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The Ailao Mountain Range is a branch of the Yunling Mountains. Its highest peak is 3,165 meters above sea level. The mountain range, running northwest to southeast, is the dividing line between the Hengduan Mountains valley in the west and the plateau in the east of Yunnan, and stretches several hundred kilometers to the Dawei Mountain, Huanglian Mountain and Fenshui mountain nature preserves. The mountain enjoys plentiful rainfall and has numerous springs and streams. In the autumn and winter, the mountain is covered with mist, and in the spring, azaleas bloom. In the forests, ancient pteridophyte lives, and rare state-protected animals live peacefully.

Many ethnic groups live in the Ailao mountains. The Dai ethnic group living on the river banks, have turned the poor land along the river banks into rich farmland. The Yao ethnic group live in the mild river valley, where many fruits and edible mushrooms grow. The Yaos also have their own traditional medicinal herbs. The Miao ethnic group live in the mountains. The Miao women are good at tie-dying and embroidery. The Hani and Yi ethnic groups live on the mountain sides. Their terraced fields are one of the most inspiring scenes in southern Yunnan. They resemble silver ladders, stretching from the foot of the mountains right to the top. The fields, sometimes as large as a dozen mu and sometimes as small as one to two square meters, are a unique sight.

There are no historical records as to when terraced fields were first used. However, according to ancient bronze ware which depicts the plowing techniques and folk customs of the Yi and Hani ethnic groups, they surely have a long standing history.

The best place to view the terraced fields is in the south of Yuanyang County, where the mountains are covered with terraces extending 2,000 meters, from the mountain top down to the valley. In winter and spring each year, the valley is filled with heavy mist, and the two mountains are like islands floating in a sea of cloud. Between the terraces, which reflect silver light, are stretches of green tea plantations. With plenty of rain and heavy mists, the Yunwu Tea (cloud and mist tea) produced in the town by the Yi ethnic group is extremely refreshing. The Yis are a people who love singing and dancing. Their dances imitate a hunt and have 36 parts, describing the hunting activities of their ancestors. (Source)

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Additional Photos by Ngy Thanh (ngythanh) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 471 W: 125 N: 2332] (8458)
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