Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Ancient Terraces Over 1000 Years Old

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, The Most Stunning Terraced Landscape On Earth

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces is rice-growing terraces located in four counties: Yuanyang, Honghe, Jinpin and Lüchun, the core area of the terraces is located in Yuanyang County, China.

This area is on the south bank of the Hong River, beneath the Ailao Mountains in southern Yunnan.

With a subtropical monsoon climate, it has cool weather, daily temperatures can vary from 32 °C to -2.6 °C.

This area has been built for 1,300 years and area of more than 160 km2. The land was built from sloping land into terraces for agricultural purposes, to prevent landslides.

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces have been successfully made onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

The beauty and uniqueness of this area is the asymmetrical shape and curved walls of solid mud, looking like a huge jigsaw puzzle. In winter and spring, the water-filled terraces reflect light skyward, like sparkling glass windows.

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A Giant Work Of Art Created By Human Hands

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were created by humans and maintained the terraces for centuries by water sustainability. Water is the most important element in agriculture system that has been sustainable for centuries in Honghe Hani Rice Terraces.

The water comes from raindrops and dew in thick mountain fogs from higher areas, goes down through the forest and becomes a new groundwater. Through this system, it developed a traditional water management by water-wood concept.

This hydrological cycle creates a unique ecosystem that went through two-way irrigation, ensured the water supply for the village and stability of water irrigation of Hani Terraces.

It is very useful for harvesting rice, wood, vegetables, fruit, raising ducks, cultivating fish, and spices for traditional medicine.

Hani Tribe: The Builder And Natives Of Rice Terraces

These rice terraces were managed intergenerational and built by the Hani tribe. They are one of China’s 55 recognized ethnic minorities.

Additionally, the Hani tribe first arrived in the Ailao Mountains, near Yunnan’s modern border with Vietnam, around the 3rd century. They migrated southward from the harsh, barren, and unforgiving Qinghai-Tibet plateau.

One of the villages inhabited mostly by the Hani tribe is Yuanyang, where the population reaches 90%, totaling 270 thousand people.

Furthermore, several villages around the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces heavily rely on this agricultural marvel for their livelihoods and sustenance.

Among these villages, with a combined population of over 50,000 people, are Yuanyang, Duoyishu, Bada, and Laohuzui.

Moreover, the terraces serve as more than just a source of income through rice cultivation; they also support other agricultural activities such as tea and vegetable farming.

Dramatic Seasonal Transformations on the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces

Through each season, the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces offer a mesmerizing view.

In spring, the terraces come alive as water fills the paddies, reflecting the azure sky and surrounding mountains like shimmering mirrors.

As summer arrives, vibrant shades of green blanket the terraces, and rice plants sway gently in the warm breeze.

Moreover, the landscape teems with activity as farmers tend to their crops, transplanting rice seedlings and meticulously maintaining the terraced fields.

With the onset of autumn, the terraces take on a golden hue as the rice ripens during the harvest season.

Finally, as winter approaches, the terraces lie dormant, blanketed in a serene layer of snow, awaiting the cycle to begin anew.

Mutual Aid Tradition: “Zimeizhao”

In the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, “zimeizhao” or mutual aid plays a vital role in the community’s way of life.

This practice involves villagers coming together to help one another during crucial times like planting or harvesting seasons.

During these periods, everyone pitches in to accomplish tasks such as preparing the fields, transplanting rice seedlings, or harvesting crops.

This collective effort strengthens bonds among community members and ensures that everyone’s needs are met.

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The History Of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces

Since ancient times, the Hani tribe made the ditches and canals with hands and no machines. They use this technique to drain spring water from mountains and forests and irrigate terraces.

The Hani farmers began ‘carving’ terraces during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), and passed this knowledge down through the generations. As a result, this ancient practice has endured over centuries, preserving the traditional agricultural landscape.

This terracing system was built from locations near riverbanks at an altitude of 500 m. It was also constructed on mountain slopes with an altitude of more than 1,800 m above sea level, including slopes with a land slope of 70°.

The terraces were constructed across diverse landscapes, showcasing the ingenuity and adaptability of the Hani people.