In South West China, close to the borders of Vietnam and Laos, lies an incredible mountain range covering more than 13,000 hectares. But these are no ordinary mountains. Since the Tang Dynasty, the Hani people have been meticulously shaping these slopes into one of the most remarkable examples of landscape art we have ever seen.
Over generations of rice cultivation, they’ve transformed the space into unique, integrated ecological system – an integrated system of terraces that are staggering in their sheer size and beauty. Just as staggering is the unique, finely-tuned, integrated ecological system they’ve developed. Making use of the water resources conserved by the forest on the mountain, the terraced fields on the hillsides have formed a vast artificial everglade bursting with rice crops, aquatic animals and plants.
The place feels both magical and effortful. While the rainbow of colours emerging from the soil, plant-life and reflected sky lend these fields an entirely other-worldly sheen, it’s impossible to dismiss the sheer human graft that went into creating them. Residents still use traditional tools and methods to farm these fields, as they have done for ages. It creates a striking paradox – being transported way back in time while at the same time being in an enormous cutting edge modern contemporary art installation. It seems a real and rare manifestation of the perfect marriage between industry and nature, perhaps a prescient lesson for the rapidly modernizing China.
All words aside, though… just look.