Yuanyang, lies in the relatively underdeveloped southeast part of Yunnan, Honghe Hani and Yi People's Autonomous Region, Yunnan, southwest of China. Because it is a relatively inaccessible part of Yunnan, the subtropical area escaped heavy development for tourism, and has so far been overlooked by the big masses.
Yuanyang is renowned for its rice terraces, sculpted by bare hands by the Hani people one thousand years ago, transforming a barren valley into a humid Eden; perfect for rice crops. The 1000m of mountain slopes of terraces is still in use today, claiming to be the world's most spectacular and extensive terraces.
It is a self sustaining ecosystem and a perfect example of a symbiosis with nature.
Best Time to Visit
With a subtropical climate, a visit to Yuanyang Rice Terraces anytime during the year is possible, though November to April will allow you to catch the terrace fields at their prettiest.
The annual average temperature is 16.4 degree Celsius, and 1407 mm of yearly average precipitation.
How to get there?
Beijing-Kunming - There are 18 flights per day starting from 07:50am to 21:10pm. The flight takes 4 hours.
Kunming-Beijing - There are 12 flights per day starting from 12:35pm to 20:00pm
Shanghai - Kunming- There are 12 flight per day starting from 07:35am to19:10pm. The flight takes just under 3 hours.
Kunming- Shanghai - There are 10 flights per day ranging from 09:00 to 20:10pm.
Distances from Beijing and Shanghai
Yuanyang is 2253KM from Beijing
Yuanyang is 2044km from Shanghai
Getting to Yuanyang
Yuanyang is situated south of Kunming, in the Honghe 红河 Region. It has a new administrative town, Nansha 南沙, which is the transport hub. However the main interests of most visitors are closer to Xinjiezhen 新街, which is about 30 km up the hill.
One can take a bus from Kunming to Yuanyang either via Gejiu or Jianshui at Kunming Nanyao Bus Station 南窑汽车站 near the railway station. There is a sleeper bus leaving at 8pm from Kunming and arriving at Yuanyang the next morning around 5am.
From Kunming to Jianshui 建水 (Y46) , 200km. One bus leaves every half hour between 7:30 to 16:30, and then 17:10, 19.10. The journey takes four hours. Then it takes another 3 hours from Jianshui to Yuanyang Nansha by bus (Y30). In Nansha one can easily find collective minibus for Yuanyang Xinjie for Y10 (25km, one hour).
From Kunming to Gejiu 个旧: 275 km. Normal bus (Y55): 15 departures between 7:25 and 19:00. Express bus (Y82): 8:40, 14:20, 15:40. Now it takes one hour from Gejiu to Nansha. Gejie has directly bus to Xiejie.
We recommend the Jianshui-Yuanyang road. Make a stopover in Jianshui, visit a surprisingly well preserved and peaceful ancient town Tuanshan 团山.
What to see
Yuanyang Rice Terrace
It is a perfect example of symbiosis in nature. The water evaporates from the rice terrace to form clouds; the clouds give rain, which is collected and trapped by the forests on the mountains. The water from the rain and from mountain springs flow down to the rice terraces and the whole cycle repeats itself perpetually. During the winter to early spring season, the entire field is irrigated with spring water from the forest above to rejuvenate and prepare for the next growing season. The Hani people have repeated this for more than a thousand years. There is only one harvest per year for the Yuanyang Rice Terrace; planting occurs from March to October/November every year.
The paddies, which are flooded from December to April, create a reflecting pool effect which is a photographer's dream. But be aware that the hills can be blanketed in fog for over half the year. In summer, the paddies are luxuriantly green with growing rice stalks. After the fall harvest, the paddies become bare earth, giving a completely different feeling.
