Although traveling to this destination certainly falls under the category of high adventure rather than vacation, the Honghe Hai rice terraces of China’s Yunnan Province would be a wonder to behold—the terraces cascade down the slopes of the great Ailao Mountains like stripes down the flanks of a mighty tiger.
The traditions of the Honghe Hai are over a thousand years old—the people still worship sun and moon; forest and mountain; rivers and fire. Their relationship with the land is deep and has changed very little over the past millennium. The people still live in traditional “mushroom” huts. A complex irrigation and Eco-management system allows them to live harmoniously with the land and maintain a 1,000 kilometer property mostly dedicated to the cultivation of red rice.
The Honghe Hai have developed this system around the landscape, rather than try to change the landscape to serve their purposes—they work around and with the varied landscape of mountains, forests, rivers, narrow valleys, ravines and a sub-tropical, high rain environment. They partition their most precious resource in a renewable manner; they use on part of the forest as a “rain capture” to feed their irrigation system, while the other parts are used for worship, gathering resources like timber and a “fallow” area.
The Honghe Hai and their rice terraces are a shining and long tested example of how we can live in harmony with the world around us.