Earliest origins of rice: South Korea vs. China? China vs. India?

Rice traced to a single domestication event in China (3 May 2011, BBC News)

Scientists have shed new light on the origins of rice, one of the most important staple foods today.

A study of the rice genome suggests that the crop was domesticated only once, rather than at multiple times in different places.

Tens of thousands of varieties of rice are known, but these are represented by two distinct sub-species.

The work published in PNAS journal proposes that rice was first cultivated in China some 9,000 years ago.

Another theory proposes that the two major sub-species of rice – Oryza sativa japonica and O. sativa indica – were domesticated separately and in different parts of Asia.

This view has gained strong support from observations of large genetic differences between the two sub-species, as well as from several efforts to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the crop.

The japonica type is sticky and short-grained, while indica rice is non-sticky and long-grained.

In the latest research, an international team re-examined this evolutionary history, by using genetic data.

Using computer algorithms, the researchers came to the conclusion thatjaponica and indica had a single origin because they had a closer genetic relationship to one other than to any wild rice species found in China or India.

They then used a so-called “molecular clock” technique to put dates on the evolutionary story of rice.

Depending on how the researchers calibrated their clock, the data point to an origin of domesticated rice around 8,200 years ago. The study indicates that the japonica and indica sub-species split apart from each other about 3,900 years ago.

The team says this is consistent with archaeological evidence for rice domestication in China’s Yangtze Valley about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago and the domestication of rice in India’s Ganges region about 4,000 years ago.

“As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridised extensively with local wild rice,” said co-author Michael Purugganan, from New York University (NYU).

“So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India actually has its beginnings in China.”

The single-origin model suggests that indica and japonica were both domesticated from the wild rice O. rufipogon.

Several years ago, researchers said they had found evidence for 15,000-year-old burnt rice grains at a site in South Korea, challenging the idea that rice was first cultivated in China. However, the evidence remains controversial in the academic community.


First rice appeared in China

May 5, 2011 Voice of Russia

Rice. © Flickr.com/IRRI Images/cc-by

A group of U.S. researchers tracing the origin of rice insist that first rice on Earth was cultivated in the Yangtze River valley in China about 10,000 years ago, and not in India as previously thought.

Their conclusion is based on the study of genetic variations in 630 varieties of wild and domesticated rice.


World’s ‘Oldest’ Rice Found in South Korea


Ancient Leftovers: ‘Oldest’ Rice Grains

Oct. 22, 2003 — South Korean archaeologists said Wednesday they had found the world’s oldest known domesticated rice, pushing back by thousands of years the recorded origins of Asia’s staple food.

Radioactive dating of the 59 burnt grains of rice found in central South Korea has pushed back the date for the earliest known cultivation of the plant to somewhere between 14,000 and 15,000 years ago, they said.

“This discovery challenges the accepted view about where rice originated and how it evolved,” said Professor Lee Yung-Jo of Chungbuk National University in Cheongju.

Carbonized rice grains, which were found near the Yellow River and Yangtze River in China and were considered to be the world’s oldest rice, were dated between 10,500 and 11,000 years ago, he explained.

“It suggests that rice may have also evolved in areas which are far north from there,” he said.

The rice grains were found by Lee and his colleague Woo Jong-Yoon of the same university in Sorori in the central province of North Chungcheong, which is located between 36 and 37 degrees of latitude north.

According to Lee, the excavations were made between 1997 and 1998 and again in 2001.

The rice is genetically different from modern varieties, which will allow researchers to trace its evolution, he added.

Rice is the staple food for more than half the world’s population and Asia accounts for about 90 percent of its production and consumption of rice.

Source: Discovery Channel |

Alternative story link: World’s ‘oldest’ rice found (21 OCTOBER 2003, SCI/TECH, BBC News)

by Dr David Whitehouse

Scientists have found the oldest known domesticated rice. The handful of 15,000-year-old burnt grains was discovered by archaeologists in Korea.

Their age challenges the accepted view that rice cultivation originated in China about 12,000 years ago.

The rice is genetically different from the modern food crop, which will allow researchers to trace its evolution.

Today’s rice is the primary food for over half the world’s population, with 576,280,000 tonnes produced in 2002.

Rice is especially important in Asia, where it is responsible for almost a third of all calorific intake.

Tracer of evolution

The oldest known rice was discovered by Lee Yung-jo and Woo Jong-yoon of Chungbuk National University in South Korea.

