When the forefathers of the people in today's Ping'an Village started to claim farmland for living by building stretches of terraces along the Longji Mountains in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region nearly 700 years ago, no one expected that their continuous efforts would bless their offspring with a way not only to harvest crops but also to attract tourists. Although terraces are commonplace in the south, the reason why the terraces in Longji are so attractive to tourists is simple: their sheer scale.
Terraces in Ping'an
Ping'an Village's population is about 1,000 and all the people are ethnically Zhuang minority. Located 80 kilometers to the north of Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the resort occupies an area of 66 square kilometers with terraces spanning at altitudes from 300 to 1,100 meters. The slopes on which the terraces were reclaimed are at between 26 and 35 degrees, but some are as steep as 50 degrees.
The Longji Terraces are still serving their agricultural function for the local villagers in Ping'an Village. In fact, the farming of these terraces not only helps local people harvest rice but also maintain an "alive ambience" to the terraces that would become barren and bleak if not attended to and farmed, unfolding an impressive picture of how human stamina can change for the better.
A winding road constructed beside a running stream connects the village with the main highway at Heping Town, where a long-distance bus usually drops off passengers. Although the quiet scenery and fresh air along the road makes it pleasant for a hike, it is better to save your time and energy for the beautiful scenery ahead by taking a car.
The cement road narrows into a stone-paved path after you walk a hundred meters from the entrance, where all tourists are supposed to get off their vehicles and begin climbing. The steps are not too steep but some parts of it require a little attention, as they are kept wet by running water.
The most significant scenery of Ping'an Village's terrace fields is called "seven stars accompany the moon," a claptrap name undoubtedly thought up recently to appeal to tourists. The so-called stars refer to the land stretches at the highest layer of the terraces built along seven mountaintops, which can be overlooked from a viewing platform on the top of another higher mountain.
However, another spectacle you are to see before the terraces is the dwellings that sprawl across the valley along the slope of the mountain. Mostly made of wood and bamboo, these houses are called diaojiaowu, built to a traditional residential architecture and supported above the ground by wooden stakes. These houses make an awesome picture with so many of them built in the valley along the mountain slope with a certain resemblance to the terraces created by the locals of yore.
The hilly terrain has raised the difficulty of building such houses, and also the cost, which, according to a local farmer-turned tour guide, has soared to over 100,000 yuan (US$ 12,500) for a decent wooden house as locals eager to snatch a slice of the tourism market build bigger and newer guesthouses.
Located at higher altitude is another village called Dazhai Village that is also famous for its higher and harder to reach terraces. Dazhai Village is inhabited by Yao minority people, who maintain a custom where adult women to keep long hair bundled in high upon their heads.
Terraces of varied sizes and scale are visible soon after you pass through the village. It takes two hours at most to get to the viewing platform from where you can get a bird's-eye view of some of the most spectacular terracing on the planet.
It would be a wonderful thing to spend a few nights in Ping'an Village enjoying not only the peace and quiet but also the amazing views of the terraces when the sun crests over the mountain in the morning. To some extent, the terraces are incomparable to other famous historical sites. But the unmatched phenomenon fostered unintentionally by the efforts of generations of people has distinguished the area as a magnet for urban people who are interested in seeking out a way of life long since lost by their ancestors.
Transportation: It is convenient to take the non-stop, air-conditioned, direct bus from Guilin to Longsheng County, and change to the bus from Longsheng County to Ping'an Village. Another way is to get off at Heping Town by taking the inferior long-distance bus that is poor in condition and stops from time to time to pick up passengers. Then you are supposed to wait where you get off for the Longsheng Ping'an bus mentioned above, or simply hire a minivan driven by a local (fare is about 50 yuan or US$6 one way and drivers can get you discounted entrance ticket if you agree to let them drive you up through the checkpoint).
Accommodation: Local family hotels have flourished in the village with prices ranging from 40 to 60 yuan (US$5-7.5) for a decent room during the normal days. Prices rocket during the holidays, especially the golden week holidays that fall in the first weeks of May and October.
Best time to go: The terraces appear as different scenes throughout the year but look more beautiful during Spring, when the water is being channeled for planting, and Autumn when it turns golden upon harvest.