Kunming--Global Investigator 2017

[ Welcome] [ Kunming ] [ PRC ]

Here is China as it is today, 2016-2017, on the eve of your Global Investigator trip. Note the locations of Beijing, the capital, and Shanghai, a key city which investigators visited in years past. Your trip will take you to Kunming and Lijiang in Southwestern China/Yunnan Province. Kunming played an important role during World War II, where Americans had a major military presence throughout the conflict. Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province. You will also visit Lijiang, an ancient, scenic city that has been named a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Notice the location of Chongqing, Chiang K'ai-shek's wartime capital.



image source < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yunnan >

First, let me tell you about Kunming.

In 1941, upon the United States' entry into the war in PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations,) Kunming was the home of the 1st American Volunteer Group, known colloquially as the Flying Tigers. Kunming was a major hub for supply flights "over the hump" to and from India and Burma.

image source < http://www.chinahighlights.com/kunming/map.htm >


Scarcely had the dust settled on Pearl Harbor and war declared than FDR authorized the American Volunteer Group (AVG) to go to the aid of President/Generalissimo Chiang K'ai-shek at Chongqing. A private group of pilots (3 fighter squadrons of 20 aircraft each) under Lieutenant General Claire Chennault had been training for combat against Japan since 1937. These were the "flying tigers." They conducted operations against Japan from December, 1941, until July, 1942. The exploits and successes of the Flying Tigers gave Americans a much needed morale boost after Pearl Harbor and the fall of the Philippines. The P-40 "Flying Tigers" flaunted a distinctive logo, designed by the Walt Disney Company. See below for images.

image source < http://en.wikipedia.org/Flying_Tigers >

image source < http://en.wikipedia.org/Flying_Tigers >

During the war, Chinese refugees fleeing the Japanese occupation of Nanjing flooded into Kunming. Some were destitute; some were industrialists and entrepreneurs who brought their dismantled industrial plants (and know-how) with them to China's deep South. Several universities evacuated their entire institutions and faculties there. Former Castilleja math teacher Toni Hsu spent her high school years in Kunming hiding from Japanese bombs under an umbrella. While Generalissimo Chiang K'ai-shek (see left image) was holed up in his wartime capital at Chongqing, Kunming prepared to be the National Redoubt in case the beleaguered capital fell. Citizens of Kunming expanded a vast network of natural caves as hideouts from Japanese bombing raids (couldn't find any images, alas.)

image source < http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_March >
WWII in China videoclip < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxgEzlxnpbk > nah

When French IndoChina (2940) and Burma (1941) fell to the Japanese, vital rail links between India and China were severed. Kunming emerged as a command center for the CBI (China-Burma-India) campaign. As Kunming assumed greater importance in the Allied PTO campaign, it became a critical target for Japanese bombers--hence the caves described above. The map (right) illustrates how crucial Kunming was, both for the Allies and the Japanese.

image source < http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/pacificwar/pacwar.gif >

Originally, Kunming was linked by rail with British Burma, which, as noted, had fallen under the control of Japan and absorbed into its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Burma Road (see right) was no longer operative as a supply chain. As part of the Allied war effort, General Stilwell made efforts to rebuld it; as well, American pilots flew "over the hump" (that would be the Himalayas) to and from Kunming.

image source < http://cbi-theater-1.home.comcast.net/~cbi-theater-1/maps/map037.html >
"Flying the Hump" < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FiLJdgjs12s >

Japan occupied much of China during the Second World War
< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Japanese_Occupation_-_Map.jpg >

Kunming in the 21st Century

Today, Kunming is a thriving industrial and commercial city, the capital of Yunnan Province. Its location has made it a major player in Chinese commerce with the rest of southeast Asia, especially IndoChina. Its history dates back more than 2000 years, but today it is part of the "boom" of China's 21st century economy! Image left is Yuantong Temple, the largest Buddhist complex in Kunming. I imagine you will visit sites like it in the historic city. With a population of approximately 5 million citizens, Kunming is predominantly Han in its ethnicity, with about a million other ethnic minorities.

image source < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kunming >

You'll also visit Lijiang, an ancient Chinese city, on what was the Southern leg of the Silk Road. The city sits at the bend of the Yangzi* River (Chang Jiang,) and the name means "Beautiful River." *Also Yangtse or Yangtzi)--Spelling is tricky.

image source < http://www.chinadiscovery.com/lijiang-tours/maps.html >

Lijiang has emerged as a major tourist destination for international travelers during China's economic rise and subsequent prosperity. Its quaint Old Town is picturesque and charming.

image source < https://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g303783-Lijiang_Yunnan-Vacations.html#photos;geo=303783&detail=303783 >