One of Guangxi’s great draws, aside from Guilin and Yangshuo, are the Longji “Dragon’s Back” rice terraces near Longsheng.
What I had hoped would be correct was indeed the case: In this area, they harvest the rice after the October holiday, so as to satisfy the tourists.
It gets a bit late for the harvest; the rice is truly golden and full to the bursting at that time – but I can’t complain. It makes for a beautiful view over the terraced fields.
Jinkeng Red Yao Rice Terraces
Even just strolling along the paths leisurely to take in views is exhausting.
Actually, because of that, there is a chair lift going up from Dazhai village to the JinFoDing “Golden Buddha Peak” 金佛顶 view point – which may have been why there were fewer people in the village and on the other paths.
Day trippers only drove to the parking spot, then went to the chair lift up, and down again.
That is certainly mass tourism bordering on overtourism, but well, China is a country of a large population. Tourist spots simply mean lots of people.
Understanding for why locals gladly use the chances that tourism now brings them still comes easy. What is hard to understand is how anyone ever managed to build those terraces in the first place. That was some work…!
In fact, apparently, this has long been recognized. I have stumbled across histories of Dazhai according to which it had already been a popular spot for visitors of a different bent: Communist Party representatives, back in Mao’s days, for whom it was used – and who used it – as an example of the hard work of the people that could change entire mountainsides.
JinFoDing is a hike – or a trail run – to get to on one’s own feet. But if you’re up for anything like that, it is much better visited around sunrise or sunset, when the chair lift does not operate.
Right-click and “save” the GPX here.
Come early, like I did, wait for the sunrise, watch the people becoming more and more (and still not all that many).
Frankly, the sunrise does not make much of a difference for the view of the fields; the scene just becomes brighter and brighter. How the sun becomes visible and then rises over the mountains to the east, to one’s left when looking down the valley, is very nice, though.
Another path that should not be underestimated goes up past Tiantouzhai (another village farther up the hillside, also popular for tourist stays – just be aware that you first have to get there before you can relax if you stay in your ho(s)tel) to another viewing spot nearby, XiShan ShaoYue 西山韶乐 “West Hills Music.”
Right click and “Save” to get the GPX (and nevermind the wrong syllable/word I got in the file name)
This place is the highest on the terraces and offers the widest views. Going there around sunset was not exactly very sensible since the view is towards the east – sunrise, not sunset. Going down afterwards, the night gets pretty dark, so having a headlamp or flashlight is rather helpful.
Before, though, the views were nice…
This whole area with Dazhai and Tiantouzhai at its center is the “Jinkeng Red Yao Terraced Fields.” It lies the furthest east, at the edge of the Longji Tianti Rice Terraces area; its inhabitants are of the Red Yao ethnic minority. (Many of the ethnic minorities here in southwest China are differentiated by the color of the women’s clothing.)
This area is – in spite of all I said about the number of tourists – still somewhat less commercialized, more rustic. It is more of a matter of degrees, but still…
Hiking from Dazhai to Ping’an
I could not resist – full backpack, outlook to potential issues getting back, and all – to take the hiking trail going from Dazhai to Ping’an.
It was exhausting, but interesting. It goes past more already-harvested (and some abandoned) fields. To a curious view of Zhong Liu village, where the path goes very strangely up the mountain slope from a road, meanding past some houses. And then, it leads to an impression of the other major area, the Ping’an Rice Terraces.
Ping’an Rice Terraces
The top (metaphorical and literal) main viewing area of the Ping’an Rice Terraces is that of Nine Dragons and Five Tigers (九龙五虎, Jiu Long Wu Hu). One is already walking asphalt roads before getting there, then suddenly in true crowds of visitors.
Turned out, this was where I had gone on an earlier visit here, years ago. It was already getting commercialized then, but I could hardly reconcile my memories of it with the scene now. The fields are still terraces, the paths still steep, but lots of tourist infrastructure has been built in the meantime.
It’s still a nice view.
On the way down – or at least, a way down – one comes past the other famous scenic spot here, Seven Stars Accompany/Around the Moon (七星伴月). It is said to be nice for taking photos – which is the major pastime and reason for a visit, it seems – but I am not sure I noticed its seven piles of stones in a moon sickle-shaped field.
Honorary Mention: Zhuang Rice Terraces
There would actually be a third area of rice fields towards the entrance, the Longji Ancient Zhuang Rice Fields / Terraced Fields, but those would only be reachable on a longer hike out (which hardly anyone seems to undertake… and my path already became much, much longer, anyways).
For more on the hike, continue here.