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Reflecting the Heavens: The Rice Terraces of Yuanyang 映射天堂:元阳水稻梯田

This is a big call, but I’m going to say it – if you only see one other place in China besides the Great Wall, it should be here, the Yuanyang region of Yunnan. (My husband, reading over my shoulder as I type this, is harrumphing and disagreeing – “What about the Terracotta Warriors? The Lost Library of Dunhuang? All of Shanghai??)
He has a point – for a place that is five hours out of your way from either Kunming or the Xishuangbanna region, you need a solid commitment to go. But we wandered into the area with absolutely no plans to do more than a day trip and left five days later. It hooks you like that. 
I’m going to give you five good reasons you should consider going to all that bother.
这个称呼很大,但是我还是要这么说——在中国如果除了长城之外你要看的第二个地方就应该是这里了,云南的元阳地区。(在我打这些字的时候,我的丈夫越过我的肩膀看到,他表示不同意,哼着说——“那兵马俑呢?遗失的敦煌藏书库呢?还有上海呢?”)

他有一个观点——要是那个地方偏离我们的道路,离昆明或是西双版纳都需要5个小时的话,你需要一个一致的承诺约定才能去。但我们毫无计划地花了一天多的行程,迷路游荡来到这个地方并且在5天后才离开,我们像被钩住了一般。
我将给你应当考虑去这里的五个理由。

 
1. The Rice Terraces 梯田
An incredible feat of agricultural engineering over 1300 years old, Yuanyang’s rice terraces are just simply spectacular. If you thought the Great Wall was an impressive man-made structure imagine these terraces, folded in and out of deep mountain valleys, in some places more than three thousand layered terraces extend upwards from the valley floor like mirrored steps leading to the sky.
In winter and early spring before the rice sprouts and turns the terraces a vivid green, the water reflects the sky, clouds and stars in an ever-changing array of pale colours.
The terraces are reached via the small town of Xinjie, from which they can be viewed at various sites along a loop road. The viewing platforms afford great views without disrupting the terraces themselves or the work of the farmers.
一个难以置信的超过一千三百年历史的农业技术创举,元阳的水稻梯田就是如此的壮观。如果你认为长城印象深刻——将一个建筑物想象成这些梯田,在深深的山谷之间里里外外地折叠着,在从像镜像的阶梯延伸至天空那样,在一些地方,超过三千层梯田从谷底延伸向上。
在冬天和早春的时候,稻米发芽并转化成生机勃勃的绿色之前,在不断变化排列的纯净的云朵间水面倒映着天空,云朵和星辰。
通过一个叫新界的小镇可以到达梯田,沿着蜿蜒的小路在不同的点都可以看到它们。从观景台可以看到很棒的风景,丝毫不会破坏梯田本身或是农民作业。

2. Rice 米
Not just an attraction for tourists, Yuanyang is one giant living, breathing rice farm, worked by the thousands of local villagers for whom rice is their livelihood. Rice gets planted, tended, watered, the seedlings transplanted, watered more, and finally harvested in a long cycle from early spring through to late autumn.
Given that rice has been a staple food in China for several thousand years, and China is the world’s greatest producer and greatest consumer of rice it’s fascinating to see first hand just how it’s grown, using the same centuries-old methods. 
The rice terraces will appear quite different depending on the time of year you visit – busy with farmers planting seedlings in spring, green and lush in summer, golden brown in autumn and busy again with autumn harvesting, in late autumn through winter and early spring the terraces are still ponds of reflected water.
不仅对游客而言是一个景点,元阳本身就是一个巨大的,充满生机的稻米农场,上千的本地村民依赖稻米生活。从早春到晚秋,稻米在这里被种植、照料、浇水、移植秧苗,再浇水,最终经过一个很长的周期得以收获。
如果几千年来稻米是中国的主要粮食,中国就是世界上最大的稻米生产者和消费者。看到一手的稻米用几个世纪以来的古老方式种植是如此令人陶醉。
根据你一年中到访的时间不同,稻米梯田呈现的景象也很不同——在春天农民忙着撒种子,夏天则是一片繁茂的绿色,秋天是一片金黄色,而且此时又要忙着丰收了,在晚秋走向冬天的这段时间还有早春的时候,梯田仍就是反射天空景象的水塘。

