Last Build Date: Mon, 05 Dec 2016 04:44:53 +0800
Fri, 02 Dec 2016 14:10:00 +0800China's Belt and Road initiative radiates out from the Middle Kingdom in nearly every direction. However, perhaps nowhere are the country's ambitious plans for regional trade and economic dominance more concentrated than in Yunnan. The latest step in transforming the provincial capital Kunming into a transportation hub for South and Southeast Asia got underway November 30 in the form of a freight train.
Thu, 01 Dec 2016 14:55:00 +0800For a decade, GoKunming users have chosen their favorite Spring City businesses, institutions and travel destinations. The calendar is quickly approaching 2017, which means it's time once again to start the nomination process for what is now the tenth incarnation of the Best of Kunming reader survey. In this year's version of the awards, winner's from 2015-16 are automatically entered as candidates, while all other establishments will be selected by GoKunming users. Last year we had a few...ahem...voting irregularities thanks to WeChat. To ensure this doesn't affect the overall results, final voting across eleven website categories will be entirely separate from the four WeChat categories. Official voting will begin December 8 and run through December 31. The final results will then by announced at the beginning of 2017 during our annual awards ceremony at the lovely ACMEC conference center atop Jinding Mountain. The categories for 2016-2017 are: GoKunming Categories Best Chinese Cuisine Last year's winner: Tusheng Shiguan Best International Cuisine Last year's winner: The Park Bar and Grill Best Café Last year's winner: Salvador's Coffee House Best Bar Last year's winner: O'Reilly's Irish Pub • Beer Garden Best Night Club Last year's winner: Club Vervo Best Hotel Last year's winner: Green Lake Hotel Best Guesthouse Last year's winner: Lost Garden Guesthouse & Restaurant Best Mandarin School Last year's winner: Kunming College of Eastern Language and Culture Best Gym New category for 2016-2017 Best Kunming Attraction Last year's winner: Green Lake Park Best Yunnan Travel Destination Last year's winner: Dali Old Town WeChat Categories Best English School Last year's winner: Lighthouse International English Best Spa New category for 2016-2017 Best Kunming Attraction Last year's winner: Western Hills Best Yunnan Travel Destination Last year's winner: Puzhehei Submitting nominations We have prepared an online survey to make the nomination process more accessible and interactive. The first entrant in each category is already decided based on last year's results, and we ask that you enter the name of your nominee or nominees in the spaces provided. If you wish to leave a category open, simply type "N/A". To complete the survey, follow the directions below: • Find your favorite businesses in the GoKunming Listings section • Access the survey here and fill it out using your candidates' name as it appears in either English or Chinese in the GoKunming listings • If one or more of your candidates are not currently in our system, please help us to add their listings by sending us their information, as well as the single category for which you are nominating each one, to the GoKunming Contact Form The seven establishments receiving the most reader nominations in each category will make the final cut, joining last year's honorary nominees, for a grand total of eight nominees in each group. Thank you to everyone in advance for your input and participation![...]
Tue, 29 Nov 2016 15:00:00 +0800The recently released memoir Travels through Dali with a leg of ham begins with a paean to the hind legs of pigs. This may seem like an odd start to a book. But for Yunnan-born businesswoman turned author Zhang Mei (张玫), it properly frames what is to come over the course of what turns out to be equal parts autobiography, travelogue, cookbook and ode to one of southwest China's most intriguing areas. Books published in English about Yunnan province are typically, and understandably, written by foreigners. As such, they tend to take the outsider's approach. This tradition dates back as far as Marco Polo — who described aspects of Yunnan culture under Mongol rule in his Book of the Marvels of the World. The practice gained serious momentum in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as plant hunters, foreign legations and missionaries arrived in force. While many of these accounts are utterly fascinating, they lack a local perspective. Travels through Dali, then, is a refreshing addition to the already voluminous collection of books available about Yunnan. It is written by a local, someone born and raised in the province, albeit one with a very circuitous story. Zhang grew up in Dali in the 1970s and 80s, and then departed to chase her dreams of attaining a graduate degree in business at Harvard University. Upon matriculation, her eventual return to China did not include immediately resettling in Yunnan. Instead, she founded travel company WildChina and set down roots in Beijing. However, over the course of her career, Zhang could not stop thinking about one thing that defined home, and to her was quintessentially Yunnan — that cured ham. Zhang was born in Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, a place known to decades of foreign backpackers and a new generation of Chinese tourists as the gateway to the rugged and spectacular mountains of Yunnan province. It is a place she left and then returned to many years later, and a place she completely fell in love with all over again after a long separation. That love of place is central to Travels through Dali — as important as her travel companion, the ham Zhang buys and then carts around with her over the course of the book. Through nearly 200 pages of storytelling, recipes and wonderfully shot photos, she crisscrosses the counties of Dali, meeting up with people who all have interesting backstories of their own. Through her