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Paddy Field Portraits

The Honghe Hani paddy fields is one destination that amazes anyone who travels China’s Yuanyang. Extending from the southern Yunnan province to the Honghe river valley, these farm lands boast the bounty of nature and has been luring travellers from across the globe. The ethnic farmers of the region have, over the years, knit together the naturally rich soil, bountiful water bodies and the unique weather of the region to feed the people with the fruits of their labour.

The terraced paddy fields, formed after years of perfecting the art of designing the landscapes into artistic opuses, have turned a cultural landscape encompassing the unique traditional farming system and the ethnic farming methodologies. In 2013, the United Nations had included this culture-rich and traditional farm lands in the world heritage map.

The region has always been the delight of artists and photographers from all over, who arrive here to imbibe the unique lifestyle, the intricate designs that make the paddy fields, and the agriculture methods that are put to use here. Ace photographer Sudheer Uralath, who has made China’s Ningbo his second home, narrates the journey he recently undertook to Yunnan and the awe-inspiring paddy fields there.

Photographs: Sudheer Uralath

It was Hyuang Yue Qin who once narrated to me about China’s famed Yunnan province. Her tales of Yunnan and its unique paddy fields and hilltop town, brought to me a picturesque account of what the province with the creator’s signature across it could be like. The paths that flowed out from a Baidu map towards the capital city of Kunming and to Yuanyang, beckoned me for a jaunt. Yunnan, also termed the City of Spring, rests in the cool environs of a 17 degree Celsius cocoon all through the four seasons!

Though the Chinese New Year dawns with the Spring Festival, the January-February months experience the coldest weather. For me who hails from warm and humid Kerala, the January-February weather of Yunnan proved immensely tempting. I set out in search of the charm that Yunnan, its southern city of Kunming and the neighbouring paddy fields of Yuanyang had in store for travellers like me.

Yuanyang, to me, opened up myriad windows to a world I haven’t ever come across. Akin to an exquisite painting on a wide canvas, the destination was far beyond what I could have ever imagined. This, I gathered, is the spot where man and nature stayed close to each other. Watching her elegantly sail through the paddy fields yonder, could present you with the images of a lifetime. It actually did, for me.

Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, is around 2300 km from the eastern province of Ningbo, the place I currently live. It takes around three hours by air to Kunming, and a further 300 km by road takes you to the Yuanyang hills. Enroute to Yuanyang, you get a feel of the rural hinterland under constant urban smothering that has been happening of late – contrary to what Chairman Mao had even thought of.

IMAGE GALLERY

Yuanyang’s Honghe Hani paddy fields that lie around 1570 m above sea level take around eight hours to reach from Kunming. I arrived around the time when the golden rays of the setting sun were attempting to venture into the exquisitely laid out paddy fields ready to receive the seeds that would later grow high and bear fruit to feed a million people. I found the fields have been readied for sowing, with artistically made mud troughs that hold water to keep them suitable to begin cultivation.

I found the rays of the sun plunging into these muddy designs made of earth and water, making them blush in the expectations of a farming process about to commence.

The sight brought to me memories of the Kerala farmlands ploughed and eager to receive the seeds. Even as the sun continued with its last lap of the day, diving into oblivion beyond the hills, the paddy fields of Honghe Hani filled my mind and soul with the thought of the long continuing traditions that are close to mankind.

It isn’t just the paddy fields with their elegant and intricate designs that lure travellers to this region. The bustling tiny town atop the hills, a stone’s throw away, too offer unique experiences.

The town is frequented by people from all over who arrive to shop, spend time with friends and walk around in gay abandon.

The Honghe Hani paddy fields, the vibrant hued town, the people that flock its lanes and the shopping centres vending all that people need, offer much to entertain the mind and soul.

It is here where bliss resides.

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