During Song times, new developments in rice cultivation — especially
the introduction of from what is now Central Vietnam,
and — spectacularly
increased rice yields. Rice was used primarily as food, but was also
used to brew the wine consumed in homes and taverns.
Rice was grown primarily south of the Yangzi River. This
area had many advantages over the north China plain, as the climate is
warmer and rainfall more plentiful. The mild temperatures of the south
often allowed two crops to be grown on the same plot of land — a summer and a winter crop.
The many rivers and streams of the region facilitated shipping,
which reduced the cost of transportation and, thus, made regional specialization
economically more feasible. During the Song period, became the .
As grown throughout East Asia before modern times, — to level the paddy fields, clear irrigation ditches, plant and especially transplant the seedlings, as well as to weed, harvest, thresh, and husk.
Farmers developed , including drought resistant and early ripening varieties, as well as rice suited for special purposes such as brewing. They also remade the landscape by , so that rice could be grown on it. helped to disseminate the best techniques for rice cultivation.
|A farm house on the outskirts of the city, Beijing qingming scroll
“In the early part of the Song dynasty
... a new variety of early-ripening rice was introduced into
China from Champa, a kingdom then located near the Mekong River
Delta in what is now Vietnam, and by 1012 it had been introduced
in the lower Yangzi and Huai river regions. ... Because the
variety of rice was relatively more drought-resistant, it could
be grown in places where older varieties had failed, especially
on higher land and on terraces that climb hilly slopes, and
it ripened even faster than the other early-ripening varieties
already grown in China. This made double-cropping possible
in some areas, and in some places, even triple-cropping became
possible ... the hardiness and productivity of various varieties
of rice were and are in large part responsible for the density
of population in South, Southeast, and East Asia.
According to the Buddhist monk, Shu Wenying,
the Song Emperor Zhengzhong (998-1022), when he learned that
Champa rice was drought-resistant, sent special envoys to bring
samples back to China.”
— Lynda Noreen Shaffer
In “A Concrete Panoply of Intercultural Exchange:
Asia in World History,” in Asia
in Western and World History, edited by Ainslie T. Embree and Carol Gluck
(Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 839-840.
The rectangular fields in this scene from the scroll
(left) are divided by irrigation channels, but the scene does not give
us enough information to determine which crops are growing there. We do know,
however, that while
• Ancient Chinese Rice Archeological Project [Carleton University]
A valuable resource for information on early rice culture in China. Select
PHOTO GALLERIES from menu at bottom of homepage for images of archaeological
sites at Bashidang and Cheng Toushan. Select PAPER DATABASE for an
extensive list of scholarly papers related to historical and archaeological
studies of rice cultivation. “Huang-lu
Rice in Chinese History,” by Zeng Xiongsheng, which discusses
the huang-lu (yellow rapid-ripening) historic variety of rice that
became very popular during the Song dynasty. The author argues that
the promotion and popularity of the huang-lu variety played “an
important role in grain supply and population growth after [the] Song