"If you have time for but one
  province in China, Yunnan should
  be it.
- Lonely Planet


Volunteer in Kunming, Yunnan,
a city with year-round Spring weather. Trips to 26 cultures &
5 nearby countries.

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The name refers to both Chuxiong city and its upper administration division Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture. Located in the central part of Yunnan province, Chuxiong is known for its ancient history and for having one of the greatest Yi populations in Yunnan. If you are on a bus ride to Dali or Lijiang, this is the place you will certainly be to passing through.  

Splendid mountains and gorgeous rivers are features of the city and the prefecture. It is a land of beauty and marvels. There are abundant tourism resources here, combining natural beauty and historical cultural relics. The Chuxiong Prefecture Museum, the Zixi Mountain National Forest Park, the Theme Park of Yi ethnic group's Ten-Month Solar Calendar, among many other public parks and sightseeing spots. If you are willing to explore a little bit more of this region, about 100 KM (62 miles) north of Chuxiong city is Yuanmou County, best known as the excavation site of the earliest Homo sapiens in China and its distinctive landform--Earth Forest. 

Together with its neighboring counties of Sichuan, most Yi ethnic people of China inhabit this region. Besides Yi, there are many others groups like Han, Lisu, Miao, Dai, Hui, Bai, Hani, Zhuang, just to name a few. All of them together present splendid and diverse ethnic cultures.

Chuxiong is about 162 KM (100 miles) from the capital city Kunming of Yunnan province; 178 KM (110 miles) from Dali, one of the most popular tourism destinations in Yunnan. Chuxiong is half way from Kunming to Dali. There are frequent buses from Kunming to Chuxiong daily at almost every bus station. Another option is to take the train, which is a little less expensive, but can be slow.    

Within Chuxiong City, there are:

The Chuxiong Prefecture Museum
A large amount a dinosaur fossils have been excavated here, together with other fossils that are believed to be homo sapiens from one million seven hundred thousand years ago.  Scientists have believed Chuxiong to be one of the cradles of human beings in China. The bronze drum and ancient tomb clusters unearthed at Wangjia Mountain can be traced back to about 2000 years ago. Presenting itself with a perfect combination of traditional Yi residential architecture and modern building design, the museum itself is a masterful piece of art work. With eight exhibition halls and twelve other exhibition rooms, there are more than 8,400 pieces of precious cultural relics on display in the museum covering ancient plants and animals, historical relics and unique local ethnic items. The museum serves as the window to showcase various aspects of the Chuxiong prefecture, and it's a perfect place for you to have a snapshot of its glorious history and splendid cultures.

The Zixi Mountain National Forest Park
Three or four hundreds years ago in China's Ming and Qing dynasties, the Zixi Mountain used to be a holy place for Buddhism in western Yunnan. There are still 68 ruins of old Buddhist monasteries, and 21 Buddhist temples remain today. Now it has been characterized as a national forest park, provincial nature reserve and famous scenic area of Yunnan province. It is about 15 KM (9 miles) from Chuxiong city proper. The nature reserve covers an area of 160 sq KM (62 sq miles) and there are more than 1,360 species of rare plants and 107 animals. Out of the eight of Yunnan's Most Famous Flowers (they are the camellia, cymbidium, azalea, magnolia denudata, lilium, gentian, fairy primrose and meconopsis) here is the source for seven of them. Among them are more than one hundred camellia trees over a hundred years old, and more than a dozen artificially grafted old camellia trees.  In this area it is the only one of its kind in terms numbers of ancient camellia trees. There are 107 varieties of wild animals--61 birds, 19 beasts, and 14 reptiles.

At the moment infrastructure is being established to make Chuxiong a more tourist-friendly place. Theme gardens featuring various rare flowers are being built, the Ziding Temple of history has been reconstructed, as well as other accommodations. On the eighth day of the second lunar month the traditional Cherry Flower Festival is celebrated here by the Yi people. People sing and dance around the camp fire and enjoy themselves greatly.

The Excavation site of Bronze Drum and Ancient Tombs  
On the west bank of the Qing long (Green Dragon) River (a tributary stream to the main river of Longchuan), WangjiaBa is about 3.5 KM (2.1 miles) from the Chuxiong city seat. There were five bronze drums unearthed here in 1975, which were identified by archaeologists to have a history of more than 2,600 years. Up to now, they are the earliest bronze drums that have been known to mankind. These drums, representing one unique style of Chinese drums, are called “Wang Jia Ba” style drums. There were 19 of these bronze drums unearthed in Yunnan, and ten of them within the territory of Chuxiong prefecture.

