Honghe Hani Rice Terraces
The stunning images of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces almost look like surreal paintings with abstract swirling of colourful patterns, which fills the eyes of the beholder with wonder and awe. Very often they are described as the 'stairway to heaven’, since the spectacular terraces of the layers of the land mass cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River. The man made terraces often rise by 3,000 steps, up to a height of 2000 m above the sea level. They rise at varying angles from a shallow 15 degrees to a steep 75 degrees, forming a magnificent landscape, which is a real treat for the eyes.
The ancestors of Hani people came to this steep mountain area from the Tibetan Plateau about 2,500 years ago. To make a living, they struggled hard in the difficult terrain, reclaimed land from the mountain area and transformed the sterile land into fertile terraced paddy fields for producing rice. Moreover, in the process of transforming the nature of the land, they also unknowingly created a place of artistic beauty.
The wonderful landscape of the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, located in Southern Yunnan province of the Republic of China, covers an immense area of 16,603 hectares. While fighting against the heavy odds for about 1300 years, the Hani people have learned and developed a detailed and meticulous system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces. There is only one harvesting season per year for the Yuanyang Rice Terrace. During the period, from winter to early spring season, the entire field is filled with spring water.
To support the production of red rice, the area’s primary crop, the Hani people have created an integrated farming system, which involves buffalos, cattle, ducks and fish. Like other ancient people, they worship the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, forests and other natural phenomena including fire.
Situated between the terraces and the forested mountaintops, there are 82 villages in the area. The villagers live in their traditional thatched ‘mushroom’ houses. Despite the tough land management system of the rice terraces, the people live in harmony with each other, based on their long-standing social, traditional and religious structures.
In 2010, many regions in southwestern China's were struck by a drought, but water supply in the terraced fields was normal. In those early days, how this geographically isolated and technically handicapped Hani people managed to reclaim the mountainside and transformed it into such magnificent terraced fields, are really a mystery. In recognition of their inhuman effort, intelligence and skill, the Han people were titled 'Skillful Sculptor', by the emperor of the Ming Dynasty emperor and their reputation was passed down from generation to generation.
Today, popularly known as 'land sculpture', the terraced fields have been extended to many towns along the south bank of the Red River, such as Yuanyang, Lüchun and Jinping among others.
The view of the terraces changes vividly through the year. In April the terraces are all green as the rice started to grow, in later parts of the year it is yellowish brown as the rice ripens. In February, the landscape becomes naked bare earth, with the water reflecting the sky.
Mainly are three major scenic areas: Duoyishu scenic area, Bada scenic area and Laohuzui (the Tiger Mouth) scenic area. However, many terraces set among vast forests, topped by an ocean of clouds create a magical and amazing view.
In the year 2003, Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were listed as a World Heritage Site.