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To see Asia in a grain of rice
The influence of rice on humankind reaches far back in time. Rice has been grown in Asia for the last 7,000 years.


The Story of Rice

To see Asia in a grain of rice

 

Close up of wild rice
Close up of wild rice

The influence of rice on humankind reaches far back in time. Rice has been grown in Asia for the last 7,000 years. Recent findings in China indicate that this may in fact be 10,000 years. From the terraces of China to the lowlands of Sri Lanka, it is cultivated on all continents except Antarctica. About half of the world’s population, most of whom live in Asia, depends on rice as a staple food.
 

 

Close up of rice seeds
Close up of rice seeds

Basically a type of grass, there are two major species of cultivated rice, known as Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima. Both sprang from a common ancestor that was distributed across Gondwanaland, the ancient continent that would break up and become the modern continents of Africa and Asia. These plants are native to southern Asia and south-eastern Africa where the climate is tropical and sub-tropical.
 

 

Close up of rice
Close up of rice

From its humble origins, rice has evolved into Asia's most deeply-revered heritage. Local traditional rice varieties and ecological rice farming have sustained Asian rice farmers and consumers safely for most of foregone decades. There are thousands of rice varieties all over the world.

In many communities, there is usually a goddess or mother figure associated with rice. In Bali, it is Dewi Sri or Bhatari Sri. In Thailand, rice is revered as ‘Mother Rice’. In India, she is Annapoorna and she promises those who come to her what a mother gives naturally and freely—food. The Hindu goddess Lakshmi is usually associated with wealth and prosperity, but such prosperity is based on rice.
 

 

Rice crop
Rice crop

Different cultures have different stories about how rice came to be. The Chinese believe that rice is a gift from the animals. Once upon a time, China was hit by very bad floods. The people ran up to the hills to stay. When the floods were over, they came down and found that all the plants had died. They tried hunting but there were few animals left. One day, some people saw a dog running across a field. Around its neck were bundles of stalks with yellow seeds. They people grew these seeds and called the plants “rice”. With rice to eat, they were not hungry anymore. This is why rice is considered more precious than jewels in Chinese culture.

 

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