Oldest domesticated rice

The rice DNA will aid evolution study

They found the ancient grains during excavations in the village of Sorori in the Chungbuk Province.

Radioactive dating of the 59 grains of carbonised rice has pushed back the date for the earliest known cultivation of the plant.

DNA analysis shows the early rice sample to be different from the modern intensively farmed varieties, thereby offering scientists the opportunity to study the evolution of one of the world’s principal food sources.

The region in central Korea where the grains were found is one of the most important sites for understanding the development of Stone Age man in Asia.


Find out more about the excavated oldest rice grains (japonica and indica types) discovered at Sorori, see The oldest Sorori Rice Cyber Museum and Excavation of the Sorori Palaeolithic site and its significance.

The above proposed theory of a Korean origin for rice has been overturned by a paper by Sung-Mo Ahn, “The emergence of rice agriculture in Korea: archaeobotanical perspectives” from the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. holding that the…

Argument for the earliest evidence of domesticated rice at the Sorori site, 15,000 years ago, is invalid. The evidence for rice cultivation in the Neolithic (Chulmun) is still insufficient although rice remains have been reported from a few late Neolithic sites in central-western Korea which dated to about 3000 BC. The existence of rice agriculture in the Bronze Age (Early and Middle Mumun: c.1300 ∼ 300 BC), on the other hand, is demonstrated by the high percentage and/or frequency of rice remains among crops recovered from various sites, as well as through the numerous findings of paddy fields. Rice appears to have been introduced from the Liaodong region, China, while so called ‘southern diffusion route’ that the beginning of rice cultivation was first stimulated by influences from Southeast Asia or South China is no more valid. Charred rice remains recovered from the Bronze Age dwellings consist of dehusked clean grains and weedy seeds are very rare among samples containing rice grains, which could be related with the harvesting and processing methods of rice. Measurements of charred rice grains also will be reported in this paper. Agricultural villages disappear from the archaeological records from the third century BC, which corresponds to the beginning of the Early Iron Age (Late Mumun), and reappear from the late first century with the emergence of urban societies.”


The confirmation of the Liaodong route of rice into Korea, causes a reconsideration of the work of Chinese researcher An Zhimin’s Central Route theory of diffusion into Korea, and of an alternative diffusion route for the introduction of rice into Japan.  According An Zhimin, “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 centre, 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(8). 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(9)are undated. Rather, North China is a millet and sorghum centre, its little rice an unlikely propagation centre. 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“.

Genetics research has, however, thown up yet a different picture. A study on both upland and lowland cultivars of Japanese rice concluded that there are different maternal origins between lowland and upland cultivars. It also concluded that cultivars introduced from China into Japanese upland fields in the past were rare types of upland cultivars sharing almost the same genotypes with the Japanese upland cultivars. And the researchers detected cultivars carrying such a genotype found only in Indonesia and Taiwan. Japanese upland cultivars are deemed to be closely related to those cultivars of these latter countries. (see Ishikawa R., et al. Different maternal origins of Japanese lowland and upland rice populations, Theor Appl Genet (2002) 104:976–980, DOI 10.1007/s00122-001-0807-y)

Another group of researchers in 2005 paper concluded, “The earliest rice remains (wild first and domesticated later) were found at Yuchanyan (Yuan 2002), Diaotonghuan (Zhao 1998), and Shangshan along the Yangzi River, dating to 15 000-9000 cal BP. Jiahu indicates habitual use of cultivated rice in northern regions by 9000 cal BP. Yuezhuang in Shandong documents the advance of rice to the lower Yellow River basin well beyond its natural habitat by 8000 cal BP (Crawford et al. 2006). Nanjiaokou (Wei et al. 2000) and Huizui (Lee et al. 2007) also show rice dispersal to the middle Yellow River region by 6000-5500 cal BP. Rice continued to spread to the upper Yellow River valley by 5500-5000 cal BP, as Qingyang in Gansu reveals (Zhang 2000). Without human intervention to its life cycle, rice could have not reached the Yellow River region as early as 8000 cal BP. ” — “The earliest rice domestication in China“,  Antiquity Vol 81 No 313 September 2007

In addition, the oldest and the most northwestern record of cultivated rice in Neolithic China indicates that the cultivation of rice started no later than 5070 cal. a BP at the Xishanping site,  in the region of Tianshui, Gansu Province (see “The record of cultivated rice from archaeobiological evidence in northwestern China 5000 years ago“), there remains the possibility that rice may also have been introduced by Yunnan outgoing migrants to Japan (since genetic ties have been established between Japanese and Yunnan populations) at about the same time as or earlier than the introduction of rice by Korean migrants.

