Rice and its History

August 28, 2019

When you think of rice, do you think of China? If not, you should. China is the world’s largest producer of rice with 208-million metric tons in 2017, and the crop makes up a little less than half of the country’s total grain output.

Ricepedia.org reports, “Based on archeological evidence, rice was believed to have first been domesticated in the region of the Yangtze River Valley in China.” Then “In the late 3rd millennium BC, there was a rapid expansion of rice cultivation into mainland Southeast Asia and westwards across India and Nepal.”

Fast forward ten-to-eleven thousand years from the domestication of rice in China to 2017, and Statista reported, that almost 496-million metric tons of husked rice were produced in the last harvest year worldwide, and China’s share was almost 42-percent of the global total.

When we compare rice to wheat production, “the global amount of wheat produced came to about 755-million metric tons in crop year 2016-2017.”

World Atlas.com says, China is (also) the largest producer of wheat in the world. “China produces more wheat than any other country, followed by India, Russia, and the United States.”

How difficult is it to grow rice? “All rice cultivation is highly labour intensive. Rice is generally grown as a wetland crop in fields flooded to supply water during the growing season. Transplanting seedlings requires many hours of labor, as does harvesting. Mechanization of rice cultivation is only minimally advanced. Rice cultivation also demands more of other inputs, such as fertilizer, than most other crops.”

When comparing the benefits of rice to wheat, “A study published … by a group of psychologists in the journal Science finds that China’s noodle-slurping northerners are more individualistic, show more ‘analytic thought’ and divorce more frequently. By contrast, the authors write, rice-eating southerners show more hallmarks traditionally associated with East Asian culture, including more ‘holistic thought’ and lower divorce rates. The reason? Cultivating rice, the authors say, is a lot harder.”

How important is rice when it comes to feeding the world? Thought Co.com tells us: “Today, rice feeds more than half the world’s population and accounts for 20-percent of the world’s total calorie intake.”

Next time you eat a bowl of rice, you might want to thank the Chinese for domesticating it for the world?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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