Most of the Yao and Zhuang minority tribes in Longsheng County in Guilin, China work as farmers in the terraced fields. The rice terraces here are called Longshen Rice Terraces or more popularly Longji Rice Terraces which translates to Dragon’s Backbone in Chinese. These rice terraces, especially when filled with water in the spring irrigation period, reflect the sunlight resembling the scales on the back of a dragon and hence the name. The terraced fields hug the hills and extend from the river all the way up the mountain as high as 1,000 meters above sea level. They were built from the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) spanning about 600 years. The weather has been very rainy and misty when we were there making it hard to take nice photographs. Also we were a bit early in the irrigation season (normally from late April thru the month of May) so not all the terraces were filled with water and we didn’t get the glistening photographs. The Longji rice terraces are divided into two main areas: Jinkeng (Dazhai) Yao tribe terraced fields with a cable car to take you to the top and the Ping’an Zhuang tribe terraced fields. The Ping’an Zhuang rice terraces were developed for tourism earlier and closer to Huangluo Village of the red Yaos. There are two main lookouts here called “Seven Stars around the Moon” with seven piles of rocks in the middle of a moon-shaped field, and “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers” with nine ridges looking like nine dragons drinking out of the Jinsha River and five tiger-shaped rocks on the side. Jinkeng terraced fields are more remote and higher up with a cable car taking you to the peak called Jinfoding or Golden Buddha Summit. Opposite the Jinfoding is Qianceng Tianti or Thousand Layers Fields close to where local farmers live. Here at the highest point you can get great panoramic views of the layers and layers of terraces spilling down the sides of the verdant hills. This is where the photos used in most brochures and even the entrance tickets are taken. But since we came on a foggy and rainy day, we decided not to head up to Jinkeng because chances of capturing anything farther than a few hundred meters was slim. Turns out we made the right decision because our driver-guide also had a colleague working that day and went up to Jinkeng with her clients and saw nothing. We visited the area called Longji Guzhuang Zhai (Ancient Zhuang Village) which is less touristy and relatively isolated from the outside world. The farmers here belong to the Zhuang tribe and you can see their old houses built on stilts near the rice terraces. Since the heavy fog comes and goes, we had plenty of time to sit and have some local food and tea as well as explore the village while not photographing the rice terraces. We tasted some very fresh local farm-to-table cooking: stir-fried escargots, wild vegetables, pork belly cooked in a hollow bamboo tube, wild young bamboo shoots cooked with cured pork, and of course locally grown rice. Turns out cooking in these bamboo tubes came about because the terraced fields extend all the way up the mountain so farmers would bring with them bamboo filled with uncooked rice, meats, or vegetables, and set these bamboo tubes on an open fire to cook their lunches. Once done, they discard these used bamboo tubes in the fields and no need for cleaning and no need for lugging all the cookware up to the rice terraces. Brilliant! 😀
Pity that the weather was so foggy during our visit. I will definitely try to come back in the fall before the harvest when all the fields are golden. My suggestion is if you visit on a clear day, do go up to Jinkeng to get that panoramic view of the rice terraces spilling down the hill. On a misty foggy day like ours, better visit Guzhuang Zhai and then it is about a 40 minute hike across to Ping-an area. There are local restaurants in Guzhuang Zhai so that even if the terraces are covered by fog, you can leisurely taste the delicious farm-to-table cuisine as well as wander around the hundred-year-old village. Until next time Guilin!
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