golden rice bowls passed down from our ancestors,” said Lu, 61. “We cannot afford to lose them.”

The local terraced fields have been in existence for about 1,300 years when

the Hani people built a complicated channel system to direct water from the forested hillto

p to nurture paddies on mountain slopes. The natural and cultural wonder was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2013.

It has not always been plain sailing. In the 1960s, a blight caused for

est coverage to drop to just 17 percent, threatening the terraced fields with a devastating drought.

The situation improved in recent decades after China tightened its crackdown on illegal lumb

ering and returned marginal farmland into forest, breathing new life into the local forests as well as terraced paddies.

But as economic takeoff swept across China, the Hani villages faced new trouble, as their old w

ays of farming and the limited output failed to keep young laborers from leaving for better-paying jobs in the cities.

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