In the late 1930s, at the outbreak of the second world war, Yunnan Observatories was established under the name Phoenix Mountain Observatory of Kunming. One of the first research institutions to be recognized by the state following the establishment of the People's Republic of China, it was briefly renamed as the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory (YNAO) in 1972, before adopting its present name (Yunnan Observatories) in 2013. It is the most prominent center of research in the field of Astronomy in southwest China, encompassing all facilities on Phoenix Mountain, as well as the Lijiang Observing Station and the Fuxian Lake Solar Research Center.
YNAO is a member institution of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It functions as a center for astrophysical and astrometrical research, a training station for aspiring young scientists, as well as a base of operations for science promotion programs in the underdeveloped western regions of the country. It is nationally renowned for its graduate and internship programs, and foreign applicants are welcome to apply.