Dongchuan, which means “palette,” is a valley of colours. Spanning 50 kilometres around the village of Huashitou in Xintian township, about 2400 metres above sea level, are rolling mountains where its fiery red soil with a variety of crops and ever changing light could easily be mistaken for a Van Gogh. The iron oxide in the soil has developed an extraordinarily reddish hue. The cultivation of golden wheat, emerald barley, white potato flowers and pink buckwheat produces a magnificent landscape, a stunning mix of geometric designs and colors.

Though Dongchuan is often referred to as the color palette of the gods, it is actually a wonderful creation of the farmers. The stony soil prevents the land from retaining water. So farmers plant drought-resistant crops. The plots allotted to each family are scattered across the land—while one plants potatoes, another cultivates wheat. This random allotment lends a stunning, multicolour beauty to the land. To make the most of a land that is hardly ideal for farming, the people of Dongchun have resorted to plasticulture—an innovative method of boosting productivity in which plastic tunnels are painstakingly created over the croplands to retain moisture, control temperature, and keep out weeds and insects.

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A peasant in Dongchuan county, China, in her traditional headgear.
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Terraced tunnels are painstakingly created to increase productivity.
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To make the most of a land that is inhospitable to cultivation, Dongchuan farmers have resorted to plasticulture.
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Agriculture in the multicoloured fields of Dongchuan county still employs horse drawn carts.
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A peasant returns home with his horse.
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Buckwheat, potato and barley are the major crops of the valley.
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The small hamlets that dot the landscape seamlessly merge into the colours.
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An elderly farmer in his sheepskin coat relaxes near his farmland.
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Of late transport and communication systems have developed in the area.
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Traditional storehouses made of hay are used to stock the harvest.
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Farmers at work in Dongchuan County.