Food & Drink





The original middle and lower Yangtze rice greatly influenced surrounding areas, Korea and Japan being obvious examples.

While millet, sorghum and wheat sites are peninsula-wide, the earliest Korean rice is in Bronze Age 2000-3000 year-old Wuwen pottery culture. Northern cereals are mainly non-rice because the only rice sites are P’yongyang Nanjing and Seoul Xinyanli. Most rice sites are south Korean, represented by the Songjuli culture centered in Jinjiang Basin caves, with stone graves, clay burial urns, bronzeware and carbonized Keng remains C14 dating ca. 2500 years. Carbonized rice and bronze and metal ware in the Gucheng Beiqiu site in Qingshang Nandao occur with 2000 year-old broken Han Dynasty mirrors. Site distribution suggests rice spread south to north, rather than the reverse.

Japanese agriculture also appeared quite late in the 12000-2300 BCE Neolithic Shengwen (Jomon) hunter-gathering and fishing culture. The possibility of 3000-4000 year-old rice cultivation occurs in phytoliths on a late Shengwen potsherd in the Zongshe Nangoushou site, Okayama County, with more remains in Kyushu’s Caidien, Youtien and Banfu sites indicating incipient rice farming and production in 2300-3000 year-old Late Shengwen culture. Advanced farming soon spread from Kyushu to northern Honshu in 1700-2300 year-old Misheng (Yayoi) culture, production speeding with introduced bronze and metal farm tools. Only Keng was cultivated, with stone and wood tools traced to the Yangtze Basin.

Rice theoretically spread historically east from North, Central or South China, with Central China the most convincing. From a middle and lower Yangtze origin and growth center, cultivated rice likely spread via sea to Korea and Japan. Rice-marked burnt red clay from the tiny Zhoushan Islands off the Zhejiang coast suggest an east sea route midpoint. The author pioneered support of the Central route, with almost simultaneous rice spread via sea to Korea and Japan. North and South routes are unproven archaeologically and may be ignored as North Chinese yellow soil is too dry for rice and there are few remains; e.g., rice-marked burnt clay from Yangshao Village are undated. Rather, North China is a millet and sorghum center, its little rice an unlikely propagation center. The sole suggestion it spread from Shandong via Liaodong to Korea lacks support, especially when north Korean rice is rare and other cereals used. In addition, ancient seafaring was capable of connecting the middle Yangtze to Korea without a Liaodong detour. The South route lacks support because Okinawa midway has few rice remains, with fishing and hunting its main economy. As northeast Asia has quite late cultivated rice and is near the middle and lower Yangtze, rice likely passed east via the sea, accompanied by balustrade construction, grouped living areas, stone axes and wood ploughs that are alike in Korea, Japan and southeast China.


"ORIGIN OF CHINESE RICE CULTIVATION AND ITS SPREAD EAST". AN Zhimin. Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology, Chinese Institute of Social Science, Beijing Cultural Relics, No. 2, p. 63-70, 1999.
(This article was first given in an international symposium celebrating the opening of the "Biguti Exhibition Hall of Water Conservation, Folklore and Cultural Relics", July 10, 1998, in Jingti City, Korea. For publication, the author made needed amendments, adding a "Distribution map of prehistoric crop varieties excavated in China" and "Statistics of ancient Chinese excavated cultivated crops". Translated & interpreted by W. Tsao, Ph.D., April 19, 2000, and edited by B. Gordon).


Food & Drink :: Rice

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