Weekly Photo Challenge — Good Morning: “Dragon’s Backbone”, Longsheng, China

“Anyone can slay a dragon. But try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.”

Brian Andreas



Our challenge this week, courtesy of Michelle, is to share something related to our mornings.  For me, there are two kinds of mornings.  Those at home, which are typically a bit lazy and start slowly, and those while I’m traveling, which are early, active and full of anticipation.

Of all the places I anticipated visiting in China, “Dragon’s Backbone”  (the Rice Terraces at Longsheng) was way at the top of my list.  (OK, maybe tied with the Great Wall, posted here).  Like many of our China days, it called for a very early morning due to its remote location. Fortunately, it was all I imagined and more.



“A dragon’s heart burns fiercely, even in the face of evil.”

S.G. Rogers

The terraces are located outside of Guilin, China and are reached via a 2-hour drive through the mountains followed by a one hour climb up a steep rocky staircase and through the picturesque village of Ping An.  It’s an arduous journey but worth every ounce of effort. (Note the two little specs at the top of the spine in the photo below – it’s actually two people, which hopefully gives you some perspective on the size of the terraces.)



“Adult dragons are astute, powerful, and sure of their strength. ”

Ciruelo Cabral

At the top of the climb you’ll find the 16-room Li-An Lodge,  built by professional photographer Keren Su.  Born and raised nearby, he obviously knew what he was doing when he chose this incredible spot.  From the inn you can walk a complete multi-mile circuit to look down upon the rice terraces from every angle.  Fortunately, the approach is intimidating enough that the tourists are fewer than they might otherwise be.



“Jealousy, that dragon which slays love in the pretense of keeping it alive.

Havelock Ellis

The inn was built in ancient Chinese style, without using a single nail.  Each room is unique and has a marvelous view of the surrounding mountains and fields.  After the climb, arrival truly feels like heaven.



“When the prison doors are opened, the real dragon will fly out.

Ho Chi Minh

We got very lucky in terms of timing, as the fields were lush with the most brilliant colors of green highlighted by soft, golden sunlight.  We were told that the rice would be harvested the following week, leaving the terraces barren until spring planting began.



“Confidence is like a dragon where, for every head cut off, two more heads grow back.”

Criss Jami

I set off on the trek around the top of the dragon’s back with cameras, lenses and tripod in hand.  I could not possibly have been happier, and literally had to stop every few minutes to absorb the scene below (which was astounding) and of course to shoot yet another amazing vista.



“The man who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself.”

Friedrich Nietzsche

There were very few people about so I was able to plant myself anywhere I wanted for as long as I wanted – keeping in mind of course that the sun’s arc would be changing soon.  At one point I chose to take a “short-cut” through what looked like a path in the rice (it wasn’t), which I learned was a bit wet at its base and not quite as soft as it looked from afar 🙂



“If the lion and the dragon fight, they will both die.”

Tadashi Adachi

After about two hours of shooting to my heart’s content in and around the terraces I arrived back at the inn, satisfied that if there was a vantage to be had, I’d had it; if there was a scene to be shot, I’d shot it; and if there was a path to be taken, I’d taken it.



“To attract good fortune, spend a penny on an old friend, share an old pleasure with a new friend, and lift up the heart of a true friend by writing his name on the wings of a dragon.”

Ancient Proverb

There is no way to truly convey the feeling of this place.  I’ve seen photographs of the Dragon’s Backbone in every season – covered in snow, flowering in the spring, and of course in verdant green.  Each of them is beautiful in their own way.   As for me, I will carry a memory of this place, and of these moments, for a very, very long time. 


184 thoughts on “Weekly Photo Challenge — Good Morning: “Dragon’s Backbone”, Longsheng, China

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  4. Looking at these images again, I am entirely enthralled with this incredibly engineered landscape. Did you stay at that amazing inn? You were so lucky you had this wonderful sunny weather and that you were there when the rice was still green and lush.

  5. Wow, just expanded my bucket list! There is something so animating yet comforting about these green sculpted hills and terraces that produce the same food year after year. The terraces I saw in Bali had been in existence for 900 yrs, with an intricate irrigation system that allowed everyone to get water when they needed it. Here is part of my travel memoir specifically focused on the rice terraces: http://beautyalongtheroad.wordpress.com/2013/06/13/three-weeks-in-bali-rice-fields-and-village-market/

    • Beautiful – love the way you made a story of it! I’ve seen photos of the Longsheng terraces with water and also with snow. I’d love to go back in other seasons but was happy to have seen them at their greenest. I love the way the water looks in your photos tho!

      • Yes, they are so different in their various stages – the watery beds to the bright-green nursery stage, then the full-grown stands of rice slowly turning more yellow and drier; the cutting of the rice and remaining stubble fields (in Bali they burn the harvested fields and incorporate the ashes into the soil)… then it starts all over again, two or three times each year!

