Yunnan is located in the southwest and borders Sichuan to the north, Tibet to the northwest and Guangxi and Guizhou to the east while sharing a western border with Myanmar, a southern border with Laos and a southeastern border with Vietnam. It is China’s sixth largest province, covering an area of 394,000 sq. km.
Yunnan possesses a mountainous terrain that stretches across the province and reaches a high point of 6,740m at Kawagebo Peak in Deqin. The average elevation is 1,980m. In addition to the vast mountains, Yunnan is also characterized by canyons and rivers, specifically the three parallel rivers that include the Nu River, the Yangzi River and the Mekong.
There are also many lakes in Yunnan that have provided a foundation for human civilizations for over a million years, most notably Dian Chi in Kunming, Erhai Lake in Dali and Lugu Lake in northern Yunnan.
In the east, Yunnan covers a limestone plateau with dramatic karst formations and southern Yunnan covers a lush, tropical jungle along the border of Vietnam and Laos.
Yunnan is known in China as the “Land of Eternal Spring,” and its mild climate certainly lives up to its name. While the mountainous northwest gets quite cold and covered with snow in the winter, the majority of the province has comfortable winters with long, cool summers. The average temperature in January ranges from 8˚ C to 17˚C, while the July temperature averages between 21˚ C and 27˚ C.
Most of the province enjoys a significant rainy season in the summer months, when over half of the annual rainfall occurs.
The geographical and climatic factors contribute to making Yunnan the most biologically diverse province in China with 17,000 plant species and about half of China’s animal species, many of which are endangered. Much of the plant life has been used in Chinese medicine, though harvesting these plants has been limited as a result of these conservation efforts.