Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture


Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture is located in the central western part of Yunnan Province. It has a territory of 29,459 square kilometers and a population of 3,400,000. Of them the most important nationalities are the Bai, who share the lowlands with the Muslim Hui and the Han Chinese, and the Yi who inhabit with some scattered Miao the uplands.

Dali Prefecture, due to its natural conditions, some of the most fertile plains in Southwest China, has been protagonist of the most important eras of Yunnan history. Some of the oldest vestiges of human habitation in the area are dated in 1.000 B.C. In the following centuries a complex culture with an elaborate bronze craftsmanship emerged in the area, some of the objects unearthed in recent times can be positively compared with those unearthed in other parts of China.

It is possible that in those times Dali already was an important trade center in the land routes linking Sichuan with India, via Burma. After the unification of China under the first emperor Qinshihuang, the Chinese emperors made their first attempts to take control of Dali lands, getting only a limited and short lived success during the times of emperor Han Wudi.

The rich valleys that make the nowadays Dali Prefecture were the scenario of small kingdoms in the seventh and eight centuries, among them six were specially powerful, known in the history books as the Six Zhao. The political stability of these kingdoms lasted only some decades before Piluoge, the king of the southern one, Nanzhao (Kingdom of the South), put to death to the other competing kings and established the Nanzhao Kingdom in 737. During the following 500 years Nanzhao Kingdom was the hegemonic power in today Yunnan Province, extending its control even to adjacent provinces (Yunnan and Guangxi) and countries (Burma, Vietnam). The defeat of the last Nanzhao King at the hands of Kublai Khan in 1253, put end to the independent government in Dali, and after Kublai Kahn's conquest of China in 1273, began the effective integration of this region in the Chinese administration.

The administration of Yunnan was in Mongol times put in the hands of their Muslims allied from Central Asia. This fact, the Chinese immigration in the first years of the Ming Dynasty (14th century) and the bloody suppression of the Muslim rebellion of the nineteen century can explain the ethnic composition of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture, where Han Chinese made half of the population, Bai Nationality, with more than a million, made a 33%, and Yi Nationality, with 450,000, are a 13% of the population. There are also small numbers of these Muslim Hui (70,000) decimated in the nineteen century, Lisu (30,000), Miao (10,000) and Naxi (5,000).

The central part of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture is the home of the Bai Nationality (nowadays most of the Bai still live in the villages and the Han Chinese in the cities), it comprises Dali City and Xiangyun County, Binchuan County, Midu County, Yongping County, Yunlong County, Eryuan County, Jianchuan County, Heqing County. In the mountainous south of the prefecture lie three autonomous counties: Yangbi Yi Autonomous County, Nanjian Yi Autonomous County, and Weishan Yi and Hui Autonomous County.

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