Situated in beautiful Yunnan province, is the breathtaking Yuanyang Terraced Fields. Also known as “Yuanyang Rice Terraces”, and “Honghe Hani Rice Terraces”, these spectacular terraces cascade down the slopes of the majestic Ailao Mountains. An incredible example of the ingenuity of the Hani people, the terraced fields have a history spanning over a thousand years. In 2013, they were deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With such cultural and historical significance, coupled with incredible natural beauty, Yuanyang Terraced Fields are an attraction that cannot be missed.
- Yuanyang Terraced Fields cover over a thousand square kilometres (16,603 hectares) in southern Yunnan.
- The terraced fields are distributed through a four counties: Yuanyang, Honghe, Luchen, and Jinpin.
- The core area is located in Yuangyang county, and is regarded as a marvel of ingenuity by the Hani people, who have lived in the region for 2,500 years.
- The Hani reside in 82 villages situated between the dense mountaintop forests and the rice terraces.
- Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people carved out an ingenious system of channels to bring water down from the forested mountaintops to the terraced rice fields.
History Of Yuanyang Terraced Fields
Ancestors of the Hani people first settled in the Ailao Mountains in southern Yunnan province prior to the 3rd century CE. According to Hani oral traditions, they are believed to have migrated from the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Since the 8th century CE, the Hani developed a complex system of channels that brought water down from the densely forested mountaintops. A feat of ingenuity and engineering, the terrain is not only rugged, but is sub-tropical receiving extremely high rainfall (about 1400 mm annually).
Not only did the Hani create irrigated terraces to grow rice, they likewise developed an integrated farming system that involved cattle, buffalo, fish, and ducks among other animals. The incredible ingenuity of the Hani people in successfully creating the Yuanyang Terraced Fields goes without saying. Especially, considering that the technology of developing irrigated, fertile land on rugged mountain slopes didn’t spread throughout the rest of China until the 14th century CE.
In addition to creating the Yuanyang Terraced Fields, over the past thousand years or so, the Hani also established some 82 villages. Located between the lush mountaintop forests and the rice fields, the small villages are now home to between 50 and 100 households.
In 2008, the Yuangyang County People’s government designated the rice terraces as a protected historic site. Likewise it is now a State Priority Protected Site by the Sate Council of China. In 2013, UNESCO inscribed Yuanyang Terraced Fields as a World Heritage Site, deemed “Honghe Hani Rice Terraces”.
Culture Of Yuanyang Terraced Fields
Yuanyang Terraced Fields form three main scenic areas including Bada, Duoyishu and Laohuzui. Covering over 1,000 square kilometers, these scenic areas incorporate a large variety of geological components.
Bada Scenic Area: This section of Yuanyang Terraced Fields comprises the largest area, at 9.3 square kilometers. The terraces here are situated on a gentle gradient, and are named Malizhai, Qingkou, Zhulu, and Qingkou. Bada Scenic Area is considered the best place in Yuanyang Terraced Fields to view extraordinary sunsets. There are 17 Hani villages dotted throughout the scenic area.
Duoyishu Scenic Area: This scenic area covers a total area of 6.7 square kilometers. The terraces incorporating Duoyishu include Aichun, Dawazhe, and Duoyishu. They are located on steeper than those at Bada. Duoyishu Scenic Area is considered to have the most beautiful natural scenery in all of Yuanyang Terraced Fields, and the best place to photograph stunning sunrises.
Laohuzui Scenic Area: Also known as “The Tiger Mouth”, the terraces in this area are located on the steepest slopes. This scenic area covers about 8.5 square kilometers, and is regarded as the core area of Yuanyang Terraced Fields. This wonderfully rugged section is about a 40-minute drive from Bada Scenic Area. The best time to see the terraced fields in Laohuzui is at sunset.
- The best time to visit Yuanyang Terraced Fields is from November through to April.
- The terraced fields are located in a sub-tropical climate, which is neither too hot, nor too cold. Visitors will be comfortable in t-shirts and shorts year-round, but it is advised to bring a jacket. Mornings and evenings are often cooler.
- Yuanyang Terraced Fields are open year-round.
- There is an entrance fee of 100 yuan, which gives visitors access to Bada, Duoyishu, and Laohuzui Scenic Area. Said fee also permits entrance to Jingkou Folk Village.