Approximately 1.7 million years ago, there were already humans (of the primitive society) living on the land of China. Yuanmou man is the earliest human being ever discovered in the Chinese history. As early as the Neolithic period, people that lived around Dianchi Lake and Erhai Lake areas had used simply stone tools (like axes) for agricultural production. In some places, people even had known how to construct simple wood-structure houses, and relatively large villages had been formed during this period.
In about 286 BC, Zhuang Jiao, a general of the Chu State, was dispatched to enter Yunnan. Under his command, Chu State army conquered local tribes like Dian and Laoman and unified the Dianchi Lake area, establishing the Kingdom of Dian. New technology and culture introduced by Zhuang Jiao had greatly sped up the development of Yunnan at that time, and the Dianchi Lake area hence entered the era of slavery society.
Around 109 BC, Hanwu Emperor dispatched General Guo Chang to lead Bashu (nowadays Sichuan) soldiers to come to Yunnan and establish Yizhou Prefecture under the jurisdiction of which there were 24 counties. The prefecture’s administrative centre was set in nowadays Yunnanyi of Xiangyun County. Besides, Hanwu Emperor ordered Tang Meng to enlarge the Wuchi (five-inch) Passage in nowadays Dousha Town, and renamed it the Passage to Southwest. Most importantly, in the Han Dynasty, Bonan Ancient Pass was developed which promoted the economic and cultural exchanges between China’s southwest and S and SE Asia counties like Myanmar and India etc.
In 317, Ma Rui established the East Jin Dynasty in the early period of which the Cuan Family, who migrated to Yunnan from Central China, became stronger and stronger. As a result, Cuan Chen ruled the Dianchi Lake area for over 400 years, and named the Dianchi Lake area “Kun Chuan”or “Kun Zhou”. During this period, the Cuan Family engaged in close exchanges of economics and culture with the Sui and Tang dynasties.
In 738, under the support of the Tang Empire, the Mengshe Tribe unified the major six tribes around the Erhai Lake in Dali, establishing the Nanzhao Kingdom. Piluoge, the chieftain of the Mengshe Tribe, was then bestowed “King of Yunnan”. The ruling of the Nanzhao Kingdom was lasted over 200 years by 13 kings during this period.
In 937, Duan Siping ended the rule of the Nanzhao Kingdom and established the Dali Kingdom instead. In 1117, the Song Dynasty government bestowed the headman of Dali Kingdom “Governor of Yunnan”. For Yunnan at that time, the political centre was set around the Erhai Lake, and the capital city was Dali. The Dali Kingdom ruled Yunnan for about 361 years and the ruling was lasted by altogether 22 kings. It’s worth mentioning that Kunming, which was called Shanchan City at that time, had become a metropolis in Central Yunnan.
After the Qing imperial court established the governance of Yunnan, Yunnan welcomed a huge wave of migrants from Central China. The imperial court also launched the campaign “abolishing the chieftain system and appointing officials directly”, which in fact consolidated the unification of the whole country and impelled the development of the frontiers. In the Qing Dynasty, Yunnan’s metallurgical industry gained rapid development, and capitalism began to sprout at that time. Local mineral output had enjoyed a nationwide fame, such as the copper of Dongchuan, Yimen, Lu’nan and Yongsheng, the silver of Ludian, Binchuan, Yunlong and Cangyuan, the tin of Gejiu and the lead of Luoping and Jianshui etc.
During the time period Yuan Shikai prepared to restore the abolished imperial system, Cai E and Tang Jiyao declared the independence of Yunnan on 25 December 1915, and established Yunnan Military Government. Cai E and Tang Jiyao also organised a 20,000-strong army to crusade against Yuan Shikai, which is the famous campaign in Yunnan’s history known as Movement for Nation Protection or Uprising of Yunnan. Around the time of the May Forth Movement in 1919, Marxism began to spread in Yunnan. On 7 November 1927, as a result of the hard work of Li Xin, a member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), the special CPC Branch of Yunnan was founded in Kunming. Till then, the revolution undertaking of Yunnan people under the CPC’s leadership had entered a new era.