In his book, Yunnan: China South of the Clouds, author Jim Goodman argues that there are really two Chinas. One is the Middle Kingdom, the relatively low-lying central and eastern provinces bordered on the east by oceans and on the west by inhospitable terrain. This periphery, with its steppes, deserts, high plateaus and rugged mountains, is the ‘Other China,’ which comprises 60% of China's present area.
The Han comprise about 92% of China's current population and is heir to thousands of years of common history, tradition and cultural characteristics. The dense population of the eastern Middle Kingdom is almost exclusively Han.
In the Other China, people from different civilizations and ethnic origins have blended with each other and with Chinese culture for thousands of years. People of the country's 55 recognized minority nationalities make up the remaining 8% of the country’s overall population and are scattered primarily around the periphery,
Yunnan is home to 24 ethnic minorities and to one third of China's non-Han population. Nearly half of the province's population of over 45 million is non-Han.
Ever since Khublai Khan made Yunnan part of his empire in the mid-1200s, the area has, to varying degrees, been under Chinese rule. Despite the various governments' efforts over the centuries of Chinese rule, numerous pockets of the province have resisted Han influence and have retained strong local cultural identities.