Yunnan: Azheke Village, Sep 2023

Not far from Aichun and Duoyishu Rice Terraces in Yuanyang is Azheke Village (阿者科古村) which translates to “Place with many Bamboos”.  It is the most primitive of the the five Hani Village listed into the UNESCO site with about 60 traditional mushroom houses, the earliest one dating back to 1855.  The base of these houses are built with stones or bricks, the walls made of earth pressed hard between boards, and the roofs covered with layers of wheat straw.  They are usually two to three storeys high with the lowest floor used to keep livestock and farming tools.  The second floor usually consists of 3 rooms with a fire pit in the middle constantly burning.  The attic just underneath the roof is used to store crops, melons, etc and a place where young people spend the night.  These Hani people have farmed these rice terraces for about 1,300 years.  They mainly grow red rice where their ducks fertilize the young rice plants, their chickens and pigs provide fertilizer, and their water buffalos slough the fields for the new year’s planting.  They still do everything the traditional way, harvesting with the sickle and threshing the rice by hand.  The landscape here reflects the traditional “four-fold system of forests, water supply, terraces, and houses”.  The streams of Honghe and Tengtiao River flow through the village.  The mountain top forests also provide water that are captured by channels to irrigate the rice terraces.  Thanks to the plentiful water flowing during all seasons, the rice here grows well and good harvests are almost always guaranteed.

Traditional Hani mushroom houses

We came in time to witness the harvest, still done the traditional way.

I love this shot of the curious villagers :)

There are five main wells in the village, some for drinking and others for powering grinders and other tools for food processing.

With the inscription of Azheke Village into UNESCO in 2013, the village has seen a large increase in tourists.  The Yunnan Provincial government has also lauched the “Azheke Plan” in 2018 which is a tourism poverty reduction program.  During my visit, I saw a team of local government workers inspecting the buildings of the village and speaking to the locals.  I do hope that even with the increase of tourism and population loss as younger people move to work in the cities, the Hani rice planting culture can be preserved.  Many traditions are gradually disappearing and the unique Hani culture hangs in the balance.


Next post will be on the locals at the Shengcun Village market.  Stay tuned!

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