3. The Hani People 哈尼族
One of China’s many ethnic minorities, in Yuanyang the Hani constitute just over 50% of the population and are originally of Tibetan origin. 
Smiling, open, friendly and relaxed, the Hani (and local Yi people, who constitute the second largest ethnic group in the area) are one of the best reasons to visit Yuanyang, seeing life is it is for these traditional farmers. Tourism is gradually increasing but still plays a distant second fiddle to the area’s main business – rice cultivation.
The men have mostly taken to wearing western-style clothing outside of festival occasions, but the Hani women and children of both sexes still wear traditional clothing – a heavily embroidered tunic fastened with large silver buttons made from old coins, and trousers with bands of embroidery below the knee. The women wear head dresses of various kinds depending on their area of origin (see below). 
在中国众多的少数民族中,云南的哈尼族构成了超过百分之五十的人口,而且他们是藏族的起源。
微笑、开放、友好又无拘无束,哈尼族(还有本地的彝族人,他们构成了这个区域的第二大少数民族)就是来造访元阳的最好的一个理由,看看生活本身就是这些传统农民们。旅游逐渐发展但相对于这个地区的主要产业——稻株栽培而言仍然是一个有一定距离的二流角色。
在节日之外的时候,男人们多数穿着西式的服装,但是哈尼族的妇女和孩童仍穿着传统服装——很厚的绣花束腰外衣,并用古硬币制作的大银扣来固定,裤子的膝盖以下都是一群刺绣。妇女们依据她们原区域的不同戴着不同款式的头饰。(如下) 

4. A Hani Long Table Feast 哈尼长街宴
Now I don’t want to get your hopes up but if you happen to be visiting Yuanyang in October, November or December you may be lucky enough to ctach one of the dozens of Long Table Feasts during those months. Each village holds their own at different times.
On our way to the area we stopped in Honghe, where every local we met invited us to attend the nearby annual Long Table Feast in the village of Jiayinxiang, an hour away – awfully kind of them seeing as it wasn’t actually their feast they were celebrating, a little like inviting complete strangers to your next door neighbour’s wedding without asking them first. 
We went anyway, because it sounded like the sort of wedding party you could, as complete strangers, crash without offending anyone, and we were right. 
现在我不想激起你的希望,但是如果你碰巧十月、十一月或是十二月来元阳,在这几个月里你肯定足够幸运能赶上几十场长街宴中的一场。在不同的时间每个村落都会举办他们自己的长街宴。
在我们来这个区域的路上,我们在红河停留下来,在这里每一个本地人都邀请我们参加附近一个叫佳音乡的一年一度的长桌宴。一个小时的路程——他们看起来不是真正的在庆祝他们的宴会,而是有点像邀请完全陌生的人来你隔壁邻居的婚礼,而且没有请示他们。我们离开了,因为这听起来的确像个婚礼派对,你作为陌生人,没有冒犯任何人而闯了进来,事实上,我们是对的。
村庄的入口用旗布装饰着,小路用冷衫树枝铺盖。因此当在上面行走的时候,你的脚会带起松木味道。夜更深的时候味道会更清晰,这是个多好的主意啊。当我们还在试着想出来究竟宴席在哪里举办的时候,一列队伍就出现了——本地人穿着节日盛装,跳着舞,敲着木棍,敲着鼓,挥舞着成熟的稻杆儿,还唱着歌、我们卷入了上百个狂欢者的队伍,跟着他们被带着走向街道里。

The entrance to the village was decked with bunting and the pathways laid with fir branches, so your feet stirred up a lovely pine scent as you walked. Later in the evening it would become clear what a very good idea this was.
While we were still trying to work out exactly where the feast was taking place a procession began – locals dressed in festival best, dancing, tapping sticks, banging drums, waving branches of ripened rice, and singing. We were caught up in the procession of hundreds of revellers that followed them and were carried off down the street.

