Situated in Guangxi province, is some of the most phenomenal scenery in China, if not the world – Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces. This vast region of rice terraces is known by several other names including Dragon’s Backbone, Longsheng Rice Terraces, and Longji Rice Terraces. Coiling along the slope of a mountain, the terraced fields are built from the riverside winding up to the top of the mountain. With a long history spanning hundreds of years, and beautiful natural scenery, Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces is a must-see attraction that certainly cannot be missed.
- Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces are situated about 100 km from Guilin, in Longsheng County.
- There are roughly 66 sq km of terraced fields that comprise the site, with an altitude between 600 to 800 m (2000 to 2600 ft) above sea level.
- Several ethnic groups live within the area of the rice terraces including the Zhuang people, the Yao people, the Miao people, and the Dong people.
- A feat of engineering, Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces are considered the best example of this ingenious method of irrigation in China.
History Of Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Construction of the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces began during the Yuan dynasty (1271 to 1368) by the Zhuang people. The Zhuang ethnic minority is the largest minority group in China. 90 percent reside within Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. There are several villages and hamlets in the area inhabited by this ethnic minority, including Ping’an. The terraced fields around the village are the earliest and most developed in Longsheng County.
Another ethnic group present in the area who contributed to the construction of the rice terraces are the Yao people. This ethnic group lives in the mountainous parts of southern China. In addition to Guangxi, the Yao also reside in Hunan, Guizhou, Yunnan, Jiangxi, and Guangdong. Some of the Yao villages and hamlets situated within the site area include Dazhai, Tiantouzhai, Xiaozhai, and Xinzhai. These settlements are situated in an area known as the “Jinkeng Terraces.”
The Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces were finally completed during the early Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911). With a rich history stretching over 650 years, these terraced fields are still cultivated today. However, for hundreds of years this incredible region of rice terraces was completely unknown to visitors and travelers. In the 1990s, a photographer named Li Yashi moved to the region and began photographing the stunning beauty of Longsheng County. Unsurprisingly, his images captivated the world, and cemented Dragon Backbone as a must-see tourist destination.
Culture Of Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces
Several villages are situated within the 66 sq km that comprise the rice terraces. The most popular areas are around Ping’an (home to the Zhuang people), and the Jinkeng area (home to the Yao). The name of the area stems from the fact that the top of the mountain range resembles the backbone of a dragon. In addition, the terraced fields look like scales of such a creature.
The terraced fields surrounding Ping’an are the oldest and most developed in the entire region. Likewise, this section is most popular with tourists. Inhabited by the Zhuang, villagers reside in traditional wooden houses constructed on stilts. Yet, despite it being a traditional ethnic village, Ping’an offers well-quipped modern facilities and conveniences.
The main scenic areas surrounding the village of Ping’an are “Seven Stars Around the Moon” and “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers”. “Seven Stars Around the Moon” is essentially eight small mounds located in the middle of eight rice paddies. The middle mound (which is filled with water) resembles a moon, with the remaining seven mounds being compared to stars. “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers” is basically nine ridges in the landscape that look like nine dragons. There are five rocks that resemble tigers in shape (hence the name). Both these spots offer incredible panoramic views of the terraced fields surrounding Ping’an.
The other main terraced field area is known as “Jinkeng Rice Terrace”. Jinkeng is far less popular with tourists because it is more remote. Likewise, many consider the scenery in this area more exquisite than in the Zhuang areas. The Yao minorities inhabit this section.
The two main villages in Jinkeng are Dazai and Tiantouzai. Located at the foot of the mountain, Dazai is the main visitor centre in the area, offering many hotels and guesthouses. Situated further up the slope of the mountain, the Yao people have constructed their traditional two-storey dwellings, nestled amid the spectacular vistas of the terraced fields.
The three main scenic spots in Jinkeng are Xishan Shaoyue (West Hill Music), Dajie Qianceng Titian (Large-Scale Thousand-Layer Terraces), and Jinfo Ding (Golden Buddha Peak). Golden Buddha Peak can be reached by cable car, which is the only place in the entirety of Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces offering cable car accessibility. Suffice to say, the scenery is extraordinary.
- The best time to visit the Jinkeng area is from April to late October, when farmers grow rice in the terraced fields.
- Specifically May, June, September, and October are the most scenic times to experience the rice terraces.
- Spring and fall are the most popular times to visit the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces for the hiking and photo-ops.
- There are three entrances to the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces: the village of Ping’an, the village of Dazhai, and the ancient Zhuang Village.