journey, Zhang introduces readers to the ancient salt towns of Yunlong County (云龙县), the bucolic simplicity of Weishan (巍山) and the sprawling histories of both Dali (大理) and Jianchuan (剑川). Along the way, she drops in on locals who truly care about where they are from, how tradition and history are preserved, and how to properly cook ham. For those unacquainted with Yunnan in general and Dali in particular, Travels through Dali is a deluge of information. Nonetheless, it is a decidedly friendly and engaging deluge, and the recipes on offer represent some of the best kept culinary traditions from a province overflowing with them. One small knock on the book as whole — and it is a trivial one — is that it could have contained more. More of the local feel that gives the book its essence. Zhang has found many compelling people to speak, cook and dine with, and the book at twice the length would still capture the imagination. Her own story is also captivating while the cast of characters, the breadth of history and depth of customs and beliefs explored in the book is ambitious. A small example is the anecdote of Old Zhao, a 65 year-old man who is full of stories but lives in a tiny dying village in Yunlong County. Old Zhao's story in the book is short — covering only two pages — but it is touchingly told, and encapsulates the author's overall mood of nostalgia expressed throughout Travels through Dali. Zhang is at once celebratory and faintly melancholic, because for her, and many who call Yunnan home, so much of the rich and magnetic past is slowly fading away. Lucki[...]
Fri, 25 Nov 2016 11:55:00 +0800In a fit of superb investigative journalism rarely seen out of Yunnan, the Spring City Evening News made waves across China this week when it published an exposé on child trafficking. The story, complete with interviews and videos, accuses hundreds of clothing factories in Jiangsu province of illegally employing thousands of teenage migrant workers from Yunnan under appalling conditions.
Thu, 24 Nov 2016 14:25:00 +0800The 2016 Yuansheng Indigenous Music and Dance Festival will be held in Kunming November 28 through December 2, bringing together over 200 rarely seen traditional performers to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Yunnan's ethnic minority cultures. With the festival nearly upon us, Joshua Dyer, owner of website Tea Horse, sat down with Yuansheng founder Liu Xiaojin (刘晓津) to learn more about the activities of the Yuansheng Foundation (源生坊), and what to expect from the festival. Tea Horse: What inspired you to found Yuansheng and when did it get started? Liu Xiaojin: The Yuansheng Foundation was formed to continue the work of its predecessor, a rural folk arts school called the Yunnan Ethnic Minority Institute [云南民族文化传习馆], founded by the classical composer Tian Feng [田丰]. Even by the late 80s Tian Feng realized that entire categories of folk music and dance were being lost with the passing of old masters who never had to opportunity to teach their art to younger generations. Thus he founded the Minority Institute in 1994, using private funding to provide stipends to teachers and students from the Yi, Hani, Naxi, and Tibetan ethnic groups. I first became involved in the school in 1997 because I was shooting a documentary film about Tian Feng and his work. I documented the progress of the school through seven years of shooting, eventually releasing the completed film Chronicle of the Minority Institute [传习馆春秋]. Later, the school ran into legal and financial problems and had to shut down in 2000, and Tian Feng died shortly thereafter. At that point, I founded Yuansheng to continue his work, but in a different format. Rather than run a school with a single campus, I used donor funding, initially from the Ford Foundation, to pay traditional master artists to run classes in the villages where they lived. Starting with the dozen artists that taught at the Minority Institute, we slowly expanded to our current roster of more than 200 artists. TH: Tell us about your artists support program? What do the artists do in exchange for support? Liu: We fund our artists with a stipend so they can run classes in their home villages — often divided into age groups. We work with our artists to develop a curriculum so we can assess student progress, and provide cash rewards to students who succeed in mastering the most critical components of the tradition, whether it be music or dance. Our sponsored artists also participate in performance tours, and in the Yuansheng Festival, which gives them recognition beyond their home villages. TH: Has the program been effective at preserving traditional arts? Liu: All of these elements of the program were developed to address particular problems that were interfering with the successful transmission of these arts. It is not just a matter of supporting artists, they also need respect, and they need to exist within a community that values their art. For example, the artists themselves asked us to find performance opportunities for them outside their communities, which gives them a sense of being respected as artists, and provides a sense of pride in their traditions. The local communities also take pride in their traditional artists when they see how well they are received by the outside world. This in turn attracts more young people to study the tradition and take an interest in their culture. We are pleased that young people have now successfully mastered dozens of traditions that were once in danger of dying out. TH: What can the audience expect from this year's Yuansheng Festival in Kunming, and how is it different from other ethnic minority performances the audience might have seen? Liu: First of all, there is simply no other way to see these diverse traditions in a single place over the span of just a few days. It has taken us over twenty years to develop this roster of artists. They are not performers you would simply run into if [...]