An optional gateway to Yuanyang, Jianshui is a little town with interesting historical architecture and relics. Once an important center of Yunnan and a required stop on the road from Kunming to Vietnam, the Dai kingdom of Xishuangbanna and the edge of the Chinese empire, Jianshui grew on the profits of its lucrative position as a center of trade. The town's extensive architectural legacy bears witness to this former glory, and charms those few visitors it does receive. Nowdays the north-south road from the capital bypasses Jianshui far to the west, and few people make the journey.
Jianshui town has one gate, one street, three memorial gates (paifang in Chinese), the Confucian temple (wen miao) and the Zhu Family's Garden.
The Chaoyang Gateway Arch (Chao Yang Men) is the main sight of Jianshiu. It is called mini-Tiananmen Gate because it looks much like the one in Beijing but on a smaller scale. Actually, it is much older, having been built in year 1389. Rumor has it that Beijing's Tian An Men gate was actually built by the apprentice of the man who built this gate. Tiananmen Gate is only two tiers high, whereas this one has three tiers. There is also an old temple there is Zhi Lin Xi, built in year 1295, where you can see some very old wall paintings. The town also has some old buildings which date back to Tang Dynasty.
Temple of Confucius (wen miao), Jianshui is apparently the second largest Confucian temple in China (built in Yuan Dynasty), after that of Qufu, Shandong, Confucius' home town. It features a large pond, intricate stonework, traditional architecture and a selection of museum-like displays. Nowadays the rear is still in use as a center of learning.
Double Dragon Bridge, a seventeen-span Ming Dynasty stone construction to the west of town whose tremendous girth nowdays seems out of place - today the two rivers is crossed have all but dried up and it simply towers over rice paddies. It is one of the largest ancient bridge in Yunnan.
Family Zhang's Courtyards and Garden, is located in ancient Tuanshan village 13 km west of Jianshui Town.
Formerly the exclusive domain of a local aristocratic family, it is famed for its Qing Dynasty architecture, which includes extremely detailed wood and stone carvings, and unique painted murals. It is the second largest private courtyard style mansion in Jianshui. But it looks more authentic than Zhu Family's Garden, the largest one, which has been renovated although the refurbishment is conducted based on "repair-to-restore" policy.
Tuanshan village - enlisted in world's most endangered sites
Tuanshan, a village 220 km south off Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, has been enlisted by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) as one of the 100 Most Endangered Places for the year of 2006.
John H. Stubbs, vice president of World Monuments Fund (WMF), made a special trip last Friday to Kunming to grant a certificate to a government official of Jianshui County which administers over Tuanshan Village.
"Tuanshan is the most beautiful village where the architectural style of the 19th century and beyond remains intact and the distinctive way of people's life is preserved, fully showcasing China's indigenous cultural characteristics," said Mr. Stubbs, "We put Tuanshan on our Watch List because we believe it is of world value and is the common heritage of the whole humankind."
Wenbi (Writing brush) Pagoda - The ancient Pagoda's design differs remarkably from that of other Chinese towers and pagodas. It is perhaps the most neglected attraction of the area and is therefore worth seeing.
Luoping lies in the relatively underdeveloped eastern part of the province, 228km east of Kunming, and is dominated by karst features with small basins among the mountain ranges. In early spring, the blossoming rapeseed flowers of Luoping draw flocks of tourists and photographers. Sprawling farmland covered in golden rapeseed blossoms stretches right up to the horizon, forming a sea of yellow buds and filling the air with the refreshing smell of spring. Besides the incredible vista of golden rapeseeds, Luoping has other major scenic sights including the Jiulong waterfall, the Duoyi River and the Lubuge Gorges.
There are Yuanyang old city Xinjiezhen and Yuanyang new city Nansha. The former is your destination, which is 1hr further uphill from Nansha. Nansha is usually very hot even in winter, you don't need to stop there, but it's a place your bus must pass through, be prepared of sweating.
During the Chinese Spring Festival vacation, the place is too crowded. You will be surprised to find out that there are so many photographers in China.