There is a whole range of ancient tombs in the surrounding area where these tombs were discovered. By following scientific archaeological investigation, they have been proven to be more than 2000 years old from China's later period of Spring and Autumn to the beginning period of Waring States.  79 tombs were excavated in this region, covering an area of about 3000 sqm (27,005 sq ft). About 1245 pieces of relics were found ranging from pottery, jade, jewelry and various sorts of precious stones.

The Ten-Month Solar Calendar Theme Park
Covering an area of more than 500 acres, the theme park is located in a suburb of Chuxiong city. It's a comprehensive tourist spot that integrates authentic architecture of the Yi ethnic group, grand garden and landscaping displays, exotic performances of Yi ethnic background, an exhibition of the profound traditional Yi culture, and a large scale of relief sculpture clusters based of the epic genesis legend of the Yi people. It is probably the only theme park in China that focuses so exclusively on every aspect of the Yi nationality culture.

There are three main types of calendars so far in human history. The solar calendar is one of them. The other two are the lunar calendar and the lunisolar calendar.

The solar calendar that has been followed by the Yi people here is passed from generation to generation.  Its origin can be traced back to the ancient West Qiang Civilization of China's Xia Dynasty about 4000 years ago, and it was in the Qin and Han dynasties (around 1800 years ago) that it became popular among many communities in China. According to this solar calendar system, there are ten months in every year, and 36 days for each month. There are no added months, nor lesser months. At the end of these ten months, there will be five or six days left, which are all for the celebration of the New Year. They are placed at the end of the year, after which will be another year. With its unique cultural connotation and beautiful landscapes, the Ten-month Solar Calendar Theme Park has been regarded as one of the important tourist spots on Yunnan's top five tourist itineraries.

Tiger images can be found easily in the park, and that's because tigers have been regarded by the Yi people as totems that could provide them protection and strength.

On the ten-month solar calendar square are the gigantic relief sculpture groups, covering an area of 5220.4 sqm, or 59,191.91 sq feet. With more than 40 relief sculptures of various sizes depicting 7275 different figures and 1858 animals, it is by far the largest sculpture group of this kind in China.

The altar of worshiping the heaven presents the philosophy behind the Yi's ten-month solar calendar. It shows how people calculate years, months and days by observing the movement of the Sun and the Plough.

There are twelve animals in Han Chinese year counting, or Chinese Zodiac. The ranking order is as follows: Rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, Rooster, dog and pig. While animals in the Han people's system are mild and gentle, in the Yi people's ten-month solar calendar, animals tend to be more wild and ferocious. The Yi's animal for year-counting starts from black tiger in the first month, because of their tiger totem worship and their favor towards the color black. It follows by otter for the second month, continuing with crocodile, boa , Pangolin, muntjac, bharal, ape, black panther, and lizard.

Yuanmou is regarded by anthropologists as a cradle of mankind because teeth fossils of homo sapiens were excavated here. Scientists believe they can be traced back to 1.7 million years ago. A monument was set up on the site where the fossils were found. There is a museum not far from the site that exhibits various excavation items.

The Earth Forest is the most spectacular natural wonder in this region. Its massive sand and soil forms can inspire your wild imagination. Together with the Stone Forest in Kunming and the Rain Forest in Xishuangbanna, they are nicknamed Yunnan's "Three Forests". Colorful earth presents graphic scenery to people who come here. That's why in recent years many renowned movie directors have chosen to shoot scenes here. Included among them is Hong Kong comedy Kung Fu star, Jacky Chan. Banguo Earth Forest is the best and with the largest scale. The admission fee is 20 RMB.

The Jingshao River (literally Golden Sand River), the upstream of the Yangtze River runs through Yuanmou. Across the river is the Liangshan region which belongs to Sichuan. The largest Yi population in China lives along the river in this part. The most authentic and strongest Yi customs can be observed here. The Torch Festival of the Yi people is celebrated on the 24th of the sixth month according to the lunar calendar. It is a must-see event for anyone who is trying to understand local cultures on their trip.



Impact Abroad provides International Volunteering & Community Service Opportunities
to people in the western world to help children in Yunnan, China

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