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Kunming city and Yunnan province travel information, forums, classifieds, events, nightlife, listings and all the latest news! GoKunming is southwest China's largest English-language website.

Last Build Date: Mon, 23 Jan 2017 21:17:06 +0800


Popular night market locations closed, ban appears permanent

Mon, 23 Jan 2017 13:25:00 +0800

For the past six years Wenhua Xiang (文化巷) and several other central Kunming alleyways have filled up each night with vendors selling a wide assortment of goods. Relations with brick and mortar stores whose owners pay sometimes astronomical rents have been at times testy, while the presence of so many peddlers and shoppers has created something of a daily traffic nightmare. The situation appears to have come to an end this past weekend.

On the afternoons of January 17-20, large groups of chengguan (城管) — or city management officers — began unceremoniously clearing unlicensed merchants off of Wenhua Xiang. Similar actions were reportedly carried out on Yuanxi Lu (圆西路) by the zoo, Sanjia Xiang (三家巷) in the city's west and Tangshuang Lu (塘双路) near the Panlong River. Once the roads cleared, 'patrols' remained in place to make certain no one returned.

The chengguan — who it bears noting have looked the other way regarding street vendor activity for years — confiscated carts, display tables and merchandise. All seized property was immediately deposited in garbage trucks and crushed. Stores and restaurants with any signs, refrigerators, chairs or other effects on the sidewalk suffered the same fate.

Once the streets were clear, collections of urban management officers began playing a recorded announcement declaring "Street vendor activity is no longer allowed". Local newspaper Capital Times also published a public notice, which reads in part that the effort is meant to clear space and alleviate "traffic chaos". In the case of Wenhua Xiang, such concerns stem from nearby Yieryi Dajie being converted into a two-way street, presumably in early March.

The three-day clean-up on Wenhua Xiang saw the eviction of 98 now-illegal street stalls and the ticketing of 146 cars for parking violations. In the future, according to the Capital Times report, those parking on the sidewalk or otherwise blocking pedestrian traffic in the area will be fined 150 yuan. Furthermore, they will have three points deducted from their yearly twelve-point driving record.

Many of the shop owners on Wenhua Xiang are approaching the disappearance of the nightly market with cautious optimism. After years of expressing frustration over lost revenues amid skyrocketing rents at community meetings and impromptu police station gatherings, the situation appears to have finally been resolved. Said one business owner who asked not to be identified, "This has happened in the past right before Spring Festival or big government meetings. We'll just have to wait and see if it's permanent."

Images: Sina blog

Apple opens official flagship store in Kunming

Sat, 21 Jan 2017 14:10:00 +0800

It may appear that everyone in Kunming has an iPhone, but the international behemoth is actually losing market share across the country. In an effort to halt this slide and expand into new markets in China, Apple is launching official stores in cities and provinces that have never had them. Such was the case on the morning of January 21, when the company opened its first ever store in Yunnan.

That this is the consumer electronic giant's first officially maintained store anywhere in the province is not without irony. In Kunming alone there are dozens, if not hundreds, of stores that appear to feature authorized branding and whose layouts and architecture mimic 'real' stores elsewhere in the world down to exacting detail.

The prevalence of such retail outlets saw American blogger Birdabroad make international headlines back in 2011 when she wrote about her experiences at seemingly genuine Apple stores in the Spring City that were in fact not related to the company in any way. GoKunming even wrote a spoof article for April Fool's Day about the phenomenon.

None of this, however, slowed interest for the grand opening of Apple's first legitimate Yunnan store. Doors opened at the Shuncheng Plaza outlet in downtown Kunming at 9am, with a crowd of several hundred on hand to witness and take part in the event.

For Apple executives, such enthusiasm must come as a reassuring indicator, as they have witnessed sales of their phones plummet to less than 11 percent of the total Chinese market. The mainland smartphone market is now dominated by four domestic producers — Huawei, Vivo, Oppo and Xiaomi — with iPhones placing fifth, according to a Bloomberg report.

To dramatize the opening, a giant black tarpaulin had been draped over the round iron and glass facade of the Kunming store for several days leading up to the reveal on Saturday. Modeled on some of the more innovative and ostentatious architectural designs of other branches in China, the Spring City version opens onto a stairway leading underground to the actual showroom.

