Edited by Michael Keane
Located in the southern border region of southwest China, the province of Yunnan extends for more than 390,000 square kilometres and has a population of almost 46 million. Yunnan adjoins Vietnam, Burma and Laos. The province is also geographically proximate to Thailand, Cambodia and India. Geographically southeast below the Tibetan Plateau, Yunnan neighbours Sichuan, Tibet, Guizhou and Guanxi. Its physical topography includes high mountain ranges, sunken basins and deep-cut valleys. Longitudinally from south to north, the high mountains pass into long impressive river systems; the vast drop in altitude from the mountain ridges to valleys results in considerable geological and ecological diversity. As well as being synonymous with biodiversity, Yunnan has been a focal point of regional human migration throughout history. In addition to the Han, it is home to 25 ethnic minority groups: these belong to four major ethnic families: Diqiang, Baiyue, Baipu and Miao Yao. Among these ethnic minorities 15 are unique to Yunnan: Bai, Hani, Dai, Jingpo, Lisu, Naxi, Achang, Jinuo, Wa, Deang, Bulang, Pumi, Dulong and Nu. Different development levels of these ethnic groups have led to a variety of living styles; the distinctive geographic environment allows ethnic minorities to mingle but still maintain their lives and customs in small settlements.
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