Rounding a corner we suddenly saw just exactly how long the Long Table Feast was. On either side of the crowd-filled street were long rows of low wicker tables, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty end on end, and every one groaning with Hani festive foods – small crisp-fried fish, poached chicken, roast duck, boiled peanuts, rounds of corn, and lichen salads in small bowls. 
Everyone – bar very small children – was drinking white bowls of rice wine. Lots of them. The toasts started with a shout at one end of the street and spread in a Mexican wave to the other end as each table stood in rapid succession to toast the table next to them. The food had barely been touched and almost everyone was already red-cheeked and rolling drunk, telling funny stories, singing songs and toasting again and again as Mexican waves rolled up and down the street. 
It looked like terrific fun but the only problem for us was that every single seat was taken and non-local Chinese visitors to the feast all seemed to possess a pre-purchased ticket. Dang. We knew there’d be a catch and someone would figure out we weren’t invited.
We stopped two young Hani women to ask if in fact there were any remaining tickets to be had, and they promptly, in typical hospitable Hani fashion, took us back to their house and fed us there. Imagine calling your mother to say you were bringing a family of four to Christmas dinner, and you’d be there in five minutes? Christmas fireworks indeed.
But not in Hani households, where low tables were set up in the open ground floor room of their house, clustered with bowls of roast pork, pickled greens, wild herbs, roasted walnuts, fried fish, spicy duck and a fiery, intense dipping suace of fermented tofu and pickled chilies.
The toasting continued unabated, we all had a rollicking good time and eventually over the course of the evening met all the relations and neighbours and friends of relations, whose job seemed to be to go from house to house, eating a little and drinking a lot. 
Needless to say we slept that night in the campervan, parked outside the village. 
绕过一个拐角处我们突然看到这个长桌宴到底有多长。在人群的两边——两行柳条桌填满了街道,20304050连接着到最后。每一个上面都摆满了哈尼族节日的美食——小脆炸鱼、清蒸鸡、烤鸭、水煮花生、圆玉米(爆米花?)、小碗里的青苔沙拉。每个人——禁止非常小的孩子参加——都喝着白碗里的米酒。他们中的很多人。当每一桌的人紧接着和邻桌的人干杯时,由街尾处的干杯开始以一个墨西哥式的波浪蔓延到另一头。食物几乎没有动,几乎每个人脸都红了而且烂醉如泥,讲着有趣的故事,唱着歌,一次又一次干杯,一次又一次如同墨西哥波浪般在街巷里起伏。
这看起来非常有趣,但我们唯一的问题是每一个座位都有人占了,非本地的中国游客看起来之前都买过票了。我们知道一定会有人被捉住,有人会发现我们没有被邀请。我们拦住两个哈尼族妇女问她们事实上是否还有剩余的票,她们迅速地将我们带回她们的房子,并在那里招待我们,以哈尼族特有的好客方式。想象一下打电话告诉你妈妈在圣诞晚宴你将带一家四口参加的时候,五分钟内你还在那里么?事实上一定会是一场圣诞大争论。
但并不是在哈尼族的家庭里,在他们房间空旷的地上摆放着低矮的桌子,上面摆着很多碗,盛着烤猪肉、野菜、烤花生、炸鱼、辣鸭,红红的浓烈味道的腐乳还有腌辣椒。干杯继续着,丝毫没有减弱。我们度过一个愉快的时光,挨家挨户见过所有邻居和朋友,谁的工作看起来怎么样,吃一点喝一点之后最终在夜晚结束这个过程。不用说也知道,我们那晚睡在房车里,它就停在村子外。

5. Did I mention the rice terraces? 元阳梯田
There’s just no denying they are extraordinarily beautiful no matter what time of day. In the early morning clouds creep up from the valleys below and at night, the perfect stillness of the water reflects the silvery moon and the tiny diamonds of the stars, sprinkled across the sky and sprinkled again across the land in their reflections. It’s magical.
不论一天里的什么时候,毫无疑问他们都是格外的美丽。在清晨的时候,云从山谷下慢慢升上来,在夜晚睡眠完美静谧的水面映照出银白的月色和璀璨的星辰,它们布满天空,与此同时又布满大地。真是太奇妙了。

Yuanyang Hani Rice Terraces元阳梯田
Near Xinjie township, Yunnan Province
Open daily
Admission RMB 100 adults, children under 1.3m free of charge
Admission ticket covers all the rice terrace areas and is valid for the length of your stay
Accommodation is available in Xinjie (where you will need take a bus or hire a minivan from the main bus station to drive to, and then around the terraces) and also at small guesthouses in Shengcun and Pugaolao villages. In Pugaolao (see below), you are right at the top of the Duoyishu Terraces, one of the largest terraced areas, which means you can view subnrise and sunset from the comfort of your guesthouse balcony.
在云南省的新界镇区
白天开放
入场费成人100元一米三以下儿童免费
入场票包括所有的稻米梯田,有效时间就是你待在里面的时间

新界提供住宿的地方(你需要从主要公交站坐公车或是雇一辆小型货车过去,然后它们就在梯田周围),也就是生村和普高老村落的小型私人旅馆。在普高老村落(如下),你就站在多一树梯田的顶部,它是梯田中最大的一个,也就是说你可以在旅馆阳台前就欣赏到日出和日落