Somewhat larger than Germany, Yunnan province in south central China has one of the most
diverse populations in China. A mixture of tribal groups spreading over into neighbouring Burma,
Laos and Vietnam provides great colour and variety to the area. The capital Kunming has a pleasant
climate year-round, earning it the nickname of the "Eternal Spring City", yet there are huge
mountains to the south and west, marking the start of the Himalayas.
Most tours to Yunnan head west to the hotspots of Dali, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La, however
for this trip we headed south of Kunming instead, to see the rice terraces of Yuanyang and the tribal
people who leave down there, by the Vietnamese border. I often felt like I was looking at the pages
of National Geographic as we wandered around the hills carved by generations over a thousand years.
In the centre of Jianshui town in southern Yunnan, there's a gate which at first glance
looks quite familiar. The designer of this, the Chao Yang Lou, had a student who went on to
design the Tiananmen in
However the Tiananmen has only two tiers compared to the Chao Yang Lou, because the student
didn't want to outdo his master.
We stayed at a converted old house for the night, Zhu's Family Garden, which had many
quiet courtyards and was very pleasantly turned out.
A string of lanterns swinging in the breeze at Zhu's Garden.
Setting sun across an ornamental pond in Zhu's Garden.
Later that evening we took in a local show. I'm not exactly sure what it was all
about, but the costumes and dancing were very entertaining.
A nicely lit shop front in old Jianshui, which had been recently restored.
Jianshui has the second largest Confucious Temple in China after the one in his
home town of Qufu, Shandong.
Old man amongst blossoming trees in the Confucious Temple.
Later we travelled on to the market town of Xinjie or Old Yuanyang, at the top of rice terrace
country, over a mile above sea level. Here many of the local population were the Hani ethnic minority,
who are spread across the region and into
Here we see Hani women trading.
Elsewhere in the market it took me a few moments to figure out what it was this guy was roasting
with a blow torch. Then it dawned on me that he was burning the hair off a dog, in preparation for
dinner. Note the sanitary conditions of his workshop.
Hani women shopping in the market, with the obligatory kid strapped to the back.
Colourful balls of wool for sale, well used in the traditional local wear.
Hani woman weaving something, I'm not sure what but it's maybe some sort of wrapper
for fresh produce.
Carting gear around the market place. Many people were carrying live chickens in wicker
cages on their backs.
First glimpse of the Yuanyang rice terraces through the trees.
We visited a local Hani village where most of the population were wearing traditional
dress such as this.
The village was preparing for the annual harvest festival, which includes a performance
of traditional farming activities played out on the terraces themselves to an audience. We
couldn't stick around for the show, but it was great watching them set up.
More Hani kids, some of our group were giving out sweets to them.
It cost me one kuai to take this picture, but it was worth it! Kids, witness the effects
of smoking. He was only 25.
Close up of the flooded rice terraces some way out of Old Yuanyang.
The terraces have been slowly carved by successive generations of Hani and their anticedents
the Yi people, over a period in excess of a thousand years.
Truly it would take a millenium to shape the land on such a grand scale with simple hand tools
and hard labour. This was getting on for
The setting sun was reflected off the terrace pools far below. We were at the top of an
enormous cliff edge to get this view.
Swirling colours and patterns in the valley below, with a flock of tourists (mostly Chinese)
at the bottom left of the shot.
Back in Kunming, the Eternal Spring City, and the flower market was a very popular choice
for gift shopping.