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Kunming is the capital of Yunnan province, in southwestern China. It is the political, economic, communications and cultural center of Yunnan, and is the seat of the provincial government, which located in the middle of the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau. Because of its year-round temperate climate, Kunming is often called the "Spring City" or "City of Eternal Spring”. Kunming is among the most famous historical and cultural cities and one of the top tourist cities in China. Due to its pleasant climate, plateau scenery, age-old history, diverse ethnic customs, and unique plants and animals, Kunming attracts domestic and foreign tourists all year round. As the tourism center of Yunnan province, Kunming has also been a transport hub, from where tourists can go easily to places such as Dali, Lijiang and Shangrila.

Geography and climate

Kunming is located in east-central Yunnan province. It is located between north latitude 24°23´ and 26°22´N, and east longitude 102°10´and 103°40´E, with a total area of 21,600 square km. Its widest stretch from the east to the west amounts to 140 km and its largest expansion from the north to the south amounts to 220 km.

Situated in a fertile lake basin on the northern shore of the Lake Dian and surrounded by mountains to the north, west, and east, Kunming has always played a pivotal role in the communications of southwestern China. Lake Dian, titled as "the Pearl of the Plateau", is the sixth largest fresh water lake in China, is the largest lake in Yunnan and has an area of approximately 340 square kilometers.

Located at an elevation of 1,890 m on the Yungui Plateau with low latitude and high elevation, Kunming has one of the mildest climates in China, characterised by short, cool dry winters with mild days and crisp nights, and long, warm and humid summers, but much less hot than the lowlands. The weather never gets very hot in summer; the temperature has only exceeded 30C (86F) on a handful of occasions. However, freak snowfalls do occasionally occur in winter.

Controlled by a temperate plateau monsoon climate, average highs are 15 C in winter and 24 C in summer. With its perpetual spring-like weather which provides the ideal climate for plants and flowers, Kunming is known as the "City of Eternal Spring". The city is covered with blossoms and lush vegetation all the year round.

The period from May to October is the rainy season and the rest of the year is dry. The city has a mean annual rainfall of 1,000 mm, with an annual sunshine period of 2,250 hours and an annual frost-free period of 230 days.

Kunming's highest point is Mazong Ridge of the Jiaozi Mountain in Luquan with an elevation of 4,247 m, and its lowest point is the joint of the Xiaojiang River and the Jinsha River in Dongchuan District, with an elevation of 695 m. Its downtown area is 1,891 m above sea level.

About 96 km (60 miles) southeast of the city is the Stone Forest, a karst formation developed as a tourist attraction consisting of rock caves, arches, and pavilions. It is part of the larger karst-based landscape of the area.

Tourism

Kunming is among the most famous historical and cultural cities and one of the top tourist cities in China. Due to its pleasant climate, plateau scenery, age-old history, diverse ethnic customs, and unique plants and animals, Kunming attracts domestic and foreign tourists all year round. As the tourism center of Yunnan province, Kunming has also been a transport hub, from where tourists can go easily to places such as Dali, Lijiang and Shangrila.

Over 24 million domestic tourists visited Kunming in 2007, with 800,000 foreign tourists visiting annually. Kunming's total revenue from tourism in 2007 was 16.8 billion yuan, an increase of 8.0% over 2006.

Kunming hosts the China International Travel Mart every two years. This tourism trade fair is the largest of its kind in Asia and serves as an important platform for professionals in the sector. More than 80 countries and regions were present during the 2005 edition.

Economy

Because of its location in the southwest of China, Kunming was generally passed over in China's rapid economic growth in the 1990s. However, recently the city has received renewed attention, launching Kunming into an international commercial hub of South and Southeast Asia.

Kunming economic authorities are active participants in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS), promoting trade throughout China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.

Several railroads and highways have been planned to connect Kunming to areas of Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos, providing Kunming transportation access to sea ports.

In 2006, the Chinese government approved a 2912 km oil pipeline to be built from the Indian Ocean coastal town of Sittwe, Myanmar to Kunming. This pipeline will carry African and Middle Eastern petroleum to China, bypassing some oil shipments through the Strait of Malacca and the South China Sea. The pipeline will cut oil transport time by two weeks. In addition, Kunming is also said to be the site for an oil refinery for the incoming oil.

Education, science and technology

Kunming remains a major educational and cultural center in the southwest region of China, with universities, medical and teacher-training colleges, technical schools, and scientific research institutes.

The city has more than 300 scientific research institutions employing 450,000 scientists and technicians. Included were 68,500 people with middle-level and senior professional titles. In 1995, the city achieved 60 research findings, of which one reached the "advanced international standard", 17 "advanced domestic standard" and 21 "advanced provincial standard".

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