Monday, June 24, 2013

Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China

In far southern Chin, in the mountains of Yunnan Province, rice farmers have carved the hillsides into an extraordinary array of terraces. One region of these terraces has just been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces:
The Cultural Landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, China covers 16,603-hectares in Southern Yunnan. It is marked by spectacular terraces that cascade down the slopes of the towering Ailao Mountains to the banks of the Hong River. Over the past 1,300 years, the Hani people have developed a complex system of channels to bring water from the forested mountaintops to the terraces. They have also created an integrated farming system that involves buffalos, cattle, ducks, fish and eel and supports the production of red rice, the area’s primary crop. The inhabitants worship the sun, moon, mountains, rivers, forests and other natural phenomena including fire. They live in 82 villages situated between the mountaintop forests and the terraces. The villages feature traditional thatched “mushroom” houses. The resilient land management system of the rice terraces demonstrates extraordinary harmony between people and their environment, both visually and ecologically, based on exceptional and long-standing social and religious structures.
These terraces have long been a favorite subject for landscape photographers, so there are thousands of pictures of them around.

The terraces in several parts of Asia have been in use for 1500 years, so this is a truly sustainable system. It depends on the
unique and integrated ecological system which comprises the forests on the hilltop, the terraced fields and villages on the hillsides, and the water system at the foot of the hills. The forests on the hilltops conserve the water resources. Making use of the water resources conserved by the forest on the hilltops, the terraced fields on the hillsides have formed vast artificial everglade while producing rice and aquatic animals and plants co-existed with these water-filled paddy fields to meet the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of Hani people and other ethnic groups.

This requires the conservation of large ares of cloud forest and the near elimination of erosion. So, there are extensive wild areas with diverse ecosystems in these regions, even though they have very dense human populations.

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