Somewhere between 13,500 to 8,200 years ago, the Chinese people found a way to cultivate rice in the Yangtze River basin. This cultivation turned the region into one of the most advanced and prosperous civilizations of the world. Rice cultivation has also become a work of art, thanks to the natural scenery, unique farming system, the local culture and harmony between the heavens and the people. Rice fields in China reflect man’s ability to shape nature, and are some of the beautiful sights in the world. Read on for some of the most breathtaking rice fields in China that are definitely well worth the effort in getting off the beaten track!
1. Longji Rice Terraces, Guilin
Longji stands for ‘dragon’s spine’ in Mandarin, and the summit of the mountain range resembles the backbone of the dragon, while the rice terraces look like a dragon’s scales. The rice terrace often flies under the Guilin travel radar, as the famous Li River and surrounding karst overshadow it. You’ll never find us complaining about a lack of crowds though!
The rice terrace is beautiful all year round and you get different scenes throughout the four seasons. In mid-April to June, farmers plant new rice and the terraces are filled with water, creating beautiful reflections. From July to September, the terraces are the most beautiful shade of green. As summer turns to fall, the rice is ready for harvest and they take on a golden hue. Perhaps the only time to avoid is after the rice is harvested and all that’s left is brown dirt. However, once it starts to snow, the terraces turn silvery white, which is a rather beautiful sight too!
2. Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, Yunnan
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hani people engineered this terrace system some 1,300 years ago and continue to be caretakers of the landscape. What’s amazing about their system and agricultural method is that this would otherwise be an inhospitable growing environment. The terrace system is expansive, spanning across several towns. It is a living testimonial that demonstrates extraordinary harmony between the Hani people and their environment.
The best time to visit is from January to March, when new rice is planted and the terraces are irrigated. In early spring from late February to March, flowers bloom in the rice terrace, including pink peach blossoms and white pear blossoms. The scenery is extremely romantic, and there are many different viewpoints and spots for photography.
3. Jiabang Rice Terraces, Guizhou
Of all the rice fields in China, Jiabang Rice Terraces in Guizhou is perhaps the most mysterious with all the mist and sea of clouds. The Miao people live here, along with other minority ethic groups. Visitors who make it here often speak fondly about the colourful culture they experience. One thing is for sure: you’ll bring home with you much more than just photographs of the beautiful scenery.
In early spring, the rice terraces and Miao villages are shrouded in mist every morning, creating a scene much like a Chinese ink painting. From April to June, appreciate mirror-like terraces, and gold terraces from September to October.
4. Ziquejie Rice Terraces, Hunan
With over 2000 years’ history, Ziquejie Rice Terrace is a masterpiece by the Miao, Yao, Dong and Han ethnic groups. Today, it is one of the top scenic spots in Hunan, but still somewhat more remote and less traveled than the more popular Longji and Honghe Hani terraces. Don’t be mistaken – it is not any less impressive than other rice fields in China, with over 500 ‘layers’ of terrace!
There are six different viewing platforms for sightseeing – Baguachong, Gongmiling, Yueyashan, Laomadang, Jiulongpo and Yaorenchong. The best time for visiting is from May to July, and September to October. In April, the farmers start hoeing the ground, and the terrace is irrigated and planted with new rice in May. By July, the whole village turns green. In September and October, the fields are golden and farmers begin harvesting.
5. Yunhe Rice Terraces, Zhejiang
Yunhe Rice Terraces is the largest rice terrace in East China. It has a history of over 1,000 years since the early Tang Dynasty. Apart from the rice terrace itself, the area is home to hills, mountains and valleys which add to its natural beauty. Most people who make it here are photographers, looking to capture the rice terrace at its prettiest.
Come from May to late June for mirror-like terraces, August to September for green terraces, and October for golden terraces. Especially during spring to summer, you can see seas of clouds in the early morning. You’ll find many photographers here at sunrise or sunset!