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Yunnan is not only China's most diverse region geographically, with snow capped peaks bordering the Tibetan Plateau, but also demographically with Yunnan being home to the highest number of ethnic groups among all provinces and autonomous regions in China. Among the country's fifty-six recognised ethnic groups, twenty-five are found in Yunnan including Lahu, Lisu, Dai, Miao, Pumi and Naxi to name but a few.
The province is home to more plant species of tropical, subtropical, temperate, and frozen zones than any other province in the country. This varied topography has ensured that many ancient, endemic plants, as well as species introduced from foreign countries thrive here. Yunnan is a delight for anyone interested in botany and of the 30,000 species of plants in China, 18,000 can be found in Yunnan. Yunnan is also home to a variety of animal species, most notably the Southeast Asian gaur, a giant forest-dwelling ox, the tiger, and the Asian Elephant, although many of these rare species are admittedly difficult to spot in the wild.
Yunnan generally has a mild climate with pleasant and fair weather. January average temperatures range from 8°C to 17°C; July averages vary from 21°C to 27°C. Average annual rainfall ranges from 600 mm to 2,300 mm, with over half the rain occurring between June and August. The plateau region has moderate temperatures. The western canyon region is hot and humid at the valley floor but with freezing winds on the mountaintops. Kunming and Dali generally feature pleasant summers and milder winters but summer can be wet. As Lijiang and Shangri-La are at a higher altitude, temperatures will be cooler throughout the year and cold in winter.
It was only with the 13th century Mongol invasion of China that Yunnan became unified with China. Yunnan's distance from the Imperial capital in Beijing and its large tribal population has always allowed the Province to keep its own very distinct flavour, which remains very evident today.
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