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Yunnan off-the-beaten-track: Maidichong Village (麦地冲村), in Yiliang

Check out my travel guide as I explore Maidichong village (麦地冲村) in Yiliang County, Yunnan.

Panoramic view of the Maidichong village

I visited Yiliang County not long ago. During that trip, I had the chance to attend a Yi festival, see how the local Baohong tea is picked and processed, and taste the famous Yiliang Roast duck. Quite a memorable trip!

Yiliang County (宜良), which is about one hour from Kunming (here is my travel guide), is also famous for the extensive karst caves near Jiuxiang (九乡)

If you are looking for things to do on a day trip from Kunming, I recommend visiting Yiliang, especially if you want to experience a bit of rural life in Yunnan without spending 8 or 9 hours on a bus.

This time, I returned to Yiliang for a different reason: to photograph the coloured rice fields in the Maidichong village ((麦地冲村), but I ended up doing much more: having lunch with a local family, visiting a tobacco plantation and processing laboratories, photographing a brand new Hui Muslim mosque and eating the local roast duck!

What’s up with all those coloured rice in China?

Aerial view of Maidichong in Yiliang, Yunnan - China

Recently, many villages have started planting coloured rice to attract more tourists. Helped by the College of Agriculture and Biotechnology of Zhejiang, Yiliang joined this trend in 2017.

The first project was completed in a different village (马蹄湾村), and it depicted the mythological Ashima (阿诗玛), a girl from the Yi ethnic group who, after falling in love, was forbidden to marry and was instead turned into a stone in the forest (the Stone Forest near Kunming).

The experiment was repeated in 2018 in the Kawan Village (河湾村). The project became quite popular after CCTV TV made a program about it in November 2019.

The design of the fields is made with the help of specialized software and GPS tools. When the design is ready, local farmers plant the rice. The whole process takes about 2/3 weeks.

The most difficult part is planning the design and working out the GPS coordinates. Planting the rice is surprisingly the easiest part. If you are wondering if those coloured rice plants are natural, the answer is no: they are genetically modified.

The project behind Maidichong Village

The rice patterns are part of a bigger project to boost tourism in the area. The whole village is under complete renovation and is following a new trend in many places in China (although this is NOT happening everywhere, unfortunately).

Many villages are being rebuilt using traditional materials combined with modern ones. For example, the houses are built in this area using concrete and mud bricks (for the exteriors). The result is quite nice: the buildings look traditional but are more resistant. Other examples are the Bulang and Dai villages I visited in Xishuangbanna, Lijiang Old Town, Xijiang in Guizhou, and Hemu in Xinjiang.

Beijing closely follows the area’s development, and the bigger project goes beyond Maidichong Village: there will be 6 villages (including this one), all located no further than one hour and a half from Kunming, Yunnan’s capital. Hopefully, they won’t be filled with stores selling cheap stuff mass-produced in Eastern China once completed.

Other villages nearby

In 2021, I visited other similar villages. Here are some pictures:

As you can see, some field patterns in 2021 celebrated the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Party.

When is the best time to see the rice patterns?

Aerial view of Maidichong in Yiliang, Yunnan - China

The best time to visit the Maidichong Village and see the rice patterns is shortly before harvest, usually around mid-September.

What to do in the area: visit the Tobacco laboratories

Tobacco processing in Yunnan China

Yunnan is famous for cultivating tobacco, and in the mountains near the village, you’ll see a lot of plantations. Many locals are involved in processing the tobacco.

In the first two pictures below, you can see the plantations. In the third picture, local workers prepare the leaves for desiccation. The fourth picture shows the type of building once used for the desiccation, and the fifth shows the buildings in use now.

After the tobacco leaves have been desiccated, the best ones are sold to the government, and the others end up in the local market.

Xinjie (新街村) Hui Muslim village

Hui mosque in Yiliang county Yunnan China

If you have some extra time, on your way back to Yiliang, you can visit the Xinjie Hui village (新街村), where a new mosque was recently built.

Hui is among several Muslim ethnic groups, counting almost 10 million people. Most Hui people live in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, but many Hui communities exist in Gansu, Xinjiang, Qinghai, Hebei, Henan, Yunnan, and Shandong Provinces. They speak Mandarin but use Arabic and Farsi in daily interactions and religious activities.

Nanping river in Yiliang county, Yunnan - China

The village overlooks the Nanpan River (南盘江) and the Puji Bridge (普济桥).

This area has recently become popular for locals to relax, eating some Shaokao 烧烤 (Chinese BBQ) while watching the kids playing in the river.

How to get to Maidichong Village

Aerial view of Maidichong in Yiliang, Yunnan - China

At the moment, until the project is completed, getting to the village takes a while.

  • The quicker way is to rent a car or have a local Chinese friend who can take you there. That’s what I did, but unless you live in Yunnan, this is not an option for most people.
  • The best option is to take a bus from the Kunming East Coach Station (东部汽车客运站) to Yiliang. There is a bus every 30 minutes, and it takes about one hour to get there. Once in Yiliang, you can take another bus to Jiuxiang town (九乡), which is about 30 minutes further away. Once there, you’ll have to find a taxi or minivan to take you to the village and wait for you to return. Alternatively, take a taxi directly from Yiliang.
  • Another option is to take the fast train from Kunming to the Stone Forest (石林). Once there you can find a taxi or a local minibus to the village. Here you can book the train ticket.
  • Finally, you can contact a local travel agency and ask them to take care of everything.

If you want to explore southern Yunnan, don’t miss this guide where I talk about Xishuangbanna. Here’s my travel guide to China, and here are some more pictures from Yunnan. Here is my travel guide to Yunnan.

If you plan to visit the Yuanyang rice terraces, here is my guide.

4 thoughts on “Yunnan off-the-beaten-track: Maidichong Village (麦地冲村), in Yiliang”

  1. Pavel Dzhanev

    Great places and lots to see in Yunnan.My wife is from Yunnan and I really love the province.Nice blog,but it’s kind of difficulty to see it right now as China is closed for tourists and visitors overall.Keep up the good work and good luck.

    1. Fabio Nodari

      Thanks Pavel. Yes Yunnan is really beautiful. Hope the country will open up this year.

  2. Andrew Chee

    Coloured rice plants are produced by hybridisation and not by transgenic process.

    1. Not sure man. I asked the people that worked in the fields. But thanks for your input.

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