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The Spectacular Hill-tribes of Yuanyang, Yunnan Province, China

Not only are Yuanyang’s rice terraces spectacular but the town itself would be well worth a visit in its own right even if the surrounding scenery was totally mundane. The bustling little market town – perched on a mountain top – is the main commercial and social site for all the surrounding Hani and Yi villages so the lively market’s just an explosion of colour as all the local hill-tribe women get their best gear out to go shopping, sell their wares or just catch up with friends in town.

Yuanyuang
Yuanyuang

It makes for a kind of Chinese Sapa but without all the tourists and guesthouses so a truly awesome, yet off-the-beaten-track destinations! Here’s a selection of pix taken in the market and in and around the town.

Yi vendor, Yuanyuang market
Yi vendor, Yuanyuang market

 

Yuanyuang market
Yuanyuang market

 

Hani women, Yuanyang
Hani women, Yuanyang

 

Yi women arriving at the market
Yi women arriving at the market

 

Yi souvenir sellers
Yi souvenir sellers

 

Woman and baby, Yuanyang market
Woman and baby, Yuanyang market

 

Yi girl, all dressed up
Yi girl, all dressed up

The Yi are one of Southern China’s largest ‘hill-tribe’ groups and are found in a wide swathe across Yunnan and Chengdu Provinces and also into Northern Vietnam. In Thailand and Vietnam they are better known as Lolo though whilst plenty of ethnic Lolo’s live in Thailand they are generally completely integrated with, and indistinguishable from, other Thais. Hani are thought to be originally a subgroup of Yi but are today more restricted in numbers and range than their cousins. Hani are mostly found south and south west of the Red River valley and even over the border into Vietnam. Both ethnic groups are part of the Sino-Tibetan family.

Yuanyang is the first stop in Yunnan on our South of the Clouds tour, after crossing the Vietnamese border at Lao Cai/Hekou.