Yuanyang County, Honghe County, Yunnan, China
GPS: 23.093625101642, 102.80908037006
Yuanyang Rice Terraces China are located in Yuanyang County, which is part of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, about 50 kilometres north of the border with Vietnam. This peaceful mountainous region, with its subtropical climate, is home to the largest rice terraces in the world. Like a large abstract painting from the sky, Yuanyang is one of the most beautiful rice terraces in the country, along with Longsheng (Guangxi region), Jiabang (Guizhou), Gaoyao (Guizhou) and Fengyan (Shanxi). Its fields of rice paddies extend as far as the eye can see and are nicknamed the Stairs to Heaven.
Stretching along the southern bank of the Hong River (or Red River), Yuanyang Rice Terraces form an endless landscape of rice paddies covering more than 160 km² (without including the neighbouring areas of Honghe, Lüchun and Jinping). This agricultural area has been shaped for centuries by the Hani and Yi peoples up to the southern slopes of the Ailao Mountains. Every promontory, hill or knoll is transformed into a terrace cultivation area, whether it is at treetop level at high altitudes or at the river’s edge in the middle or lower valleys. The vast majority of them are used only once a year for cultivation and remain submerged the rest of the time. Planting traditionally begins at the start of the monsoon season in late May. In August, the rice fields mature and farmers can harvest the grain in September. Some plots are stacked on top of each other and flirt with 3,000 metres above sea level. The steep slopes of Yuanyang Rice Terraces are up to 75 degrees in places. Several thousand irrigation ditches and canals, which are meticulously maintained every year, supply the rice fields with water. This ancestral know-how, respectful of nature, earns its agricultural engineers from ethnic minorities the nickname of artists or mountain sculptors.
Created and passed down from generation to generation, this method of growing rice in steps was officially recognized during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), although it is already mentioned in writings dating from the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries). It was so successful that it was reproduced in other South-East Asian countries (Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia…) in the Middle Ages as well as in Japan and Nepal.