China is more than ancient imperial glory and modern futuristic cities.
There is also beautiful nature, and in the case of the Longji rice terraces, the beautiful “human nature” of cultural landscapes.
Going into the Longji rice terraces hiking, e.g. from Dazhai to Ping’an, is a great way of learning more about this part of China and its peculiar position between popular tourist spot and lived-in landscape…
Basics of the Dazhai-Ping’an Hike in the Longji Rice Terraces
Many of the (few) descriptions online make it sound like any Longji rice terraces hiking can only be done on longer, guided tours.
It is actually quite an easy hike, at least where distance and navigation are concerned.
Its length is about 12 km (just over 7 miles); it took me under 3 hours to finish it.
Still, the path through the Longji rice terraces is not to be underestimated. There is a lot of ups and downs.
The Dazhai-Ping’an Longji Rice Terraces Hiking Path
From Dazhai, the hike goes up through the village, then along the side of Tiantouzhai in the direction of Xishan Shaole.
The path turns left, climbing steeply up the hill, where the path to the Xishan Shaole viewing area goes right. (At the end of 2019, that path up was a gravel road with quite a bit of new construction around.)
Cresting the hill, you have to get off the gravel road rather suddenly to start walking on small trails through forest and along rice terraces again.
Those terraces are much less touristy, many already harvested in October, when the visited ones are still being left untouched for the tourists (although the rice should have been harvested already).
Tourism, and Life on the Side
Here, it becomes very clear that there is still some agriculture for food production in this area, but it’s become almost a side show.
Tourism is the way to really make an income – if you can manage to get into that, and if you live in one of those areas where the people go (or are being led).
If you live off of the main sights, which is what the terraced fields really have become, you are out of luck.
I had visited the Longji rice terraces once before, in 2009 (ten years prior). Then, Ping’an – where this hike ends – was the only place to go as a tourist, and it was still a backwater.
Dazhai, where I decided to stay this time around (in 2019), has only been developed as a tourist destination in the intervening years. With an enterprising village head (from what I’ve heard), it’s become rather popular; the cable car up to the Jinkeng (Golden Buddha Peak) viewing platform sure didn’t hurt with that!
Onwards “In Between”
The trail continues like alongside rice terraces for a while, except for a few interruptions.
One, at a farm house, where the path takes a strange turn left, past the house. Well, strange… it is not strange so much as it is just not as easy to see as the path had been up to that point.
At and through the village of Zhong Lu, I can only advise having the GPS route loaded onto a watch with navigation; the path goes near a road but not on it into the village, through it past houses in a rather complicated way, then on the road for a little bit and down again off of it.
Not easy. I was happy to encounter another hiker there who seemed to know the way a bit better.
Soon after, one crosses a flat bit of ground that looks very much like rains must turn it into a creek bed.
Farther on, there is quite an up-and-down across rice terraces again, and then again more forest paths.
Getting to Ping’an
Close to Ping’an lies an area of new(?), differently terraced fields with lots of covered paths (if that is really what they are) alongside them.
There, the small trails end.
Suddenly, the trail is a road, there is a lot of car traffic – and you find yourself at the parking lot for the JiuLong WuHu (“Nine Dragons and Five Tigers”) viewing platform above Ping’an.
The hike is not finished there, it still goes down to and through Ping’an village, on small stone paths again leading through terraced rice fields.
The village proves itself more commercialized than Dazhai by now (as many visitors to it have said it was); the looks of it remain nice, though.
For more impressions and to see the paths to the Qianceng Titian “Thousand Layer Terraces” and Jinfoding “Golden Buddha Peak” viewing spots near Dazhai, as well as more on the history of the Longji rice terraces, head over to this post.