 1910's, due to the corruption of the later Qing Dynasty, the city was inevitably occupied by foreign invaders. During these periods, the local economy suffered grievously.

In December 1949, Kunming City was liberated peacefully and confirmed as the capital of Yunnan Province. Now, it is a beautiful tourist destination, being full of the exotic flavors of southwest China.

media recommendationfeatured on media