The spectacular rice terraces of Yuanyang

Rice fields and ethnic minorities in Yunnan

The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang (原阳) are located south of Yunnan in Honghe Prefecture. This entire area is famous for its large expanses of rice fields, which are undoubtedly some of the most spectacular in all of China.

Yuanyang is actually called the territory itself, but there is no city by that name. The point that connects all the rice fields is the village of Xinjie. From there you can get lost between rice terraces and thatched villages.

Ninety-five per cent of Yuanyang’s population is engaged in agriculture, 88% of whom belong to different ethnic minorities. The Hani minority is the largest and oldest minority in the area, having cultivated the rice fields for about 1300 years.

Yunnan - Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yunnan – Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yunnan – The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang

When to go to Yuanyang?

The best time to travel to Yuanyang is a few months after the September-November harvest. If you go from December to February you can see the fields irrigated with water as if they were small natural pools in the middle of the mountain.

How to get to Yuanyang?

From Kunming to Yuanyang by bus

From Kunming you can take a direct bus to Xinjie, which is the first village where you find the rice terraces of Yuanyang. The journey takes about 6-7 hours, depending on the traffic.

Once in Xinjie you have to move with the local taxis and vans to go from village to village. Here is a link to the bus schedule. Also, if you want to save such a long trip and stop halfway, you can do what I did and visit Jianshui (建水), a nice village between Kunming and Xinjie. 

Trip to Yunnan - Yuanyang Rice Terraces
Yunnan – Yuanyang Rice Terraces

Yunnan countryside – Visit to Jianshui

I arrived in Jianshui on Sunday evening so that day I only had time to stay in a hotel in the old part of town and be amazed by its great wall very similar to the one in the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Early in the morning, I went for a walk around the village. The old town is worth a visit, and if I had had more time, I would have gone to the Confucius Temple or to some nearby caves which I heard very good things about.

To get to the rice terraces from Jianshui one must first take a bus that takes you to Nansha (南沙) (3 hours) and then change to another bus that takes you up to Xinjie (新街) (1 hour).

Yunnan - Jianshui
Yunnan – Jianshui

What to see in the rice terraces of Yuanyang?

Duoyishu rice terraces

Just arriving in Xinjie I went to Duoyishu, where I knew I could stay at the almost always reliable International Youth Hostel. Duoyishu is one of the best known and most visited Hani villages for its breathtaking views of the rice fields. The village is really beautiful, quiet and surrounded by nature and mountains.

If you don’t go there during Chinese holidays it almost looks like a ghost town. Sometimes you come across some Hani women dressed in their characteristic black and blue clothes. With the laughter of children running and playing barefoot in the village and among the rice fields, and with some little pigs walking around the village or lying in their own feces.

Just where the village ends, the rice fields begin, and from there as far as the eye can see, there are only rice fields. Something worth seeing.

Yunnan - Duoyishu Rice Terraces
Yunnan – Duoyishu Rice Terraces

Walking among rice fields

The next day I woke up early with the intention of watching the sunrise and going into the rice fields. I spent 2-3 hours “lost” in the rice fields. Walking along the edge, careful not to fall into them and enjoying such a landscape.

To avoid the main road, between one village and another, I went back into the rice fields. I would pass all kinds of locals who greeted me nicely and at the same time looked at me as if thinking: “what’s this guy doing here…”. Around 5 p.m. I returned to Duoyishu. I immediately made my backpack and headed for Laohuzui to spend my last night there.

Yunnan - Rice terraces of Yuanyang - Children playing in the rice fields
Rice terraces of Yuanyang – Children playing in the rice fields

Laohuzui rice terraces

Laohuzui is another of the best known villages in the area for its amazing view of the rice fields. If you come to see the rice terraces of Yuanyang you cannot miss a visit to the viewpoint of Laohuzui.

In my case, just arriving, I met a very nice villager who offered me to sleep in her family hotel for 75 Rmb a night. We bargained and agreed to stay one night for 50 Rmb. Besides, I would give her 20 more for showing me a shortcut to the viewpoint. The entrance to the viewpoint cost 100 Rmb (12 euros) so it was worth trying.

After leaving the backpacks he took me through an alley of old houses. We went through some bushes, and then, we went into the trees. Suddenly, I found myself jumping a small fence and sneaking into the viewpoint.

The viewpoint was built right on the edge of a mountain, leaving you suspended and surrounded by rice fields. I stayed there until nightfall and then returned to the hotel by the same road I had entered. When I returned, the hotel family was having dinner with other guests and invited me to join them.

Yunnan - Rice terraces of Yuanyang - Laohuzui
Rice terraces of Yuanyang – Laohuzui
Laohuzui – Rice Terraces with water

Xinjie, the point of union of all the rice terraces of Yuanyang

My last day in the afternoon I left the family hotel with a very good taste in my mouth. I returned to Xinjie a couple of hours before taking the bus back to Kunming.

It turned out that Xinjie was hosting a small minority festival. So I had the pleasure of watching the traditional dances of each of the different ethnic groups in Yuanyang.

If you want to travel to Yunnan, you can have a look to our organized trip thought Yunnan with guide and taxi driver, and the shorter route of a 11 day trip around Yunnan. A few years later, I returned to the Yuanyang rice terraces by bicycle from Kunming. This time, I was finally able to enjoy some water-filled rice terraces. In this link I tell you my experience cycling around China.

To open up a new path you have to be able to get lost.

The Universe of dreams – Jean Rostand –
Yunnan - Xinjie - Ethnic Minority Dance
Yunnan – Xinjie – Ethnic Minority Dance


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