The city was founded over 2,000 years ago, but it did not gain prominence until it became the eastern capital of the Nanzhao Kingdom in the 8th century. By the time the Mongols swept through in 1274, Kunming, or Yachi as it was then known, was enough of a flourishing town to have attracted the attention of Marco Polo, who described it as a "very great and noble" capital city. The city's bloodiest period occurred during the Qing dynasty, with a series of Muslim rebellions. In the late 19th century, foreign influence appeared in the form of the French, who built a narrow-gauge rail line to Vietnam still in use today. During World War II, Kunming played an important role as the terminus of a major supply line (the famous Burma Road) in the Allies' Asian theater of operations.
Today, Kunming's wide streets, towering office blocks, and giant shopping centers all convey the impression of a modern, 21st-century city. A subtropical location and high elevation (1,864m/6,213 ft.) give Kunming a temperate climate year-round. Its days are filled with sunshine, making almost any time good for a visit, though the balmy months of September and October are especially fine.
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