Wed, 23 Nov 2016 15:10:00 +0800Several dozen musicians, food vendors, bartenders and about 300 people turned out to DT Bar on the afternoon and evening of November 19 for the Have a Heart fundraiser. The weather was perfect, the police reasonable and the purpose for all the hubbub couldn't have been better.
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:30:00 +0800This Saturday, November 26, the Kunming Rugby Football Club (KRFC) host their fourth annual rugby tournament in Kunming. Men's and women's teams from Kunming, Chengdu, and Chongqing will compete for the Spring City Cup — a Yunnan-appropriate engraved yantong (咽痛), perhaps better known as a bong.
Tue, 22 Nov 2016 15:55:00 +0800If you are going to run 168.5 kilometers in under 36 hours, it might as well be through the sun-drenched autumn hills of western Yunnan. For an international group of 57 hardcore endurance athletes, that was exactly the plan as they gathered recently in Tengchong (腾冲) for the 2016 Mt Gaoligong Ultra. Run November 18-19, the ultramarathon's difficulty level was augmented by 8,800 meters of total elevation change. Competitors were required to pass through 14 checkpoints as they traversed open fields, forested mountains and cobbled village streets along the racecourse. For many of the racers, it was their first time in China. And although the ultramarathon was itself being held for the first time, many of the participants said it was one of the most well-organized and welcoming distance running events they had ever experienced. The race began at 8am under a huge and ornate new gate leading into the city of Tengchong, but not before the runners, organizers and volunteers stopped for a group picture on the gorgeous Ming-era Zhuangyuan Bridge (状元桥). The span was an apt place for a pre-race photo. The title 'zhuangyuan' is the title historically given to the person who scored the highest on China's imperial service examination. Today it has become synonymous with 'the best in a given field'. From the starting line, the race soon crossed into a section of open meadows, some with ancient graves while others were dotted with scattered groups of grazing cattle, goats and ponies. The latter of these animals are apropos of at least part of Tengchong's historical importance. The town and outlying hamlet of Heshun (和顺) were both important stops on the Tea-Horse Road, a network of trading trails dating back to at least the year 700. It was through this cultural heritage that the race path wound, eventually heading up into the mountains and through a more modern legacy. Tengchong and the surrounding area were the scenes of horrific World War II battles, the scars of which can still be seen on certain mountainsides. In addition to its historical legacy, today Tenchong's Gaoligong Mountains are home to one of China's best preserved stands of wildlife. American-born runner Marcia Zhou — who finished first among women — told race organizers she saw snakes and possibly a bear while running. Locals turned out in droves to watch the race, as the spectacle of people both willing and able to run for more than 20 hours straight is a rare sight anywhere in the world. Among the finishers were 71-year old American Bob Becker and Gong Mingcheng (龚明程) from China. Catra Corbett, who was running in her one-hundred-twenty-sixth ultramarathon, had to pull out of the race due to injury. In the end, the race was won by two men, Dan Lawson and Mick Thwaites, who crossed the finish line in Heshun simultaneously. Their time? A somewhat astonishing 21 hours, 16 minutes and 13 seconds. Just after he completed the course, American competitor Jimmy Dean Freeman summed up the experience, saying, "You either have a good race or a good story...Very rarely do you have both. The last hour is the 'golden hour'. Runners never know it they'll make it." Putting a perfect bow on the two-day event, Becker explained to reporters that 73 years ago his father flew the infamous 'Hump over the Himalayas' during World War II. "He flew 35 missions in a B-25 Mitchell bomber into Burma and China. I believe my father flew directly above the area where we are running in support of the Chinese." Images: Yereth Jansen[...]
