Yuanyang 元阳县 The majority of the inhabitants of the county are from the Hani ethnic group. The GDP of Yuanyang county in 2002 was 630 million Yuan. The administrative seat of the county is the town of Nansha (a.k.a. New Yuanyang) down in the Red River valley at an elevation of 240 meters. It is situated 12 km towards the north-east of the former administrative seat Xinjie (a.k.a. Old Yuanyang or just Yuanyang) to which it is connected by a 27 km long twisting mountain road. To the south of Old Yuanyang, the town of Panzhihua is positioned near the top of another major valley of rice-terraces. There are a total of 928 settlements in Yuanyang county, 826 of them being inhabited by only one single ethnic group.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces, located on the southern slopes of Ailao Mountain in Yuanyang County (part of Honghe Hani Autonomous Prefecture) and located in the south of Yunnan Province has been a masterpiece of the ingenuity of the Hani people for generations. Southern Ailao Mountain, with this typical tiered landscape, is famed for its unique frontier scenery.
The Hani people’s ancestors came to this steep mountain area 2,500 years ago. In their struggle against the difficult terrain they successfully established the terraces, where they grew rice in order to make a living. The technology of developing fertile land on rugged mountain slopes didn’t spread all over China and Southeast Asia until 14th century. The creativity of the Hani people turned this mountain area into one of artistic beauty. In recognition, the Ming Dynasty emperor granted the title of ‘Skillful Sculptor’ to Hani people and their good reputation was passed down from generation to generation. At present, known as ‘land sculpture’ the terraced fields have been being officially acknowledged by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage site.
It covers an area of 2,200 km2 (850 sq mi) and has a population of approximately 365,000 (2002), of which 88% belong to ethnic minorities and 95% is associated with agriculture.
Yuanyang county lies at an altitude ranging from 140 along the Red River up to nearly 3000 metres above sea level in the Ailao mountains and is situated about 50 km north of the border with Vietnam.
The climate of Yuanyang county is mainly central sub-tropical monsoon with wet summers and dry winters. Average temperatures range from 26 Celsius down in the Red river valley to 4 Celsius in the upper reaches of the mountains.
The closest large towns to the west of Yuanyang county are Shiping and Yuanjiang. Gejiu is the major town to the north-east and also the capital of Honghe prefecture. 70 km directly to the north of Yuanyang lies Jianshui, a small city with interesting monuments. A few hours to the south-east of Yuanyang is Luchun, another major Hani minority settlement turned modern city.