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Xinjie — Yuanyang Town / 3


This is Xinjie — the center of commercial, business, trading and education for people in “old Yuanyang”. Here you see some of the Yi minority people doing their shopping in the little town.

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Yuanyang County is in the Honghe Hani and Yi Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan Province. Thousands of years ago, the Hani people living in this place created a wonder by developing large areas of terraced fields on the mountainsides and in the valleys. Nowadays, those terraced fields still support the Hani people both materially and spiritually. The fields are food sources for a population of 350,000, the 640 square kilometers of forests on the mountains hold the water for daily use and irrigation, and a total of 4,653 canals in the county carry water to irrigate the terraced fields. The terraced fields also play a central part in the religious ceremonies of the Hani people.

The terraced fields in Yuanyang are witness to the harmonious relationship between the Hani people and the Ailao Mountains and to a perfect combination of nature and human culture. It is the terraced fields, in fact, along with the mushroom-shaped houses, that visitors to Yuanyang find the most interesting.

Yuanyang is at the foot of the Ailao Mountains on the south bank of the Honghe River in southern Yunnan Province, south of the Tropic of Cancer. Among the many hills and mountains in the Ailao range, there are two mountains named Guanyin. These two mountains are capped with dense forests, and on the mountainsides are fertile fields. In addition, the area enjoys abundant rainfall. Thus, the natural conditions are favorable for terraced fields.

A long time ago, the ancestors of the Hani people went deep into the mountains to avoid war. There, they created a miracle: over thousands of years, the Hani people, together with the people from the Yi, Han, Dai, Miao, Yao, and Zhuang ethnic groups, developed 130 square kilometers of terraced fields on 2,891 square kilometers of undeveloped land on the mountainsides and formed the brilliant Terraced Fields Rice-Planting Culture.

The terraced fields in Yuanyang are called "Ladders toward Heaven" by the Hani people and are known for four characteristics: First, they are vast in area. Small-sized terraced fields in odd shapes connect with one another and form larger fields, each covering an area of about 0.6 square kilometers. Second, compared with other terraced fields in the world, they are on steep slopes, ranging from 15 to 75 degrees in gradient. Third, there are many terraces. The number of terraces on a single slope may even exceed 3,000. Fourth, they are high in elevation. The terraced fields stretch from the river valleys up the mountainsides 2,000 meters above the sea level, the highest area where rice can grow.

(To be con'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: 2359] (8576)
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