Much of rural Guizhou province has been relatively isolated from the rest of China until recently, with the majority of these villages only getting paved roads and connecting to China’s economy in a meaningful way around 10 years ago.
Despite the region seeing an upswing in tourism, especially during the past two years, these towns drop everything when it comes time to harvest the rice. Rice remains the backbone of these hillside villages.
A farmer lays out the rice straw to dry after harvest in Dali Dong village, Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture, in Southwest China’s Guizhou province
A loaded drying rack in Congjiang county, South Guizhou. Despite this area seeing more tourism over the past few years, rice is still a crucial part of the local people’s livelihoods
The rice terraces surrounding Yangbi village in Jiabang just after the harvest. The government has its sights set on this region as an up-and-coming tourist area as Guizhou has become trendier as a destination
Jiabang rice terraces in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture, Guizhou. These terraces are becoming more iconic, rivaling the popular rice terrace destination Longji, a little over 100 kilometers away in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region
Rice harvesting is a long day’s work, starting at sunrise and often going long into the evening drying and dehusking the rice. As younger generations leave the village to take up life in the cities, this work falls more and more into the hands of aging generations
The sun rises above the village of Baibiecun in Jiabang. Rice terraces are often along mountainsides where sunlight and climate conditions are suitable for growing and processing rice
A tied-up bundle of sticky rice is easier to move around by hand. Sticky rice fetches a higher price on the market, bringing more income for farmers now able to trade along the newly paved roads into rural Guizhou
Threshing rice by hand can be a laborious task, but villages often share machines like these to cut down on the work
These terraces (and others like them) are hundreds of years old, requiring constant maintenance but offering plenty of benefits. In some cases, fish live amongst the water at the base of the plants — each growing big enough to make an excellent addition to a meal, and in some areas, the terraces are drained to grow wheat during the winter
The rice grown in Qiandongnan Miao and Dong autonomous prefecture is almost all consumed by those who grow it, but farmers can make a modest income by selling to those who pass by
Sticky rice growing in the Jiabang rice terraces in Guizhou, Southwest China
All images courtesy of Graeme Kennedy