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
ploughing 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 isin 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 have36parts,
describing the hunting activities of their ancestors.