The Kunming location is at least Apple's thirty-ninth mainland shop. The vast majority of others are clustered along the east coast in megacities such as Shanghai and Beijing — which have five and seven respectively. Shuncheng Plaza managers hope to raise the mall's profile further as a high-end Spring City shopping destination. A Shuncheng employee surnamed Dong told GoKunming she believes Apple's arrival will encourage other international brands to set up shop nearby.

Images: Yereth Jansen

Around Town: Spring Festival 2017 business schedules

Fri, 20 Jan 2017 16:40:00 +0800

As the year of the monkey yields to the year of the rooster, many cafés, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and shops around Kunming will close or otherwise alter their hours. To help keep up, we've contacted local businesses and compiled their holiday schedules before, during and sometimes after the official January 27 through February 2 festival. Any businesses not listed below should feel free to post their schedules in the comment section below. Those listed who may further alter hours can get in touch via the contact form. The GoKunming team would like to wish all of our users a happy and healthy year of the rooster! Cafés Coffee Break closed January 27-29 Falling Blossoms Café closed January 20 - February 28 French Café (Wenlin Jie location) closed February 5-13 Full Cup Café adjusted hours (10am-5pm) January 27 - February 2 Juan'Er Coffee to be decided Lanyard Coffee Shop regular hours Mazagran Café closed indefinitely for move starting January 24 Prague Café (Beichen location) closed January 26 - February 2 Salinger Café closed January 27, adjusted hours (11am-10pm) January 28 - February 3 Slice of Heaven adjusted hours (9am-10pm) January 27 - February 2 TCG Nordica closed January 26 - February 8 Restaurants 1910 La Gare du Sud closed January 28 - February 2 1920 Restaurant and Bar closed January 27 - February 2 As You Like closed January 26 - February 4 Brooklyn Pizzeria closed January 26 - February 7 Cacaja Indian Restaurant closed January 27-29 Camel Restaurant closed January 22 - February 12 Cantina closed January 26 - February 1 Chongqing Cygnet Hotpot closed January 27 Dizzy Panda closed indefinitely for move The Family Restaurant regular hours (book in advance for dinner January 27) Flying Tigers Restaurant regular hours Great Australian Bite closed January 20 - February 4 Guyuan regular hours (book in advance for dinner January 27) Hadiyyah Arabia Restaurant closed January 19 - February 3 Haigeng Wenxin Restaurant closed January 25 - February 2 Heavenly Manna closed January 22 - February 4 Hongdouyuan (all locations) closed January 26 - February 2 Laodianmian 320 Dai Restaurant (Xingyuan Lu location) regular hours Laodianmian 320 Dai Restaurant (Xuefu Lu location) closed January 28 - February 4 Laofangzi regular hours Lost Garden Guesthouse & Restaurant closed January 26 - February 1 Moonlight Corner (Green Lake location) to be decided OSO Italian Restaurant closed January 27 - February 1 The Park Bar and Grill adjusted hours (11am-late) February 27 - April 2 Salvador's Coffee House limited menu + adjusted hours (1030am-1030pm) January 27 - February 2 Shiping Huiguan regular hours, booking recommended Simao Yecaiguan closed January 28 Tusheng Shiguan closed January 25 - February 4 Valhalla Craft Brewery closed January 27 - February 2 Wicker Basket (all locations) closed January 25 - February 5 Yingjiang Dai Restaurant January 28 - February 4 Bars Alei Lounge Club closed January 27-30 Barfly regular hours Camel Bar closed permanently as of January 22 DIVA Lounge & Music to be decided DT regular hours, but closed February 6-21 FuBar to be decided Humdinger closed January 26 - February 1 La Boulange Bakery & Cafe closed January 26 - February 3 Moondog regular hours O'Reilly's Irish Pub (Beichen and Green Lake locations) closed January 23-31 O'Reilly's Irish Pub (Dongfeng Beer Garden) closed January 23 Napa Valley Wine Bar to be decided The Mask closed January 26-30 The Turtle regular hours Vervo Club & Bar closed January 28-29 Markets Carrefour (all locations and delivery) regular hours Green Supermarket adjusted hours (8am-8pm) January 27 - February 2 Laowai's Paradise Deli closed January 25 - February 2 Metro Supermarket (both locations) regular hours Sapore Italia Food Company closed January 25 - February 2 Wal-Mart (all locations) regular hours Vegetable, fruit and meat markets around the city do not necessarily close, although some do. Stocks dwindle significantly during the run-up to Spring Festival, so shop early. Delivery[...]