The position on rice origins in China is currently summed up by Zhao Zhijun, “new data provide direct archaeological evidence for, and raise some new issues about, the origin of rice agriculture in China. For example, the rice remains from the Shangshan site, dated to ca. 10,000 cal. B.P., suggest the beginning of rice cultivation regardless of whether that rice was domesticated or not. The quantitative analysis of plant remains recovered by floatation from the Jiahu site, dated to ca. 8,000 cal. B.P., revealed that the subsistence of the Jiahu people mainly relied on fishing/hunting/gathering, while the products of rice cultivation and animal husbandry were only a supplement to their diet. The ongoing excavation, with floatation and water-sieving, at the Tianluoshan site, dated to 6,000 to 7,000 cal. B.P., suggests that rice farming, though important, was only part of a broader subsistence pattern of the Hemudu Culture, and rice domestication culminated after 6,500 B.P and the beginning of rice domestication remain unclear.”


US-study-backs-China-in-the-great-rice-debate (May 4, 2011, South China Morning Post retr. China News Watch) by Stephen Chen

A row has flared after a study by US genome researchers found that the first rice was cultivated in China’s Yangtze River valley about 10,000 years ago.

Using modern computer algorithms, new modelling techniques and a pool of more than 600 gene fragments from various wild and domestic rice species, the researchers concluded that wild rice was domesticated at one place, not several; and that place was China, not India.

The study was a collaborative attempt to pin down the exact origin of rice, involving a dozen researchers from New York University’s Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology, Stanford University’s genetics department, Washington University’s biology department and Purdue University’s agronomy department.

Their paper, Molecular evidence for a single evolutionary origin of domesticated rice, was funded by the US National Science Foundation, and was published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America on Monday.

It has generated fierce debate in China and India. While Chinese researchers embraced the study and called it the “final judgment”, Indian researchers insisted that previous studies had provided stronger evidence that rice originated in India. While Chinese researchers called for the renaming of indica and japonica – the two main subspecies of Asian rice – based on the latest study, Indian researchers insisted there was no need for change.

The US researchers took three key steps. First, they used the newest computer algorithms to analyse datasets examined in previous studies, and found that species previously thought to have originated independently in various locations actually came from one ancestor.

They then resequenced 630 gene fragments from wild and domesticated rice species with new techniques recently applied in human gene analysis. Those results also showed there was only one ancestor.

Finally, they used the “molecular clock” in rice genes to determine when the first domesticated rice appeared. The time fell between 8,200 and 13,500 years ago, almost exactly when rice domestication began in the Yangtze River valley, according to archaeological excavations.

“As rice was brought in from China to India by traders and migrant farmers, it likely hybridised extensively with local wild rice,” Professor Michael Purugganan, a New York University biologist and one of the authors, was quoted by Sciencedaily.com as saying. “So domesticated rice that we may have once thought originated in India, actually has its beginnings in China.”

Professor Ding Yanfeng , from Nanjing Agricultural University, said yesterday that the US study had confirmed the mainstream view among mainland rice experts that rice originated in China. “We have been debating it with our Indian colleagues for decades,” Ding said. “It’s good to have some unbiased opinions from the US.” Mainland researchers had been uncovering evidence of rice’s Chinese origin since the early 1950s, Ding said. Some scholars traced the ancient pronunciation of the word “rice” in various languages, including Hindi, to early Chinese pronunciations such as taotu and dau, still widely used in southeastern China.

Excavation sites along the Yantze River such as Hemudu in Yuyao , Zhejiang , provided the earliest evidence of the growing, storage and cooking of rice. Carbon dating shows rice was already the main staple in China more than 8,000 years ago.

The world’s academic circles not only ignored those findings but named the two main subspecies of rice indica and japonica – as if rice originated in India and Japan – instead of shien and keng, as proposed by Chinese experts. “Indica and japonica are scientifically incorrect,” Ding said. “They are politically misleading. They are the biggest mistake in rice research that we Chinese scientists have been trying to correct for decades but nobody listened.”

