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30 years on: Photographer records beauty of Hani terrace

Updated:2022-05-24 10:59:33   Yunnan Tourism and Culture Times

Editor's note: Over the past 30 years, Yunnan photographer Luo Han has visited the Hani villages and terraces hundreds of times, taking more than 100,000 photos. Under his lens, the scenes of villages, rice fields, rural areas and Hani people were presented with an original ecological beauty. In recent years, Luo has witnessed changes of the Hani terraces: the nearby villages are more beautiful, the villagers richer.

30 years on: Photographer records beauty of Hani terrace

More than 100 photographs of Hani terraces were recently displayed at the Yunnan Literature and Art Museum. The photos show the four seasons of the rice fields and the Hani people who either work or rest in terraced fields, with their hope of sowing and joy of harvest vividly recorded. Among these photos, the oldest is more than 30 years, dating back to the spring of 1989.

Since then, Luo Han, a photographer native to Yunnan, has visited Hani villages and terraces hundreds of times in the deep canyons of Ailao Mountain, taking more than 100,000 photos and notes as long as 600,000 words. For 30 years, he has focused his lens on villages, rice farmers, children, terraced fields, farm cattle and more, in a bid to record the terrace in great details.

Located in southeast Yunnan’s Honghe prefecture, the Hani terrace covers about one million Chinese acres, and it is an agricultural spectacle jointly cultivated by Hani and other ethnic groups. With a history of more than 1,300 years, the rice fields are called the "Earth Sculpture". In June 2013, the Honghe terrace was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage.

In Luo's view, the Hani terrace has great vitality, manifesting generations of farming wisdom and nourishing folks with its abundant products. "For centuries, ordinary farmers tilled in the fields day after day, and they are the vitality source of Hani terrace."

"Farm timing is the key to Hani terrace culture, ruling the Hani people's life for thousands of years. The Hani festivals are also determined by the circular growth order of rice." Luo's photographic records also follow the social rhythms of annual farming activities, producing warm scenes of the Hani agriculture.

Among his photos, Luo thinks that the works of harvest scenes are full of emotions. The wind blows the rice waves, and the rice swells and shines like gold in the sunshine, and what is more brilliant is the smiling faces.

"It's hard to imagine that such a hardworking people, who has created a 'miracle' in fight against the elements, failed to escape the fate of poverty and backwardness for a long time." More than 30 years ago, Luo photographed three boys on the muddy road in Yangjie township of Yuanjiang county, central Yunnan’s Yuxi city. They saw off a car fading away in distance.

Their admiring look has been on his mind. In 2018, Luo Han finally found the three boys after a long search. They were all in their 30s and became bread winners of the family, living and working in peace and contentment. "Gone are the days when Hani people roamed on muddy roads and live in dilapidated houses, with their harvest subject to weather conditions."

In photographic ideas, Luo does not just record people, life and folk customs outwardly, but follows his own heart. When taking pictures of the Nordic tribes, German photographer August Sander said, “I never made a person look bad. They do that themselves.” “The portrait is your mirror. It’s you.” Such wisdom in photography influenced Luo a lot. "Within my spotlight, the Hani people are in diverse conditions, characters and environments, with their faces, looks and postures all trying to show their simplicity, tenacity, fortitude and wisdom," said Luo.

Year after year, Luo Han witnessed great changes in the new era. Villagers living around Hani terraces were raised out of poverty, young migrant workers returned to their hometowns to start new businesses, and local rice specialties were sold to provinces across China via the Internet.

At the same time, Hani people are fusing ancient village and terrace culture into their new pursuit of rural revitalization. "However it changes, the future is desirable," Luo said.

Reporting by Luo Han; CNS photos; Trans-editing by Wang Shixue

Keywords:   Photographer Hani terrace