Getting Away: Yunnan's eerie Wumao Earth Forest

Thu, 19 Jan 2017 12:30:00 +0800

Yunnan's Tulin (土林) — or 'Earth Forest' — is so named because of its dense and strangely protuberant natural clay formations. The area includes several agglomerations, the most famous of which are visible at Banguo (班果), Langbapu (浪巴铺) and Wumao (物茂) sightseeing areas. I recently paid a visit to Wumao, which is the most accessible of the three and about 45 minutes from the city of Yuanmou via public bus. You can think of Tulin's oddly shaped, sun-scorched spires as southwest China's tiny version of Bryce Canyon National Park or Turkey's Cappadocia. Based on a Google Images search before my visit, I sensed a certain eeriness about the formations, and this feeling became more conspicuous shortly after I arrived at the gate to Wumao. I began to suspect that the area's location off the beaten track might not be the only reason why the Earth Forest is not more frequented by Western tourists. A map to the right of the main entrance featured bizarre English names for the various metaphors attached to Tulin's collections of baked clay pillars. Some were more than foreboding, including the unsettlingly translated 'City of Satan' (魔鬼城), which should most likely been translated to 'City of the Damned' due to its allusion to a Buddhist hell. Other titles carried more pleasant or whimsical connotations. For example, 'Toad Singing Forecasting Rain', or 'Cave Embedded with Monkey King's Wishing Staff', which is a nod to the main character in Journey to the West. The extensively weathered structures are around one or two million years old, and are mainly composed of a mixture of clay, red soil and yellow silt. This makes them more vulnerable to erosion compared with the more formidable Karst columns of the Stone Forest south of Kunming. What keeps most of Tulin's geological 'trees' intact, however, are umbrella-shaped caps made up of calcium deposits and other more weather-resistant elements. These prevent the earthen trunks from eroding rapidly. The protective covers often appear blackish in color and produce a distinct contrast with the area's predominantly tan, beige and rusty tones. Smaller amounts of sparkling trace minerals add purplish notes, which vary in prominence throughout the day as the sun travels across the baked landscape. Parts of the Earth Forest today might not look much different from when the famed and daring Ming dynasty explorer Xu Xiake (徐霞客) documented them nearly 400 years ago. He likened the more fair-colored arrangements to the appearance of "a ghost on a moonlit night". A quality I found particularly striking about Wumao Tulin was the almost deafening silence that permeated the prehistoric labyrinth. After living for so long in the urban clamor of Guangdong's Peal River Delta, such stillness was completely unusual to me. Without the occasional bird chirp or encounter with random Korean tourists, I might as well have been on the verge of oblivion, wandering through a vision straight out of the Jurassic Age, or Dante. One Beijing-based tourist I met on the bus ride back to Yuanmou said that the grander Langbapu viewing area was like a "strong man" compared to the "little girl" forest at Wumao. This sentiment was echoed by a Sichuanese traveler I met later that afternoon at the Yuanmou Train Station. He expressed surprise that I didn't visit the more renowned site, which includes markedly taller and more imposing gothic edifices reminiscent of something in Mordor. I had opted instead – perhaps mistakenly so – to see the Yuanmou Man Museum (元谋人博物馆), dedicated to the eponymous landmark archaeological discovery made near Yuanmou in 1965 of two hominid incisors. The find, which also recovered other ancient mammalian fossils and signs of early stone tool use, is some of the earliest evidence of the Homo genus' existence in Asia. Although the museum staff were plenty friendly and the museum provided respite from the beating midday sun, I thought the collecti[...]

