"Longsheng" means "dragon's backbone". The fields' name originated from the fact that the terraced earth resembles the scales of a dragon. The terraces begin at the mountain bottom and follow the slope of the mountain all the way to the top. In the spring, the fields are flooded with water; in summer the rice shoots begin to grow; and by autumn, the rice is ready to be harvested. Tourists walk up the bamboo-lined road and stairs, with an ever-present view of the "scales".
Why are the fields built in a way that makes irrigation and ploughing so complicated? Unlike in western, developed countries where much of the population has moved off farms and closer to cities, movement in a Third World country is limited. People are born in their village, grow up in that village and farm in that village. Unlike in western, developed nations where farmers move to where the land is flat and workable, those from rural China must work with the land they have, even if it is mountainous. And so they make the land work for them by cutting "steps" into the sides of the mountains and hills. The fields are built from necessity and from that necessity, beauty.
Part of every Chow Fun tour of Guilin, China includes a day trip to the Longsheng terraces. Join a Chow Fun tour and see the terraces in person!