The landscape changes vividly through the year. The paddies are flooded in the winter and early spring -- this creates the reflecting pool effect, a photographer's dream (see photo). In the summer, the paddies are luxuriantly green with growing rice stalks. After the fall harvest, the paddies become naked bare earth
The rice farmers have had to practice ecology and land preservation centuries before those concepts were widely accepted around the world. Without hard work maintaining the terrace walls and irrigation system, the precious top soil would wash down the hillsides into the rivers.
Yuanyang boast a wide variety of ethnic minorities. Other than Han’s, Hani’s and Yi’s are the next biggest minorities; there are also Miao’s, Zhuang’s, Dai’s and so on. In fact most of the terraces in Yuanyang are carved by the Hani minority over the centuries. The Hani’s also exported the rice terrace cultivation, method and culture to the rest of South East Asia many centuries ago. Most of the minorities still go about their everyday life dressed in their traditional costumes (mainly the females). The best opportunity to see them in their splendor is during the various Market Days
The Hani ethnic group shares the same origin with the Yi and Lahu ethnic groups. According to the historical records, they all evolved from the ancient Qiang people. The Qiang people used to be a nomadic tribe living in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau.
The Hani people have their own language. Their language consists of three dialects and belongs to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Burmese language group of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. They have no written script in the past and used to keep records by carving notches on sticks. In 1957, with the help of the central government, a script system based on the Roman alphabet was created, but failed to achieve a popular use. The Hani (also known in adjacent countries as the Akha) are of Tibetan origin. The Hani people live wooden houses that are warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The roofs are flat and used to dry grain. They stick to the hills, cultivating rice corn and the occasional poppy.
Hani women wear headdresses of beads, feathers, coins and silver rings. The Hani are found in Yunnan Province. The practice polytheism and ancestor worship.
The ancestors of the Yi ethnic group can be traced back to the Qiang people living in northwest China. They later migrated south and joined the local southwest aboriginal and created a new group, the Yi ethnic group. The Yi people have their own language, which belongs to the Yi branch of the Zang-Mian Austronesian of Han-Zang Phylum. Yi characters, as the earliest syllabic script in China, were formed in the 13th century and are still used today. A number of works of history, literature and medicine as well as genealogies of the ruling families written in the old Yi script are still seen in most Yi areas.
Due to cultural and economic exchanges with the Han, more and more Yi people learn to use the Han language and characters in daily life. Most Yi people engage in agriculture and a small percentage of them raise livestock. People living in the plains take rice, maize, wheat and yams as their staple food while those in the frigid mountainous areas mostly depend on maize, buckwheat and yams. Complements to their main food source include vegetable, legume, fruits, pork, mutton and beef.
Fierce warriors, the Yi evolved an aristocratic society. Even their slaves had slaves. They based their religion on the reading of sacred writings.
The Yi are found mainly in the Yunnan Province and also in Sichuan, Guizhou Provinces and the Guangxi Autonomous Region.
The Yi people in southern Yunnan live in two-story adobe houses. The kitchen and cattle shed are usually on the first floor, and the living room is on the second. The flat roof is used as a veranda. They are part of the Sino-Tibetan Tibeto-Burman ethno linguistic group.
The Miao are one of the most ancient of China's nationalities, tracing their origins back more than 4,000 years. Prior to modernization of farming methods, they grew millet and buckwheat using the slash-and-burn methods. The Miao language has three main dialects, but there was no unified written script until 1956. Religions include nature and ancestor worship and Christianity.
Dispersed from southern China across northern Vietnam, Laos, and into Thailand, the Miao (also known as the Hmong), vary in dialect, styles of farming, and designation: Black, White, Red, blue, Flowery, and Cowrie Shell Miao among others.