Yunnan news round-up: January's first three weeks

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 13:00:00 +0800

The dawn of the new year combined with the buildup to putting on our annual awards show was a bit of a whirlwind. The news, however, no matter how busy we get around the office, does not stop. Below is a quick round-up of the interesting, strange and important stories out of Yunnan and further afield that have made headlines over the past few days and weeks, plus some others we have been keeping an eye on. Man jumps off world's tallest bridge A home-grown daredevil BASE-jumped off the recently completed Beipan River Bridge (北盘江大桥) in eastern Yunnan. Ya Dang (亚当), a 29 year-old man from Yunnan's Zhaotong prefecture, jumped of the newly painted span and free-fell for ten seconds before opening his parachute. China Daily reports his total flight time was 81 seconds. Touted by Chinese media as the highest structure of its kind in the world, the bridge stretches from Guizhou into Yunnan and is crossed by the Shanghai-Kunming Expressway (沪昆高铁). Previously it was also site of an elaborate, if slightly illegal, marriage proposal by an unknown man. Bird molester caught in Kunming Another unidentified and very grumpy man was fined 2,500 yuan (US$363) for assaulting a gull while taking pictures on the shores of Kunming's Dianchi Lake. He reportedly was stopped by security personnel after he grabbed a migrating Siberian red-billed seagull out of the air. When authorities confronted him, the man threw the bird to the ground in protest. The animal — which suffered a broken wing — is reportedly recuperating at a nearby veterinarian office. 'Skywalker' gibbon found in Gaoligong mountains In more animal news, an international group of biologists identified a new population of gibbons living in the southern reaches of Yunnan's Gaoligong mountain range. Genetically identified as a new species, fewer than 200 Hoolock tianxing individuals are known to exist, meaning the animals were immediately placed on the endangered list. Upon publication of their findings in the American Journal of Primatology, the research group dubbed the animals with the common name 'Skywalker' hoolock gibbons. Co-author Samuel Turvey of the Zoological Society of London said of the discovery, "Increased awareness of the remarkable ecosystem of the Gaoligong mountains, and improved conservation, is essential to ensure we have time to get fully acquainted with this exciting new species before it's too late." Malaysian dignitary calls in Yunnan Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is deputy prime minister of Malaysia, visited Yunnan last week. Following a stop in Beijing, Hamidi traveled to southwest China in an effort to strengthen security ties and arrange future diplomatic conferences. He also began negotiations for the "transfer of advanced border control systems [technology]". The official visit comes as Yunnan's government attempts to step up the province's involvement with Association of Southeast Asian Nations member states. The technology transfer is seen as one small step in this direction. "Even though [Malaysia has] the Border Security Agency, there is nothing wrong with learning from Yunnan. To me, border control goes beyond just having walls...We need something like what Yunnan has," Hamidi told reporters. Major streets remain one-way On the first day of the new year, both Xuefu Lu and Yi'eryi Dajie in Kunming were expected to switch from one-way streets into traffic arteries flowing in both directions. Reports of this infrastructure upgrade — aimed at easing some of central Kunming's traffic congestion — were made as recently as November 2016 by local media. It is certainly not the case as of this writing, and projections now center around early March. 21-year fugitive arrested in Ruili A man going by the name Chen Xunmin (陈恂敏), suspected ringleader of a small criminal gang who successfully robbed an armored car two decades ago, was arrested in Yunnan. He had assumed a new name and id[...]