Professor Zhu Zhen , deputy director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Genetics, said molecular evidence is the “final judgment” when evidence from other areas, such as linguistics and archaeology, conflicts. “Genetic evidence is the most precise and objective evidence.”

But Dr T.K. Adhya, director of the Central Rice Research Institute in Cuttack, India, said it was too early to rule out Indian roots for rice.

Some previous studies, such as one led by Professor Susan McCouch of Cornell University in 2007, suggested that rice was domesticated in the warm and humid plains at the southern foot of Himalayas, Adhya said. “The study is very good and supported by many scientists,” he said. It was unnecessary to change the existing names for rice subspecies, he said. “People have already got used to them. People have already named names after them. So why bother?”

Dr Xie Fangming, a senior scientist researching hybrid rice at the International Rice Research Institute at Los Banos, in the Philippines, agreed with Adhya. “Previous studies have accumulated solid evidence of rice’s Himalayan origin,” Xie said. “One new study may not be sufficient to overthrow the past.”

A new paper attempts to unentangle the history of and to lay to rest the China vs. India origins argument to rest, in “Consilience of genetics and archaeobotany in the entangled history of rice“, researchers assert that

“Archaeobotanical evidence allows us to document the gradual evolutionary process of domestication through rice spikelet bases and grain size change. Separate trends in grain size change can be identified in India and China. The earliest centre of rice domestication was in the Yangtze basin of China, but a largely separate trajectory into rice cultivation can be traced in the Ganges plains of India. Intriguingly, contact-induced hybridisation is indicated for the early development of indica in northern India, ca. 2000 BC. An updated synthesis of the interwoven patterns of the spread of various rice varieties throughout Asia and to Madagascar can be suggested in which rice reached most of its historical range of important cultivation by the Iron Age.”

Shin-ichi Nakamura concluded in another paper, that

“Although older rice remains have been found in this area, it is safe to say that rice cultivation began during Kuahuqiao and Hemudu cultures. At the beginning, it was only a part of broad-spectrum production highly dependent on lacustrine resources, and it took another millennium to establish the ancient civilization (Liangzhu culture) based on rice cultivation. About the former half of the sixth millennium BC (Kuahuqiao culture) settlement area expanded to alluvial lowlands in the lower Yangtze region, and during the fifth millennium bc (Hemudu culture), adaptation to the wetland settings established. “

Related references:

Ishikawa R., et al. Different maternal origins of Japanese lowland
and upland rice populations, Theor Appl Genet (2002) 104:976–980, DOI 10.1007/s00122-001-0807-y

The study showed that there are different maternal origins between lowland and upland cultivars. Upland cultivars were polymorphic in nature, some shown to be outcrossed and recombined hybrids between upland tropical and lowland temperate types, the variation found in the Japanese upland population was determined to reflect the different origins of the Japanese lowland and upland populations.

The study found that “Japanese upland rice cultivars have unique morphological characteristics. Many have thick wide leaves and a reduction of
stomatal numbers. They also show a high field performance for blast fungus resistance. These characteristics are quite different from those of the lowland cultivars. Also, in genetic markers including 17 isozyme loci and five RFLP markers, the variation in nuclear genotypes of the Japanese upland cultivars was different from that in the lowland population (Ishikawa et al.1991, 1992,
1997). The most-remarkable distinction occurred in the genoype of locus Pgd1. More than 80% of the upland cultivars carried Pgd1~2, which has not been found in the lowland population. … Only one Indonesian and two Taiwanese cultivars carried the combination of Pgd1~2 and the plastid subtype 7C6A.”

The study concluded that cultivars carrying upland-specific nuclear genotypes originated in Southeast Asia, while  the predominant Japanese upland type cultivar combination of the upland-specific nuclear and cytoplasmic genotypes, was found in cultivars only in Taiwan and Indonesia. Japanese upland cultivars are closely related to those cultivars.

World’s oldest rice BBC Science/Nature

Excavation of the Sorori Palaeolithic site and its significance (4th International Rice Genetics Symposium, Manilla, Philippines, Oct. 22-27, 2000) by LEE, Yung-jo & WOO, Jong-yoon  (Carbon isotope dating was obtained from well-stratified upper Pleistocene layers. As carbonized rice age in the Sorori site is the world’s oldest, it will be important for understanding origin and evolution of rice species.)

