An Ethnobotanical Fieldwork at the Shexian Dryland Stone Terraces System in China

By Yu Bai, a master student at Minzu University of China and member of the student committee. Connect with her through WeChatID: Tiger_Rose_1005

Fieldwork in Shexian (Hebei province) conducted by the Ethnobotanical Innovation Group of Minzu University of China. Footage credit: Yu Bai

For centuries, people there have been relying on the terraced fields. Shexian. A typical example of Dryland Stone Terraces System, is the Wangjinzhuang village, which is located in the midst of Taihang Mountain in China. These terraces were classified as one of the Chinese National Important Agricultural Heritage System by the Department of Agriculture in 2014. Furthermore, they make up  splendid landscapes that hold an impressive biodiversity and a unique climate, which also includes less pollution.

Rich Biodiversity

The terraced fields of dryland are in the vast deep mountain area and reach 268 thousand mu (178.6 x105 m2). Local people can get through harsh times even when the conditions were unfavourable, thanks to various kinds of plants, especially for edible and medicinal ones in the Shexian Dryland Stone Terraces System. In addition, animals like pheasants, wild boars, eagles and hares also live there. 

Unique Donkey-Culture

In Shexian, donkeys play an irreplaceable and significant role in people’s daily life. Additionally to the donkeys’ importance as a work force in agricultural production, they also play a social role as companions, friends and family. There are even some peculiar folklore regarding donkeys of Shexian, for example, masters will hold a celebratory dinner for donkeys’ full moon birth at home.

Special Stone-Culture

As “The Natural Museum of Stone”, local people in Shexian make full use of stones. Which are used to build terraced fields, houses, bridges, handrail, blocks, press rollers, etc., exhibiting the tough environment and people’s wisdoms under such circumstances.

Agroforestry Ecosystem

The Shexian Dryland Stone Terraces System is well-known for its stone almost all over the place, thus local people created a particular agroforestry ecosystem to be adapted to the environment with more stone and less soil. They plant economically important trees like Zanthoxylunm bungeanum Maxim., Forsythia suspensa (Thunb.) Vahl, Juglans regia L., Diospyrus kaki L.f. and Diospyros lotus L. on the edge of the terraced system. And within these terraces, there are various kinds of agricultural species, such as Zea mays L., Setaria italica (L.) Beauv., Arachis hypogaea L, etc.

*All photos above were taken by and are the property of Ethnobotanical Innovation Group of Minzu University of China.

For more details, scan the QR codes below using Wechat:

Also check the Chinese version here:


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  2. He XL, Wang HF, Liu GX, Wang YX, Chen YM, Jia HT, et al. Protection and utilization of agricultural species diversity and genetic diversity in Shexian Dryland Terrace System. Chinese Journal of Eco-Agriculture, 2020; doi: 10.13930/j.cnki.cjea.190819
  3. Yu T. Study on Soil Erosion and Soil Element Characteristics of Dryland Terraced Fields in She Xian County. Chengdu university of technology. 2019; doi: 10.26986/d.cnki.gcdlc.2019.001072
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