Founded in 765, Kunming was known to the Chinese as Tuodong (拓东) city in the Kingdom of Nanzhao (737–902) during the 8th and 9th centuries.
The city has an astronomical observatory, and its institutions of higher learning include Yunnan University, Yunnan Normal University and a medical college.
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In the 14th century, Kunming was retaken when the Ming dynasty defeated the Mongols, who built a wall surrounding present-day Kunming.
Ming General Wu Sangui defected to Manchu invaders 300 years later and held the city until his death in 1678, long after the rest of China had fallen under Manchu rule.