Snapshot: Best of Kunming Awards 2016-2017

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 11:35:00 +0800

The Best of Kunming Awards Ceremony 2016-2017 was a rousing success, with around 300 people attending for a night of fun, music and of course, recognition of the best venues, businesses and destinations the Spring City has to offer. An event of this size required the work of dozens of individuals and organizations, and all hinged on GoKunming's fantastic user-base input and feedback. To everyone involved, we extend our heartfelt thanks. Below is a snapshot of what went on during the awards show, as well as a look at those who made it all possible. frameborder="0" width="100%" height="300" src="" allowfullscreen> Any ceremony, no matter the magnitude, requires a venue. This year, as with the last two, the Best of Kunming Awards Ceremony was held at the ACMEC Media Exhibition Center atop Jinding Mountain (金鼎山). Just as an awards show needs a setting, it also demands winners. These were provided by GoKunming users, and in three other categories, by WeChat followers. Voters on both platforms turned out in droves to cast votes for their favorite Spring City enterprises. Our special thanks to everyone who took the time to fill out and submit a ballot, including those who won our voter prizes. The voting and awards are community events, and without user input, neither would be possible. As with our three previous awards shows, music was an important component. The 2016-2017 awards featured two sets of champagne jazz performed by what is perhaps Yunnan's most internationally diverse band, t'Mo. DJ Viandoks provided the perfect mix of music from the beginning to the end of the show, while also handling soundboard responsibilities during a night of speeches, videos and general merriment. The performances were fantastic, and kept the crowd entertained between the more formal awards presentations overseen by GoKunming co-owner Yereth Jansen and his fabulous co-host Tindy. Handing out commemorative plaques and trophies was the focus of the evening, and this year we gave out awards in 17 categories, as chosen on both the website and through WeChat. For a list of the winners, see our complete list for 2016-2017. In an added bit of fun, we held a lucky draw for all of the attendees. The giveaway featured hotel and resort stays in places such and Shaxi, while also featuring vouchers, absolutely lovely floral arrangements everywhere by Anthura, and tickets to performances of Dynamic Yunnan, among many others. We would like to thank all of our sponsors, which included which included Anthura Flowers, Crowne Plaza Kunming City Centre, Holiday Inn Kunming City Centre, Old Theatre Inn, Shangri-la Beer, Silver Chest Boutique Hotel, Wanda Vista Kunming, Yang Liping's Dynamic Yunnan and Yutao Yoga Studio. Special thanks also are in order to some behind the scenes heroes who helped make the evening run as smoothly as we could ever have hoped. Our gratitude goes out Jonas, Xiao Xi and Alfie for helping make a video and taking care of the event's photography needs. We would also like to thank Colin, Jeff and John for spontaneously auctioning off lucky draw prizes for charity, DT Bar for keeping the beer extra cold and Philippe and Sabrina for providing jack of all trades assistance. In addition, Sevan kept everyone on schedule while Joan made sure people found seats and were handed the proper awards. Again, thanks to everyone who voted in the awards, everyone who attended the event, all of the winners, our volunteers, everyone on the exhausted GoKunming team, and especially those who use and make the website a better, more informative and fun resource for all things South of the Clouds. Until next year![...]

Winners: Best of Kunming Awards 2016-2017

Fri, 13 Jan 2017 22:00:00 +0800

Voting has concluded and the results have been tallied for the Best of Kunming Awards 2016-2017. Just as with last year, participation was overwhelming. Thank you to everyone who took the time to cast a ballot both on the website and via WeChat. Winners were recognized at the fourth annual Best of Kunming Awards Ceremony on Friday, January 13. We'll publish a complete write-up of the event soon. For this year's results, we included the winners and runners up for website voting, both followed by the percentage of total votes received by each. Below those winners — in categories where it is applicable — are those businesses and venues which won on WeChat. And now, without further ado, the winners for the Best of Kunming Awards 2016-2017... Website Voting Award Winners Best Chinese Cuisine Winner: Tusheng Shiguan (27%) Runner up: 1910 La Gare du Sud (22%) Best International Cuisine Winner: The Park Bar and Grill (24%) Runner up: Cantina (17%) Best Café Winner: Salvador's Coffee House (63%) Runner up: Prague Café (Beichen location) (11%) Best Bar Winner: The Turtle (30%) Runner up: O'Reilly's Irish Pub • Beer Garden (27%) Best Night Club (tie!) Co-winner: Club Vervo (41%) Co-winner: The Mask (41%) Best Hotel Winner: Sofitel Kunming (33%) Runner up: Green Lake Hotel (19%) Best Guesthouse Winner: Lost Garden Guesthouse & Restaurant (43%) Runner up: Cloudland International Youth Hostel (23%) Best Mandarin School Winner: Kunming Keats School (29%) Runner up: Yunnan University (23%) Best Gym Winner: IWE Health Clubs (31%) Runner-up: Haoheng Fitness (29%) Best Spa Winner: Dianchi Spring Spa (32%) Runner-up: Jinfang Forest Hot Springs (28%) Best Kunming Attraction Winner: Green Lake Park (21%) Runner-up: Spirit Tribe (19%) Best Yunnan Travel Destination Winner: Tiger Leaping Gorge (16%) Runner-up: Yuanyang Rice Terraces (13%) WeChat Voting Award Winners Best English School Winner: Shane English School Best Kunming Attraction Winner: Spirit Tribe Best Yunnan Travel Destination Winner: Nujiang Canyon Congratulations once again to all of our winners! We would also like to once again extend our gratitude to everyone who took the time to vote and come out the awards show. We hope everyone who attended the ceremony had as much fun as we did. Voting and the awards event would not have been possible without the 2016-2017 Best of Kunming Awards sponsors, which included Anthura Flowers, Crowne Plaza Kunming City Centre, Holiday Inn Kunming City Centre, Old Theatre Inn, Shangri-la Beer, Silver Chest Boutique Hotel, Wanda Vista Kunming, Yang Liping's Dynamic Yunnan and Yutao Yoga Studio.[...]

