Hani Terrace Culture

Among the continuous stretch of Ailao Mountain, the Hanis have created thousands of rice terraces that climb upwards like green staircases or watery pools depending on the season along the slopes of mountains. The Hanis have built dykes and banks according to different kinds of topography and soils, making use of the regional conditions of "however high a mountain is, so is the water," to draw perennially flowing mountain springs into the terraces through irrigation channels and ditches. In early spring, terraces of varying shapes and sizes are filled with spring water, in the bright sunlight, generating shining ripples by mountain breezes.

The Hanis in the Ailao Mountain have a common saying: “terrace is the face of a young man. Whether a young man is good-looking or not largely depends on how his terraces are made. If he is expert at all jobs, such as building banks, scraping dykes and ploughing fields, he will gain praise by the people and win girls' love. Also, the crucial element of whether a girl is beautiful is how she behaves in terraces."

The terrace is an important source of food for the Hani People. Therefore, they extremely treasure water. In order to conserve and allocate water for farm work in the right season, there has been a folk custom of "carving wood to ration water" since ancient times. According to the acreage a flow of spring can irrigate, people gather together and decide the amount of water every terrace and field needs. Then they put up a piece of crossed wood at the entrance of the field, and carve the amount of water needed on it. As the stream flows by the fields, an irrigation gate is opened and amount of water needed for that field flows in.

Every Hani household breeds fish in terraces. After transplanting seedlings of rice in March, people put fish fry into the terraces and let them grow themselves. In the late autumn, while harvesting the rice, baskets of fresh fish are collected to make delicious dishes. Water buffalo are capable assistant for cultivating terraces, and, as a result, the Hanis have a long custom of respecting buffalos. When a cow gives birth to a calf, the whole family immediately goes to the mountains and cuts tender grass to feed it, sometimes even adding fatty meat and brown sugar syrup to it.

On cold days, the Hani do not hesitate to wrap up their beloved buffalo in old clothes and cotton fiber to keep it warm. On the third morning of the calf's birth, the family presents a large bowl of steamed glutinous rice before the cattle pen. In accordance with the size of the family and the number of cows and calves, they knead the rice into bowl-sized balls, one for each cattle and family members. This custom shows the equal position of man and buffalos.

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