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Xiangyun History

Stepping back in Yunnan’s history | A walk in Yunnanyi

Near the wooden paifang that marks the entrance to the village of Yunnanyi (云南驿), a plaque commemorate an episode of the Long March. Indeed, in 1936, the soldiers of the Red Army rested in Yunnanyi for a night.

Beyond the paifang, the cobblestone streets lined with Ming-Qing style houses, the village looked deserted. Yet, the silent adobe walls have interesting stories to tell about the past of this village.

From the Southern Silk Road to the Tea and Horse Road

Yunnanyi became an unavoidable stop for caravans transporting goods on the Tea and Horse Roadbetween Yunnan and Tibet. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, horse caravans led by Yunnanese Muslims stopped at Yunnanyi. They were transporting Pu’er tea between south Yunnan to Lijiang, Zhongdian, or Deqin in the north of the province where Tibetan caravan leaders took over.

Yunnanyi is home to what is probably China’s best preserved horse caravan inn. It’s an inn with a stable where muleteers could feed their horses and let them rest overnight, exchange stories and tips about road conditions with other fellow caravan leaders. On the second floor of this “horse stable inn”, we can still see where the caravan leaders slept and where they pray to the gods : the gods of the roads, the gods of the mountains and the gods of the bridges.

Yunnanyi and the Japanese: From the Burma Road to the Flying Tigers

In 1939, the allies completed the “Burma Road” which linked Yangoon to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan. The “Burma Road” was China’s lifeline. Indeed the Brits transported supplies to help the government of Chiang Kai Tchek in its counter-attack against Japan.

In 1942, Japanese forces took over Burma and cut the “Burma Road”, leaving no choice to the allies but to fly from British India’s Assam to Yunnan. Military airfields were built in western Yunnan province in Yunnanyi, Tengchong and Baoshan.

The squad of American soldiers who flew over the Himalayas (so as the avoid Burmese airspace controlled by Japan) to Yunnan were knows as the “Flying Tigers” and their prowess over the world highest mountains as the “Hump”.

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