Preview: Best of Kunming Awards Ceremony 2016-2017

Mon, 09 Jan 2017 18:45:00 +0800

The dust has settled following a vigorous voting process for the Best of Kunming 2016-2017. On the website, the number of ballots cast was once again up from the previous year, and participation on WeChat was fantastic. Now it's time to get down to the business of recognizing the winners, handing out some hardware and throwing an awesome party. Awards show 2016-2017 We are happy to announce that on Friday, January 13, at 8:30pm, GoKunming will hold its fourth annual Best of Kunming Awards Ceremony. As with last year's party, we are planning an informal gathering — one with an emphasis on fun, thanking GoKunming's great user base and of course recognizing our winners. The event will once again be hosted at the ACMEC Conference Center at the top of Jinding Mountain. Award winners The evening will begin with the recognition of each of our 10 winners, as selected by GoKunming readers and those who follow our WeChat official account. In addition, we will present awards to the best travel destinations in Kunming and Yunnan. The awards ceremony will be the first public announcement of the winners, with an article published on GoKunming the following day. Each winning business will be presented on stage with a commemorative award, and in addition receive a bottle of chilled Prosecco and a 'swag bag', as the kids say these days. Entertainment We will have a full cash bar sponsored by the award-winning Shangri-la Beer and staffed by GoKunming employees. Live music will be featured throughout the evening, with performances by t'Mo, playing their unique brand of champagne jazz and deeply scented Oriental lounge music. They will be joined onstage by miss gorgeous herself, singer Viga. Wrapping up the evening, DJ Viandoks will spin only the finest in laid-back hip-hop and electronic dance music. This year, the awards show will again conclude with a lucky draw. This is our way of thanking all of the people who voted for the Best of Kunming Awards and also everyone who helps make the Kunming community such a unique and special one. Lucky draw prizes! Each ticket-holder will be automatically entered into the lucky draw, the prizes of which have a combined value of nearly 40,000 yuan. Only one entry is allowed per person, and more ticketing information is included below. Throughout the evening, we will take a pause from the awards and live music to randomly select lucky draw winners. This will culminate at the end of the ceremony with the announcement of who wins the biggest prizes. Shangri-la Beer In addition to sponsoring our glittering bar set-up, Shangri-la Beer is happy to give away two cases of beer, one each to two winners. Shangri-la brews six fantastically unique natural beers using imported German hops, spring water from the Tibetan foothills and malted barley grown 3,000 meters above sea level. It's heaven in a bottle. Yang Liping's Dynamic Yunnan We will give away free passes to Dynamic Yunnan, the song and dance homage to all things South of the Clouds as envisioned by famed artist Yang Liping. Internationally renowned, the show blends traditional ethnic folk dance and musical traditions with modern choreography and has been performed 5,000 times in more than 50 cities around the globe. Three winners will each receive four VIP tickets to the show as well as a commemorative book. Each group of tickets and the book has a box office value of 2,020 yuan. Anthura Flowers The province's top flower cultivator for export will generously decorate the entire event space with rare flowers grown here in Yunnan. Dutch specialty producer Anthura will also give each category winner a specialized bouquet as congratulations. Three lucky draw participants will also win their own magnificent potted floral arrangement, each valued at more than 800 yuan. Yutao Yoga Studio We will also give away five individual membership c[...]

