Indigenous ecological knowledge (IEK) can contribute to the management of local ecosystems and landscapes. Cultural landscapes are produced by and reflect the long‐term interactions between humans and nature in indigenous societies. Yunnan Province, located in southwestern China, is the homeland of many ethnic groups, and is also a refuge for numerous species of wild plants and animals. Indigenous people in Yunnan, who have rich ecological knowledge, play an important role in the conservation of local biodiversity and the region’s unique terraced agricultural landscapes. We used the Hani people and their outstanding cultural landscape of rice terraces in Yuanyang County of Yunnan Province as a case study to describe their worldview and discuss their formation of IEK; their roles in the preservation of rice landraces and in pest regulation; their management of water, forest, and soil resources; and the vertical landscape pattern and resource‐circulation system that has evolved in the areas managed by the Hani. We also discuss the challenges and threats facing the Hani, their IEK, and their cultural landscape, as well as discuss the potential for integration of the Hani’s IEK with modern conservation efforts.