Jianshui 建水 2006. This photo was taken in 2006 in Jianshui, Yunnan province from the top of the city gate. I have been trying to work out which ethnic minority this lady belongs to for a while now. My guess is that she is from the Yi Minority 彝族, but there are also Miao苗族, Hani哈尼族 and Yao瑶族 minorities in the vicinity of Jianshui. If anyone else can be more precise I’d be grateful.
The hotel owner in Yuanyang had told us to get there early, as many of the hill tribe people have to walk all the way back and the market starts breaking up at around noon.
So we got to Laomeng at about 8:30, where we were among the first to arrive. We walked once round the town and had a look at the few stalls already set up by a small number of colourfully dressed Miao ladies and some older Yi women. Most of them seemed as curious about us, as we were about them. By the time we got back to our starting point, dozens of vans, carts and other vehicles had already arrived, unloading hundreds of passengers and all kinds of goods. They brought with them a kaleidoscopic mix of colours, as ladies from the Hani, Yao, Yi, Miao and Black Thai ethnic groups spilled out from the back and descended upon the market for a few hours of frenzied buying and selling.
For the next 3 hours we were treated to a visual feast that left us drained and out of film. Our driver had filled us in on some of the intricacies of the local costumes, so we were more or less able to distinguish between the women from the different ethnic groups…
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During the first two or three months of every year, thousands of professional and would- be professional photographers descend upon this remote town in Yunnan province to take photos of one of nature’s most beautiful phenomena, the changing of winter to spring on some of the most spectacular rice terraces in the world. At this time, the paddies are full of water, and their beauty is enhanced by the shifting contrasts of light and rolling mists that provide stunning vistas. At sunrise and sunset the water in the paddies can take on a myriad of colours, ranging from an eerie blue, to pink, yellow and bright red, thus providing the perfect hunting ground for those in search of the ultimate shot.
Unfortunately, our work schedule left us with no choice but to visit Yuanyang in summer, when the terraces have taken on a bright emerald hue, but are devoid of water. They are still an awesome sight, especially at dawn, but they are no match for those glossy photos, adorning the multiple coffee-table books and postcards that you can find all over town. The locals, who seem to be fairly obsessed with rice paddy viewing, constantly remind us that this is the wrong time to visit and insist that we should come again in February, to see the real thing!