Zenfolio | Sugato Mukherjee | THE FARMING PALETTES OF YUNNAN

Located in the northeast of Kunming, Yunnan province, southwest China, Dongchuan is a rural place in the Wumeng mountains. Dongchuan, which means ‘palette’, is a valley of colours. Spanning 50 kms. around the village of Huashitou in Xintian township near about 2400 mts. above sea level are rolling mountains where fiery red soil with a variety of crops and ever changing light can easily be mistaken as a Van Gogh’s painting. The iron oxide in the soil has developed an extraordinarily reddish soil. Cultivation of golden wheat, emerald barley, white potato flowers and pink buckwheat results in a painting of a magnificent landscape, a stunning mix of geometric designs and colours.

Though Dongchuan is often referred to as the colour palette of the gods, it is actually a wonderful creation of the farmers. Stones in the soil prevent croplands to retain water. These farmers plant drought-resistant crops. The farmlands allotted to each family are scattered around – while one plants potatoes, another cultivates wheat and such random allotment renders the stunning beauty to the swathes of multicoloured land. The farmers sustain the fragile ecosystem by opting traditional means of power generation with wind turbines that dot the undulating landscape of Dongchuan. And to make the most out of a land that is not hospitable for farming, the farmers of Dongchuna have resorted to plasticulture – an innovative method of farming where plastic tunnels are painstakingly created over the croplands to retain moisture, control temperature and prevent the seeds from weeds and insects as well as increase the land’s productivity.
Agriculture in the multicoloured fields of Dongchuan county with horse drawn carts.Buckwheat, potato and barley are the major crops grown in the rust coloured valleyA relentless toil in a land which is inherently inhospitable for farmingFarmers at work in DongchuanA Dongchuan peasant returns home with his horseOf late, transport and communication system has developed in the areaThe fragile ecosystem is sustained using traditional methods of power from wind turbinesTraditional haystacks are used to stock harvested cropsAn elderly farmer donning his sheepskin coat relaxes near his farmlandhe quiltwork of the terraced fields are rich in metallic minerals like alumina and ironThe small hamlets that dot the Dongchuan landscape seamlessly merge into the coloursChanging light creates a palette with random brushstrokes over the swathes of land