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  7. Oh, I was so raptured and completely fascinated by the beauty of each photo and the individual story each held. Yet you wove them together in a magical, almost fairy tale way, with the implied metaphors, and your narration of it all. I thoroughly enjoyed the adventure. If only we could all live like Mary Poppins. I’d be off on the horse, and I’m certain that basket has the perfect lunch with country rustic bread and aged cheeses… plenty of fruit and water. What a perfect grouping of photos. Thank you for sharing!! Love them all!!

  8. Wonderful post and wonderful place. I like all your dragon quotes & the basket is one of my favourite shots. How lucky you are to have been there.

  9. Thank you so much for sharing these phenomenal photos. I feel as if I experienced the climb with you. What a glorious place. Well done, Tina!

  10. I and all the others here are lucky to follow your blog and see through your eyes. You truly respect the places you visit, and it shows. All the photos are so good – but I love that you included the one closeup of the basket, that rounds it out, or brings it home. I can picture your feeling of pure happiness up there on the ridges.

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    • Thanks so much Susan, appreciate your visit and lovely comment! Must admit, the dragon quotes were a bit of a challenge – especially the quote with morning AND dragons LOL!

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      • Ah yes, Tina! I think I remember you telling me that. I am actually (sort of) watching the Rutgers game right now (against Louisville). The funny thing is I get nervous when I watch them play. Haha. Thanks for your kind welcome. 🙂

  13. I waited to look at these again on my computer rather than phone before commenting. They were a ‘wow’ in miniature, but now words seem inadequate. . Didn’t you just feel like you were on top of the world? Stunning! And no smog !
    I love how you weave the story throughout the photos. I look forward to your ‘ mini novel ‘ reads within the stellar illustrative photography.
    Thumbs up on the new look and dark background. Helps my old eyes see and produce less typos hopefully too lol. dsup

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  15. A photographic journey worth every step of that hour long climb up the steep staircase Tina !
    Beautiful series of pictures . Such verdant greens !

  16. I really enjoyed these photos. They show on farming on steep hills can be done responsibly and without destroying the topsoil. Their productivity on land that would be considered unfarmable in many places is amazing.

    • Very true Bill, and excellent point. Someone else commented on how Eco-friendly their approach is. But oh my, how backbreaking the work is, and how labor intensive! Thanks for stopping by, happy you enjoyed!

      Sent from my iPad

  17. Amazing photographs! So interesting the subjects you captured from the conuntryside of China. My phots are of the people in the cities. I like yours more. Thanks for the adventure!
    Ann S

    • Thanks Ann! Really, the thing I found about China is,that literally everywhere you look there is a photo calling to be taken! City, country, people, scenery–just a photographer’s dream. I’m sure your shots are terrific!

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  19. WOW….we here in the Kanew house sit on this sunday morning completely amazed over this place….once again….the keen eye of Tina Schell takes us on an adventure!! Love being lost in the plush rolling hills….INCREDIBLE!! Look forward to the next! The new look/feel of site works really well….like it!

  20. Amazing shots Tina! As you say you really had some fantastic light, the greens are incredible. You’ve got some really good foreground interest with the grass and basket too. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hi Ben–thank very much! The light was gorgeous, we were very lucky. In fact, we were lucky all over china with beautiful clear skies on all but one or two days. I understand their pollution is terrible but we didn’t really have a problem which I hear is quite rare.

  21. As a member of the dragon reintroduction group, UK, I would like to thank you for raising the appreciation level of these misunderstood creatures in your much improved new format site. The photographs are wonderful. I like the basket shot. Perhaps it is the emptiness of the basket saying to me how China is moving away from the fields to cities and leaving an emptiness behind. 🙂

  22. Hi Tina. I think your China series is awesome, and you asked about the theme.

    I tried a free variation of this and changed after a few weeks on a previous blog, because the front page loads forever, (or so it seems) making it difficult to scan the front page. I think it’s a great look but needs a really fast connection or some (I, for instance) will get impatient waiting for it to load, to see all the information presented.

    I’ll just open the newest article right away and not worry about the front page loading, I think. It took almost 2 minutes to get to the theme name on the bottom of the front page as my computer had to load all photos first and rearrange columns too.

    It looks really great once loaded, but I don’t want to pay for higher speed internet (too expensive already!) and my current 3 gig takes some time with this type of theme. So I’ll ignore its features and use it like a standard theme, looking for new posts in turn, using the first one to see the 2nd, etc. via the link at the end of the post. It’s not one of my favorites, for this reason.

    Now, if the good fairies would magically give me faster internet……….but sadly not. Robert

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