Baishui Terrace, or White Water Terrace – one of the most important scenic sites in Shangri-La (Zhongdian) County, Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture – is located at the foot of Haba Snow Mountain, about a hundred kilometers southeast of the village of Shangri-La, the seat of Shangri-La County. Snugly carved into a mountain slope some 2400 meters above sea level, Baishui Terrace, from its base to its top, measures 140 meters and spans some 160 meters in width at its widest place, making Baishui Terrace the largest such set of terraces in China.
Water from the higher reaches of Haba Snow Mountain seeps down into the uppermost terraced basin (the basins themselves have been hollowed out over time by the erosive action of the formerly acidic water, which, in earlier times, drew out certain minerals from the limestone, creating weak carbonic acid), then spills over to the basin below, which it fills up before spilling over to the next basin, and so on and so forth, until the water spills over the outer rim of the last of this set of terraced basins.
Each year, the eighth day of the second month of the lunar calendar is the day when the indigenous Naxi people come out to celebrate their traditional February 8th Festival. Naxi people of all ages gather round the base of Baishui Terrace to sing, dance, and make merry. Chickens are ritually slaughtered in sacrifice to the Naxi gods. According to Naxi legend, the gods deliberately created Baishui Terrace in order to teach the people how to transform the area's mountainous terrain into arable land.
Standing in the presence of these marvellous, ivory-colored terraces with the purest of water spilling gently over their edges, the average tourist is more likely to imagine that the gods created Baishui Terrace for its inherent beauty rather than for any strictly utilitarian purpose.