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Hani terraced paddies upgraded as world cultural heritage

On 22 June 2013, the Hani Terraces of Yunnan's Yuanyang County was inscribed into the World Cultural Heritage List (of the UNESCO) at the 37th Session of the World Heritage Committee--which was convened in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh during 16-27 June 2013.

Description (of) and relevant criteria Hani Terraces meet (source: whc.unesco.org)
Hani Terraces

Forests, villages, terraced fields and water system highlight the eco system of Hani terraced fields.

Hani Terraces are located at Yuanyang County in Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan Province. As a property of cultural landscape, it is comprised of the forest at the hilltop, the stockaded villages below the forest, the terraced fields below the villages and the Honghe water system below the terraced fields. The reservation zone of Honghe Hani Terraced Fields Property covers 13,190 ha. and has a buffer zone of 14,810 ha. It has formed a very spectacular traditional farming landscape featuring amazing rice culture. 

Honghe Hani Terraced Fields Property is comprised of two systems:
(1)-The first one is the unique and integrated ecological system which comprises the forests on the hilltop, the terraced fields and villages on the hillsides, and the water system at the foot of the hills. The forests on the hilltops conserve the water resources. Making use of the water resources conserved by the forest on the hilltops the terraced fields on the hillsides have formed vast artificial everglade while producing rice and aquatic animals and plants co-existed with these water-filled paddy fields to meet the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of Hani people and other ethnic groups.

Terraces at Baoshanzhai area.

Over quite a long period of time the local people has cultivated a great number of rice species in their farming activities. The total number of different species once was up to a thousand and today even after the introduction of hybrid rice local people is still cultivating tens of different traditional rice species, which is of great significance for rice culture and food security.

(2)-The second system is the ethnic cultural system which comprises tangible cultural heritages including the villages, dwellings and buildings for production, the protector woods of the villages, irrigation works and road sign steles, etc., and intangible cultural heritages such as the traditional production and life styles, traditional custom and fete activities, and knowledge systems passed down orally (for instance: the Song of Four Seasons), etc.

Terraces at Duoyishu area.

According to the Hani legend and the "Water Dividing Stone" which has been conserved by 45 generations in succession and is now preserved at "Quanfu Zhuang" the history and development of the terraced fields of the heritage site might be traced back to the Tang Dynasty when the ancient Hani people started to settle down in the heritage site and build terraced fields to start agricultural activities. Records on agriculture in the heritage site has been found in the section on "Products from the Jurisdiction of Yunnan" in the Book on Southern Ethnic Groups (Manshu) written by Fan Chao of the Tang Dynasty. In the Ming Dynasty, Xu Guangqi put forward the concept of "terraced fields" in the Complete Treatise on Agriculture and gave a very detailed description on the terraced fields in remote mountains. After 1840 though the Chinese society has undergone great changes, the outside world has had little influence on the heritage site and industrialization has had little impact here as it is located in a very remote place. Traditional production and life styles have been preserved over a long time in the heritage site.

Terraces at Laohuzui area.

The site is protected by the laws of the People's Republic of China among which are the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Protection of Cultural Relics, Environmental Protection Law of the People's Republic of China, etc. It is also subject to the jurisdiction of the system and administrative regulations of Yunnan Province in force. In particular, the Provisional Measures on Administration of Honghe Hani Terraced Fields of Honghe Hani & Yi Autonomous Prefecture promulgated in October, 2001 and the (Overall) Plan for the Preservation and Development of Honghe Hani Terraced Fields are of great significance for the protection of Honghe Hani Terraced Fields.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
As for the criterion (i):
Hani people have created fantastic and perfect land art of vast terraced fields in the heritage site. Integrating the terraced fields into the unique landform, forests and plant covers, valleys and streams and other natural landscapes they have developed a unique masterpiece of ethnic art which has organically fused the ethnical art, landscape art and agricultural techniques. 

As for the criterion (iii):
As a representative of the mountainous rice culture of Asian ethnic groups, the heritage well demonstrates the historical development, the ethnic cultural tradition and the administrative techniques on the cultivation of terraced field of the Hani ethnic group living along the south bank of Honghe River. It is a special testimony for the protection of the settlement environment, the inheritance of ethnic culture and the development of economy and society.

As for the criterion (iv):
The Hani villages at the heritage site reflects the worship of nature, conformity to nature and utilization of nature, fully manifesting the residential environment design concept advocating the harmony between human and nature with regard to the site selection, layout, building material, the exterior appearance and residence structure, etc. At present as the typical representatives of Hani building groups, it still perfectly maintained the original style of the Hani ethnic villages and the traditional residential buildings, which are of outstanding significance in the worldwide study of traditional residences.

As for the criterion (v):
Created by Hani people and other ethnic groups living at the heritage site for generations, the "terraced field reclamation and cultivation technology system, environmental protection system, water resources utilization system, terraced field landscape art" have been integrated into a terraced field culture. The inter-influences, fusing and co-development between this culture and the unique traditional Hani ethnic culture at the heritage site have formed the unique and self-contained "Hani Terraced Field Culture" existing for generations along the south bank of Honghe river in Yunnan Province, China.

As for the criterion (vi):
Honghe Hani Terraced Fields is a unique output of ethnic culture. In the villages inside the Honghe Hani terraced field area, traditional beliefs, various ethnic customs, traditional village administration systems and other intangible cultural heritages are still preserved soundly. The intangible cultural heritages also constitute the base for the existence of the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani terraced fields.

Satements of authenticity and/or integrity
With the cultural landscape created by the still vigorous traditional cultivation methods, the evolvement and development of the nominated property reflect the status of the development of agricultural civilization. Owing to the unique environment and the special characteristics of terraced field cultivation, local people have followed the traditional cultivation methods and adopted traditional agricultural tools. Utilizing the traditional methods the local villages have conducted very effective protection on the environment essential for the livelihood, and the local customs have been valued, passed down and integrated into the cultivation methods.

From the viewpoint of integrity, the unique twin systems of Honghe Hani Terraced Fields i.e. the ecological system and ethnic cultural system reflect the interrelationship between human activities and natural environment. These two systems manifest the unique integration of agriculture civilization and natural ecology as well as the integral relationship between agricultural production activities and human social lives. The self-contained integrity of these two systems is soundly reflected inside the areas of the heritage site.

Comparatively larger area of the protected area and buffer zone also guarantee the embodiment of the heritage integrity. And the urbanization pressure on Honghe Hani Terraced Fields is rather low at present.

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