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Photographer's Note

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This photo of sunset has been shot in Yuanyang in the first evening of our recent 5-day visit.

Prior to my first arrival, Maciej Tomczak had been here. Not only professionally photographed the terraced fields, he even wrote an essay to share with us his experience. This essay has been published on the Canadian magazine photolife and it appears here with author’s permission. The title and its entire text are copyrighted. Please enjoy…

(Continued from yesterday posting)




The Art of Rice — II




In contrast to the lowlands, which enjoy up to three rice harvests a year, there is only a single yield in the mountains. Hani families plant rice seedlings by hand around May, and harvest them in the fall. There is no bad season for photography here: the stupendous displays of light reflections in the winter and the spring, when the terraces are full of water, alternate with stunning emerald vistas during the rice growing season.

Remarkably, the terraces are irrigated by a sustainable hydrologic cycle. Water, evaporated from the warm lowland river valleys, condenses as fog and low clouds, which move up the hills and coalesce in the foliage of the hilltop forests above the terraces. Collected water feeds the intricate network of channels and, cascading downhill the terrace sequences via weirs, makes its way back towards the Red River. The forests, acting as water traps and temporary reservoirs, are sacred and strictly protected by the villages.

Most of the field-tending and irrigation upkeep is done by hand or with the help of, magically nimble for their size and clunky looks, water buffalos. Buffalos’ dang is collected in the manure ponds in villages and, during the summer monsoons, mixed with irrigation water right on time to fertilize growing rice paddies.

The tightly-knitted Hani society, fuelled by its efficient self governance and harmonious environmental theology, have not changed much for centuries and continues to function well today. The functional rice terraces, a communal creation on a grand scale supporting over a million souls, are the testament of the wisdom of such order.

But not all is rosy in the Ailao Mountains. Although Chinese authorities recognised Hani as a ‘nationality’ and continue to paint the felicitous, if nostalgic, picture of this and other minorities, the southeast Yunnan remains among the poorest regions in the country. China’s burgeoning economy only widened traditional income gap between well-educated urban elites of Han Chinese and rural indigenous populations — the latter consistently near the bottom of the social and economic ladder. This leaves Hani increasingly vulnerable and the future of their traditional way of life and rice cultivation all but assured.


(To be cont'd)


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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 472 W: 128 N: 2360] (8578)
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