The Rice Terraces of China

Asia is full of rice terraces that have been built and cultivated for thousands of years by ethnic minority groups. China in particular has numerous that are functional and spectacularly beautiful. One of the first photography subjects in China that caught Thierry’s eye were the Hani Rice Terraces. It was this focus that started to solidify his standing as a professional landscape photographer, particularly when his photograph of the paddies were selected as a National Geographic Photo of the Day.

Since the terraces play such an important part in Thierry’s story and in the history of China’s ethnic minorities, here are some of the most beautiful terraces found in the country.

Longji Rice Terraces - Thierry Bornier - Reflection off of the Longji paddies

Longji Rice Terraces

Translated to “Dragon’s Backbone”, these magnificent terraces date back to the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century. Their colors and area mood change with the seasons. In the Spring, you’ll find long ribbons of water that create impressive reflections over the hundreds of basis. Summer offers lush vibrant colors that transition into rich deep tones as the fall comes. Wintertime blankets the terraces in snow, which gives the area a dragon-like aura.

Yuanyang Rice Terraces - Hani Rice Fields - Thierry Bornier

Yuanyang Rice Terraces

These are some of Thierry’s most commonly photographed terraces. Originally built by the Hani peoples, these terraces are unique. Instead of a steep stairs, they fields span over larger widths of the shallow sloping hills. These paddies are often referred to as a “land sculpture” for their unique patterns and rich colors.

Jiabang Rice Terrace - Thierry Bornier

Jiabang Rice Terraces

These series of terraces have been hand cut over centuries and span over nearly 40 square-kilometers. The sheer size of the area makes it an excellent destination to visit a beautiful destination and experience many ethnic minority cultures that live within the terraced area.

Ziquejie Rice Terraces

These are thought to be some of China’s oldest terraces, with some records suggesting they’re up to 2,000 years old. The area’s naturally irrigating land and endless spring water have made it an ideal site for crops. Much like the Longji Rice terraces, these also change with the seasons and offer visitors a unique experience for each.

Yunhe Rice Terraces

The Yunhe Terraced fields are often referred to as China’s most beautiful rice terraces. With their altitude ranging from 200 to 1400 meters and spans over mountains and valleys. The vast span gives visitors many unique view points of the terraces. Some early risers are able to capture the sea of clouds that cover the valleys in the early hours. 

Do you want to visit China in a new way? Why not join one of our Photography Workshops to discover China and improve your photograph skills. See more here.


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