Mon, 21 Nov 2016 13:40:00 +0800Fighting between the Myanmar military and several different guerrilla factions erupted over the weekend, claiming at least eight lives. The renewed violence was especially fierce near and inside the Burmese border city of Muse, and forced an unknown number of people across the border into neighboring China. Representatives from the office of Aung San Suu Kyi — Myanmar's state counsellor and defacto leader — confirmed at least eight people were killed in the Shan State city of Muse on November 20. The casualties, according to Channel NewsAsia, included "one soldier, three police officers, one pro-government militia fighter and three civilians". All of the dead were killed either by gunfire or mortar explosions. Fighting erupted not only in Muse but also in a dozen other rural locations nearby. The hostilities are reportedly between the Burmese military and a loose confederation of ethnic armed groups made up of soldiers from the Kachin Independence, the Arakan, the Ta'ang National Liberation and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance armies. Each of these entities occupy land in Myanmar's northeast and have individual, long-standing but similar grievances with the government of Myanmar. Typically, these disputes involve claims of human rights abuses, independence or self-rule movements, indigenous rights, natural resource management and accusations of illegal trafficking in narcotics, people and raw materials such as gems and timber. In many cases, sporadic fighting between rebels and government forces has been going on for decades. Muse sits across the Shweli River — known in China as the Longchuan (龙川江) — from the Chinese city of Ruili (瑞丽). On Sunday, the shelling of Muse was audible in Ruili, and plumes of smoke could be seen rising from over the border. According to a source in the area who wished to remain anonymous, several hundred refugees have attempted to cross the river in search of safety. The source also says the military presence in Chinese cities and towns near the border has increased considerably over the past 24 hours. Makeshift refugee camps — built with tents left over from similar past Myanmar incursions — are hastily being built on the Chinese side of the border. People arriving at the camps are being given bottled water and food. The violence pushing people away from Muse coincided with three separate explosions in Myanmar's one-time capital, Yangon, several hundred kilometers away. However, the bombings were disavowed by spokesman for the guerrilla groups. This most recent bloodshed highlights the tenuous control Myanmar's nascent democracy exerts in its north and western border states. Sadly, the new bouts of fighting come only three weeks after peace negotiations were held between the Burmese government and a separate rebel group based in Wa State. Images: WeChat[...]
Fri, 18 Nov 2016 13:30:00 +0800Yunnan Baiyao (云南白药), like many of China's gigantic state-owned enterprises (SOEs), is currently undergoing a somewhat tumultuous restructuring process. Executives are attempting to reorganize the company in an effort to transform it into what Beijing is fond of calling a "mixed ownership" entity. However, the process is behind schedule and stock trading — initially suspended in July — will remain interrupted until at least the new year, according to a recent corporate press release. Details of what may be holding up the resumption of trades in Yunnan Baiyao stock remain vague. The press release reads in part that because the groups involved in the restructuring "continue to have unresolved issues and have yet to finalize a contract", the hold on trading will continue until at least December 31. At issue is how to move the pharmaceutical giant away from complete state control, instead ceding at least some operational authority to public sector managers. And this is where it gets a bit confusing. Yunnan Baiyao Group (云南白药集团), the company that manufactures products, cannot currently come to terms with the private equity investment partners of Yunnan Baiyao Holdings (白药控股). Negotiations between the two factions are being mediated, or perhaps directed, by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council (SASAC). In the meantime, the company's stock is in limbo, resting unchanged at 69.23 yuan on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange — a position it has occupied for the past four months. Partial privatization of the kind Yunnan Baiyao is undergoing is high on Beijing's economic policy checklist. China has an estimated 150,000 SOEs holding more than 100 trillion yuan (US$14.6 trillion) in assets. The institutions also combine to employ nearly 30 million people, according to Xinhua. Reforming these behemoths in the name of increased efficiency, higher profits and lessened corruption was first mentioned at a national level in 2013. A pilot program involving China National Building Materials Group and China National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation — both of them massive SOEs — began the following year. Premier Li Keqiang, explaining the impetus for such reforms in fairly blunt language during a 2015 speech, said: [quote]State-owned enterprises are an important foundation for national development, but are in urgent need of reforms as languid mechanisms and poor management have resulted in declining profits...These state firms should improve their competitiveness, press ahead with merg[ing] and revamping, and waste no time dealing with 'zombie' enterprises that are a burden to the economy[/quote] Yunnan Baiyao has continued to perform well during 2016 despite uncertainty over corporate restructuring and the stock freeze. Once sued over its 'secret' and possibly toxic ingredients in its eponymous medicines, the company posted earnings of 16.2 billion yuan (US$2.4 billion) over the first three quarters of this year. Executives cite sales growth in their bandage, toothpaste and antiseptic mouthwash lines, as well as recent investment portfolio diversification into China's real estate and commodities markets. Image: Flickr[...]