Where was Cultivated Rice Born? By Sato Yo-Ichiro and Fujiwara Hiroshi Southeast Asian Studies, Vol.30, No.1(19920600) pp. 59-68 ISSN:05638682 Vol. 30 Kyoto University

Evidence for the early beginning (c. 9000 cal. BP) of rice domestication in China: a response by Li Liu The Holocene, Vol. 17, No. 8, 1059-1068 (2007) DOI: 10.1177/0959683607085121

The Oldest Rice Cultivation: 7,700 Years Old – In Eastern China

China’s 7,000-year-old crop – rice by Hu Baoxin

Cord Impressed Ware and rice cultivation in South Asia, China and Japan: possibilities of inter-links by Jeewan S. Kharakwal, Azusa Yano, Yoshinori Yasuda, V. S. Shinde and Toshiki Osada Quaternary International
Volumes 123-125, 2004

Other related rice links:

ANm Zhimin, “Origin of Chinese rice cultivation and its spread East”  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)].

The god who stole rice Inari-sama

Obayashi Taryo “Rice in myth and legend”. UNESCO Courier. Dec 1984. FindArticles.com. 07 Jul. 2008.

Origin of Chinese rice cultivation and its spread East” by AN Zhimin 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).

The earliest rice domestication in China“, Li Liu et al. Antiquity Vol 81 No 313 September 2007

Scientists complete rice genome 10 AUGUST 2005, SCI/TECH

The Super Rice Challenge by Jodon, Nelson Apr. 1995. v. 45 Bioscience

A Household god – rice in Korea

Japanese Yayoi DNA linked to China’s Yangtze River area (The Japan Times, March 19, 1999)

Rice domestication and climatic change: phytolith evidence from East China   by Hou Yuanlu et al., BOREAS 31, 2002

Antiquity of the Earliest Cultivated Rice in Central China and its Implications, by CHEN, Baozhang and JIANG, Qinhua, Economic Botany Vol. 51, No. 3, Jul. – Sep., 1997 New York Botanical Garden Press

“Until now, most of the early rice remains in China were found in the middle to lower reaches of the Yangtze River drainage. Recently, rice remains earlier than 8000 B.P. were found from Jiahu site (8942-7801 B.P.) in Wuyang County of Henan Province, central China. This is the earliest cultivated rice found at this latitude (33°37′N), which is far outside the current distribution of wild rice species. The discovery is of great implications. It suggests that central China may be one of the centers of early rice domestication.

Takamiya, Hiroto Introductory Routes of Rice to Japan: An Examination of the Southern Route Hypothesis, Asian Perspectives, Volume 40, Number 2, Fall 2001 pp. 209-226 | 10.1353/asi.2001.0026

Accordingly, three hypotheses, (1) Northern, (2) Chanjian (central coastal China), and (3) Southern routes have been proposed. The third hypothesis was originally proposed by the well-known ethnologist Kunio Yanagita in 1952. Many scholars have attempted to debunk the southern hypothesis. The possibility of this hypothesis based on archaeological, botanical, and ethnological data that have been accumulated in the last fifty years is summarized. Direct data, plant remains were collected and analyzed to test this hypothesis, the archaeobotanical data suggested that food production began on the island of Okinawa from the eighth to tenth centuries A.D. and foragers were living on the island during the Yayoi period. The data thus agreed with archaeological data and the Southern route hypothesis is rejected.

Sato, Yo-Ichiro “DNA Explains the History of Rice” (Faculty of Agriculture, Shizuoka University, 836 Ohya, Shizuoka, JAPAN 422-8529. Colloquium Paper

The paper found each grain carries its own DNA trait derived from japonica and suggested that japonica rice was cultivated ca. 4000-5000 BC, strengthening our theory that japonicaoriginated in the Yangtze Valley (Yangtze Valley civilization existed much earlier than the Yellow River Civilization). As described earlier, many of the oldest rice cultivation sites have been found in the middle and lower Yangtze Valley in the past 10 years, especially between coastal Zhejiang to SE Jiangsu, i.e., Tai Lake region (Fig.1). The capital of Zhejiang, various Liangzhu locations, western Hangzhou and western Henan are current popular sites. The size and quantity of ancient artifacts in these sites suggest an ancient state. The Liangzhu site dates 3,000 BC, while Henan sites date 4,000 BC. Rice cultivation spread over the Yangtze Valley at 4000-3000 BC. raising the possibility that the Yangtze Valley Civilization was based on japonica.