Getting Away: Ancient and little-explored Yunnanyi

Sat, 07 Jan 2017 09:45:00 +0800

The initial sensation one has when arriving in Yunnanyi (云南驿) is that of dryness. It feels significantly more arid than Dali, which is nearly two hours away to the northwest by bus. Next might come a feeling of deja-vu. The main dusty road, lined with modest concrete houses — but also some adobe ones — did not look particularly different from many rural Yunnan roads I'd seen that tend to provide conduits for bulky construction vehicles. Looking back, I can see why this village — plenty lonesome as it was — does not appear in guide books. I was nonetheless drawn to the village after reading about its reputed 2,000-year history online, an account which also explained the town's role as one of Yunnan's three major airfields for the Flying Tigers during World War II. Perhaps because of a general lack of information in English about the far-flung destination, I was intrigued — and it didn't hurt that apocryphal accounts claim the province's name is originally derived from the village name. A plaque at the southern end of the town's cobblestone street explains Yunnanyi's involvement in the Tea Horse Road (茶马古道) trade network. In fact, it is the road itself — said to be of original stones — for which the town once received one million yuan in government aid to protect Qing-era residential structures and the street. For centuries, Yunnanyi was one of many stops on the ancient trading route that saw tea porters make the back-breaking ascent to Lhasa to exchange their cargo for prized Tibetan steeds. And although most buildings in town date from the late Qing era, Han Chinese have inhabited the place for much longer. A Mr Zhu, 64, said that one of his ancestors came to Yunnanyi as a Ming Dynasty soldier nearly 600 years ago, and his family has been living there ever since. Zhu, a tailor who now devotes most of his time to repairing clothes, said the government had given his family money for restoration work. A second memorial plaque at the road's entrance recounts a tale from the Long March, one in which the Red Army stayed in Yunnanyi for one night. According to the etched characters, the locals graciously welcomed the troops and the soldeirs' spirit inspired several villagers to join the cause. Although the summary's conclusion bears telling hints of propaganda, the memorial added another layer to the town's already deep feeling of historical significance. One of the few people visible in town after lunch was Mr Zhu, who looked out on the sun-soaked road from behind his old-fashioned, foot-powered Butterfly sewing machine. He told me most of the buildings on the road were between one and two hundred years-old, and some might have been around for 400 years. He also mentioned one extant Ming dynasty structure that people are not allowed to enter for preservation purposes. However, in one of the historic courtyard homes we did visit — the well-maintained Qianjiadayuan (钱家大院) — a woman surnamed Qian pointed out wood carvings on her doors that were marred by members of the Red Guard (红小兵) during the Cultural Revolution. Although scarred, the basic gist of the images could still be distinguished. One carved panel featured a pastoral scene with farmers in straw hats carrying loads in from the fields, set in front of a hilly background. Qian said her residence had changed little over the decades, and when I said that I was American, she mentioned that "American comrades" once gave lessons in her home during the war. A Xinhua report found online after I returned to Kunming did indeed confirm the home served as a classroom for flight preparations during World War II. Not all abodes in Yunnanyi hosted members of the Flying Tigers, nor the Red Army, but most I saw featured unique calligraphy blessings posted above their front entrances. These, according to Qian, [...]

New governor sparks controversy with verbal gaffe

Thu, 05 Jan 2017 13:35:00 +0800

In an era where public figures are recorded, filmed and instantly scrutinized during and after every public appearance, little mistakes have a tendency to set off firestorms. This was definitely the case recently when Ruan Chengfa (阮成发) was caught on tape mispronouncing the name of the province he now governs, multiple times.

Ruan, who was only appointed governor of Yunnan three weeks ago, was giving a televised speech in the run-up to the opening of the Shanghai-Kunming high-speed railway. During a section of the address expounding on the province's historical links to Myanmar, India and the United States, he repeatedly called Yunnan by the wrong name.

Every province and major city in China can be represented by a single character — basically an abbreviation or nickname. For example, Shanghai is shortened to Hu (沪), while the province of Guangdong becomes Yue (粤). In the case of Yunnan, the provincial moniker is shortened to Dian (滇). The name is taken from a small kingdom that ruled much of what is today Yunnan more than 2,000 years ago.

And this is where the governor got into trouble. At least two times during his speech, Ruan said zhen (镇) — which means 'town', among other things, in Chinese — when he instead meant to say Dian. While the characters for the two words are similar, and the mistake possibly attributable to something as simple as a typo, the slip instantly raised hackles across Chinese social media, especially here in Yunnan.

People immediately accused the governor of being disconnected or purposely ignorant. Others went so far as to call for his dismissal and many repeatedly asked the question, "Is there no local official to hold this important office?" This last comment is a reference to Ruan's background, and especially his time as mayor of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province.

Born and educated in central China, Ruan is seen by many Yunnanese as an outsider — even more so following his on-air malapropism. But more generally, the public reaction appears concerned with whether or not the governor is engaged enough at a time when the province is under increasing pressure to project Chinese interests into Southeast Asia while also drastically transforming its economy.

Anger and resentment following these types of gaffes typically fizzles quickly. However, for a man few outside of Hubei had heard of a month ago, the verbal mistake may long be construed as an inauspicious beginning to Ruan's tenure as Yunnan's second most powerful man.

Image: 119pcw