Forced southward by the Han, often despised and exploited, many settled in distant mountains, raising millet and buckwheat by slash-and-burn farming, their diet supplemented by domestic animals and hunting. Modernization, improved farming methods, organization of communes, and road building has been made difficult by the ragged terrain in which the Miao are scattered. The Miao are found in the Guizhou, Hainan, Hubei, Sichuan, Gansu, Guizhou, Qinghai, Hunan, Guangdong, and Yunnan Provinces and the Guangxi Autonomous Region. They are part of the Sino-Tibetan Miao-Yao ethno linguistic group.
About 195 km almost directly east of Guiyang in the town of Kaili. Kaili is a fairly uninspiring place but the area is host to a large number of minority festivals, over 130 annually. One of the largest is the Lusheng Festival, held from the 11th to the 18th of the first lunar month. The lusheng is a reed instrument used by the Miao people. Activities include playing the lusheng, dancing, drumming, bull fighting, and horse racing. Participants are said to number 30,000. The festival is held in Danxi.
Other festivals are held midway in the 7th lunar month and in their New Year. Their New Year is celebrated in the first four days of the 10th lunar month by some 50,000 people.
About 752,000 Miao live in Yunnan Province scattered over eighty-seven counties. They are good at weaving, embroidery and Batik. Their excellent craftsmanship is well known.
The Long-Dragon Banquet of Yuanyang is held every year, During this festival the Hani people hold a banquet so large they consume entire towns. The annual festival and the splendor of Yuanyang's rice terraces are drawing increasing interest from travelers and photographers alike.
Around the time of China's Spring Festival, the Hanis celebrate the Yangmatu Festival in honor of their heroes and pray for the union of the Hani people and good harvests. The festival usually lasts for three days, when the locals participate in sacrificial ceremonies in the center of the village and enjoy food at a grand banquet in the middle of the street. The villagers are more than happy to welcome visitors to join them.
All family members reunite during this time, dressing up in their best clothes and rolling out their best dishes to share with neighbors at the street banquet.
The Long-Dragon Banquet is the best of its kind for the Hani people, and no longer banquet has been found anywhere else in the world. The banquet was filled with laughter, singing, and dancing, and it was not over until the sun set.
Yunnan cuisineis an amalgam of Han Chinese and Chinese minority cuisines. As the province with the largest number of ethnic minorities, Yunnan has a great variety of food, and it is difficult to make generalisations. Many Yunnanese dishes are quite spicy, and mushrooms feature prominently. Another important characteristic of Yunnan cuisine is the wide use of flowers as food.
Examples of popular Yunnan dishes and snacks:
Guoqiao mixian-('Crossing the bridge' or 'Across the bridge' noodles, Yunnan's best known dish. Consists of a bowl of chicken stock to which diners add their own selection of paper-thin meat slices, noodles, vegetables and spices, much like a hot pot. Found throughout the province.)
Qi guo ji - (Steam pot chicken, chicken steamed with tonic herbs in a special ceramic pot)
Pu'er cha - (Pu-erh tea, traditionally grown in Simao)
Shiping doufu - (Shiping tofu)
Erkuai - (highly refined and compressed rice cakes)
Rubing - (goat's milk cheese, from Bai cuisine in the area near Dali)
Rushan - (cow milk cheese)
Kunming offers many local products. The interaction of different cultures, religions and colorful lifestyles offers visitors so much to see and buy! It is an ideal place to find local products and souvenirs of your trip to Yunnan!
Kunming is famous for local handiwork including ivory and woodcarving, Dai Jin (brocade made by Dai artisans), and Dai Zhu Bian (Dai bamboo basketry).
Wood carving in Kunming is exhibited mainly in wood furniture including chairs, benches and tea tables. Furniture with enchased marble is classical and elegant.
Most Dai women can weave Dai Jin, a kind of drapery with colorful and unique designs used to make bags, curtains, bedclothes, cushions, etc., making excellent gifts for relatives and friends.
Dai people are also clever at making articles of bamboo. Dai families live in bamboo houses in which everything is made of bamboo including cabinets and hats.
Also available are excellent local products such as dried mushrooms, tropical fruits and batik.