After the Spring and Autumn period, the Yellow River Civilization successor destroyed the southern state and its culture, butit adapted to rice and its cultivation. Rice reaching this evolution was japonica (temperate) which was suited to paddy field controlled cultivation. Temperate japonica and the paddy field system could have evolved via Yellow River Civilization. Many southerners were oppressed and deprived of their living by south-north opposition in the Spring and Autumn period. Some may have been exiled to various regions by ascending the Yangtze River to the Yunnan mountains, then descending to lowland with a tropical climate, carrying their rice and ancestral culture with them. Recently, the area between Assam to Yunnan is seen as the center of the Laurel Forest Culture.

The paper also suggested that the search for the origins for indica needed to be carried out.

Economic and Biological Importance of Rice, Cambridge World History of Food, Ed. by Kenneth F. Kiple

“Prior to the 1950s, the belief in the antiquity of rice cultivation in China was based on mythical writings in which “Emperor Shen Nung” (c. 2700 B.C.) was supposed to have taught his people to plant five cereals, with rice among them (Candolle 1884; Roschevicz 1931; Ting 1949; Chatterjee 1951). This view, however, was questioned by many non-Chinese botanists and historians because of the paucity of wild rices in China (or rather the paucity of information on the wild rices) and the semiarid environment in north China (Chang 1979b, 1983). Yet in the 1920s, the discovery of rice glume imprints on broken pottery at the Yang-shao site in Henan (Honan) by J. G. Andersson and co-workers (Andersson 1934) was important in linking Chinese archaeology with agriculture. The excavated materials were considered Neolithic in origin and the precise age was not available, though K. C. Chang later gave this author an estimated age of between 3200 and 2500 B.C.

Extensive diggings in the Yangtze basin after the 1950s yielded many rice remains that pushed back rice culture in China even further into antiquity (Chang 1983). The most exciting event was the finding in 1973—4 of carbonized rice kernels, rice straw, bone spades, hoe blades (ssu), and cooking utensils that demonstrated a well-developed culture supported by rice cultivation at the He-mu-du (Ho-mu-tu) site in Zhejiang (Chekiang) Province dated at 5005 B.C. (Chekiang Provincial Cultural Management Commission and Chekiang Provincial Museum 1976; Hsia 1977). “The grains were mostly of the hsien (Indica) type but included some keng(Sinica or Japonica) and intermediate kernels. The discovery also indicated the existence of an advanced rice-based culture in east China that vied in antiquity and sophistication with the millet-based culture in north China as represented by the Pan-po site in Shenxi (Shensi). Another site at Luo-jia-jiao in Zhejiang Province also yielded carbonized rice of both ecogeographic races of a similar age estimated at 7000 B.P. (Chang 1989a). In a 1988 excavation at Peng-tou-shan site in Hunan Province, abundant rice husks on pottery or red burnt clay as well as skeletal remains of water buffalo were found. The pottery was dated at between 7150 and 6250 B.C. (uncorrected carbon dating). Diggings in neighboring Hubei (Hupei) Province yielded artifacts of similar age, but the grain type could not be ascertained (Pei 1989). Excavations in Shenxi also produced rice glume imprints on red burnt clay dated between 6000 and 5000 B.C. (Yan 1989).”

Fire and flood management of coastal swamp enabled first rice paddy cultivation in east China by Y. Zong et al. Nature 449, 459-462 (27 September 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06135; Received 30 April 2007; Accepted 31 July 2007

This paper reports on the “detailed evidence from Kuahuqiao that reveals the precise cultural and environmental context of rice cultivation at this earliest known Neolithic site in eastern China, 7,700 calibrated years before present (cal. yr bp). Pollen, algal, fungal spore and micro-charcoal data from sediments demonstrate that these Neolithic communities selected lowland swamps for their rice cultivation and settlement, using fire to clear alder-dominated wetland scrub and prepare the site for occupation, then to maintain wet grassland vegetation of paddy type. Regular flooding by slightly brackish water was probably controlled by ‘bunding’ to maintain crop yields. The site’s exploitation ceased when it was overwhelmed by marine inundation 7,550 cal. yr bp. Our results establish that rice cultivation began in coastal wetlands of eastern China, an ecosystem vulnerable to coastal change but of high fertility and productivity, attractions maximized for about two centuries by sustained high levels of cultural management of the environment.”

