Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Jiaxian Traditional Chinese Date Gardens, China

GIAHS since 2014


Detailed Information



Site location: Jia County, Shaanxi Province, P.R. China,

Area of GIAHS: 2.4 ha (core area)

Population working for this system: 795 people in the core area

Topological Characteristics: on the loess plateau, in the earth-rock mountainous region along the Yellow River

Climatic Classification: semi-arid continental monsoon climate

Ethnic Groups/Indigenous People: Mainly Han, but also Meng, Hui, Zang, Wei, Miao, Yi, Korean, Man Dong and Menba communities

Primary Income Sources: agriculture


Global importance

Located in the Jinshaan Canyon at the middle reach of the Yellow River, the Jia County is recognized as the place with the longest history of jujube cultivation. This system is the result of a long process of domestication jujube and sour jujube that has taken place for thousands years allowing farmers to survive in a dry region.

This system is an agroforestry complex organization where Jujube trees, vegetables, grains crops and poultry are grown up in a dry environment. Moreover, the trees can be intercropped with grape, pear, apple, apricot and vegetable. On the patches of land where crops cannot grow, farmers can plant jujube trees for drought-resilient. Besides, the System obtains outstanding eco-functions of soil conservation, water storage and preventing sand storms.

Food and livelihood security

Jujube and sour jujube contribute largely to the food diet of the local people including various uses (cakes, juices, jujube rice dumpling, etc.). Moreover, this system also includes crops under the trees such as potatoes, soy beans, rice, yam and vegetables. Poultry can also be kept in the courtyards providing the farmers with food for their daily lives.

Nowadays, jujube holds a central position in local agriculture. The income from the jujube cultivation accounts for 80% of the average net income per capita of local farmers. The average income per capita of the jujube farmers is RMB 5000. The average income of the households is over RMB 20,000, while some has exceeded RMB 100,000.

Biodiversity and ecosystem functions

Biodiversity of the System includes the diversity of jujube variety, germplasm resources, and related species. Jujube is an unique specie endemic from China including 13 cultivars groups consisting of 35 endemic varieties. In addition, there are also three cultivar groups of sour jujube, consisting of 16 endemic varieties.

The jujube trees, planted in the wild or in the courtyards, create rich ecological niches for other crops changing the micro-climate and soil in the forests. When the trees are young, the farmers plant short-stem crops under the trees. Therefore, Jujube trees play an important role in maintaining biodiversity, but also in water and soil conservation, and preventing wind and sand storms.

Moreover, the jujube trees also have a considerable number of creeping roots and lateral roots. This gives the jujube trees strong ability to hold soil and reduce erosion. Jujube trees have stronger performance in water conservation. They hold water by the canopies, litter and non-capillary porosities. Jujube trees are tall, have large and dense crowns, concentrated branches contributing to prevent sand storms as windbreaks.

Knowledge systems and adapted technologies

This system is an agroforestry system, under Jujube trees or in the forest, other crops are cultivated such as grain crops or vegetables with also poultry. Moreover, the trees can be intercropped with grape, pear, apple, apricot and vegetable. On the patches of land where crops cannot grow, farmers can plant jujube trees for drought-resilient.

As fruit sets are less than the flowers, local farmers use disbudding techniques so as to increase fruit setting. Moreover, grafting technology together with disbudding are also used to increase the production. The jujube trees are used as stock to graft other species on it like pear or pomegranate. Farmers have a strong knowledge of the Jujube trees’ physiognomy and their environment.

Cultures, value systems and social organizations

As the Jia County is drought stricken, jujube trees have been the life-saving plants in the people’s eyes. They have special emotional connection with jujube, and place their hopes on the jujube trees. The folk proverbs and crafting have reflected the inter planting of jujube with crops, orchard management, jujube cultivation and processing, etc.

The material culture, customs, behavior, catering culture, history and other cultural factors relating to jujube have already penetrated into the social and individual behaviors, such as production, knowledge, festivities and rituals. For example, the people worship the jujube god on the first and fifteenth days of the first lunar month.

Remarkable landscapes, land and water resources management features

The landscape of Jiaxian has been shaped over centuries by the cultivation of Jujube trees. Cultivating trees, and growing up livestock and vegetables has been made possible on dry lands thanks to the microclimate created by jujube trees.

Land and water resources management are developed for the Jujube cultivation promoting shading trees to reduce evaporation from the soils.