Chinese Rice Farming
Works Cited Not Included
An ancient Chinese proverb reads, “Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.” In a comical manner, this proverb illustrates an important point - rice serves an essential function to the people of China. As the pivotal mediator between the Chinese people and the rice they consume, the weather, climate, and environment has played an integral role in rice’s production and utility, as well as the importance it plays within the culture. Ironically, something so integral to Chinese society may not indeed be sustainable for the future.
Before discussing the important inter-dynamics between rice, people and the environment, it is necessary to briefly review the importance of rice in China. Rice is the staple food source of China, a country containing over 1.3 billion residents. Chinese officials report that the per capita energy intake of food is around 2,600 calories, where ¾ of their protein and 5/6 of their caloric intake come from grain – primarily rice.28 The government has gone to great lengths to feed their ever burgeoning population and it is a monumental undertaking. China produces 35% of the world’s total rice production, ranging from 171 million to 191 million metric tons annually over the past decade.29
Chinese mythology has expounded upon many of the critical elements that pertain to human existence: the division of the heavens and the earth, the creation of man, and the origins of rice. According to legend, rice’s origin is begins during the aftermath of a devastating storm thousands of years ago.30 The lands and rivers were flooded and food sources were scarce; every type of plant life was destroyed and no animals could be found. Seeing the hardships the people suffered, their gods sent to the people a dog whose fur was covered in yellow, peculiar looking seeds. The Chinese planted them, and months later, rice crops arose in abundance. While this myth is far-fetched, it is clear through the folklore that the people of China associate the gods’ benevolence with their gift of rice to the Chinese people.
Having thousands of years to experiment with this gift from the gods, the Chinese discovered that rice production required a specific type of environment and climate to thrive. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, rice grows best in warm, humid, rainy regions.31 Typically, the temperature must average at least 70 degrees during the 18 week growing season and the average rainfall must be at least 45 inches per year, unless irrigation techniques are used to increase productivity. Due to the topographical complexity of China, the South and Central China are the primary rice-cultivating regions. These regions are hot and humid, averaging 40 inches of precipitation a year – primarily due to the summer monsoons. In the summer months of June, July and August for example, the Southern city of Guang-Zhou reflects this trend: Highs around 90 degrees, low around 80 degrees, and...