The origin of rice cultivation in the Lower Yangtze Region, China pub. 8 June 2010   ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL SCIENCES Volume 2, Number 2, 107-113, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-010-0033-0 by Shin-ichi Nakamura [From the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. Editors: Leo Aoi Hosoya, Yo-Ichiro Sato and Dorian Q. Fuller”]

Shangshan Remains – Remains of Ten Thousand Year Old Rice ( Cultural China website)

New data and new issues for the study of origin of rice agriculture in China ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL SCIENCESVolume 2, Number 2, 99-105, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-010-0028-x, by Zhijun Zhao [From the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. Editors: Leo Aoi Hosoya, Yo-Ichiro Sato and Dorian Q. Fuller]

The emergence of rice agriculture in Korea: archaeobotanical perspectives by Sung-Mo Ahn, ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL SCIENCES Volume 2, Number 2, 99-105, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-010-0028-x Pages 89-98 [From the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. Editors: Leo Aoi Hosoya, Yo-Ichiro Sato and Dorian Q. Fuller”]

Consilience of genetics and archaeobotany in the entangled history of rice ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ANTHROPOLOGICAL SCIENCES Volume 2, Number 2, 115-131, DOI: 10.1007/s12520-010-0035-y. by Dorian Q. Fuller, Yo-Ichiro Sato, et al. [From the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. Editors: Leo Aoi Hosoya, Yo-Ichiro Sato and Dorian Q. Fuller”]

“Major leaps forward in understanding rice both in genetics and archaeology have taken place in the past decade or so—with the publication of full draft genomes for indica and japonica rice, on the one hand, and with the spread of systematic flotation and increased recovery of archaeological spikelet bases and other rice remains on early sites in China, India and Southeast Asia. This paper will sketch a framework that coherently integrates the evidence from these burgeoning fields. This framework implies a reticulate framework in the phylogeny of early cultivated rice, with multiple starts of cultivation (two is perhaps not enough) but with the key consolidations of adaptations that must have been spread through hybridisation and therefore long-distance cultural contacts.

Japanese Rice Culture and History (COFCO Rice)

Sweeney, Megan and McCouch, Susan The Complex History of the Domestication of Rice Annals of Botany Volume 100, Issue 5Pp. 951-957 doi: 10.1093/aob/mcm128

4 responses to “Earliest origins of rice: South Korea vs. China? China vs. India?

  1. According to Peter Jia, U/Dydney
    By (Peter) Wei Ming JIA Department of Archaeology The University of Sydney 27 April 2005
    Around 3500BP
    Around 3500BP, another cultural interaction is indicated by changing cooking ware.
    occurred. Presumably, one kind of cylindrical vessel was local cooking ware in Liaodong prehistoric societies. About 3500BP, cooking pot “Yan” with tripod hollow legs, which was the typical cooking ware in the Yueshi culture of Jiaodong (Beijing University et al. 2000), appeared in Liaodong. This cooking pot is the indicator of continual contact between the Jiaodong farming communities and transitional farmers in their consolidation phase.
    Around 3000BP, along with continually imported tripod-cooking ware, a new lunar shape of reaping knife appeared in the Bronze Dagger culture (Yu, Qiong 1990). This new tool and its new technique of harvesting emerging in Liaodong imply close contact between the Jiaodong and Liaodong societies and also imply an increase in farming economy in Liaodong. Similar reaping knives were also discovered in Korea about c.3000BP. After the settlers in Korea adopted this reaping knife, they created some local types (Li, Songlai 1997:63). This adoption of reaping knife is very likely caused by adoption of crop cultivation, including foxtail millet and rice.

  2. This page has been amended to include the views (from the paper by Sung-Mo Ahn) from “The emergence of rice agriculture in Korea: archaeobotanical perspectives” from the issue entitled “Special Issue: The Archaeobotany of Asian Rice. Editors: Leo Aoi Hosoya, Yo-Ichiro Sato and Dorian Q. Fuller” concluding that the “Argument for the earliest evidence of domesticated rice at the Sorori site, 15,000 years ago, is invalid…” and that rice diffused to S. Korea by way of Liaodong, not via the southern route.
    This does not affect the multi-diffusional-route theories for Japan however…

    • I wouldn’t say it’s invalid but the real truth is that oldest evidences of rice cultivation is somewhere between China and Korea buried under the Yellow sea I would suspect. I also like to point out that all these debates about the origin of rice have nationalistic undertones.

  3. It is in point of fact a nice and useful piece of info. I’m glad that you just shared this useful info with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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