Find Longsheng: Best for Rice Terraces-China Tours
Posted Sep 27 2013 4:01am
Rice isn’t just a staple in China – it is the stuff of life. Beyond the big China tours cities, in the flatlands that cover much of the country’s interior, every inch of available earth is given over to its cultivation, and the landscape’s colours shift according to the rice season – acid green when the shoots are young, deep jade when the crop is mature, and tawny brown following the annual harvest. China accounts for more than 26% of the world’s total rice yield, an astonishing statistic given that the majority of the country’s crop is still sown, tended and harvested by hand.
High in the mountains of northern Guangxi stretches the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, a vast network stacked across the hillsides like the tiers of a wedding cake. Cultivated for more than eight centuries, the rice terraces cover Yangtze River cruises 16 acres and range in altitude from 300m to 1,100m. Liao Guozhen can trace back his family’s rice-growing heritage here for at least 700 years. Now in his early seventies, he’s been working in the terraces near his home village of Pinyan since he was eight years old. ‘I’ve never known anything other than growing rice,’ he says, puffing on a crooked cigarette as he wades knee-deep into the waterlogged paddies. ‘If you put me in a big city, I’d be lost, but here I always know what to do.’ As he tends to the shoots, banks of fog roll up from the valley and a few peaks peep out above the cloud.
The terraces aren’t just beautiful, they’re a self-sustaining ecosystem. Springwater travel to Shangri-la is trapped by the terraces, and then evaporates, forms clouds and falls again as rain higher up the mountain. The tiered structure also prevents erosion and provides a habitat for insects, birds and butterflies, which act as natural predators, reducing the need for pesticides.
Yet as in much of rural China, the old ways are disappearing fast. ‘All of my grandchildren have left China business tours for the city now,’ admits Mr Liao, ‘and I don’t know what will happen to the terraces when there’s no-one left to work them. The future is uncertain, but we have always found a way to survive.’