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Diversification and Cultural Construction of a Crop: The Case of Glutinous Rice and Waxy Cereals in the Food Cultures of Eastern Asia

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Abstract

Rice (Oryza) is one of the world’s most important and productive staple foods, with highly diverse uses and varieties. We use archaeobotany, culture, history, and ethnobotany to trace the history of the development of sticky (or glutinous) forms. True sticky rice is the result of a genetic mutation that causes a loss of amylose starch but higher amylopectin content. These mutations are unknown in wild populations but have become important amongst cultivars in East and Southeast Asia (unlike other regions). In the same region, other cereals have also evolved parallel mutations that confer stickiness when cooked. This points to a strong role for cultural history and food preparation traditions in the genetic selection and breeding of Asian cereal varieties. The importance of sticky rice in ritual foods and alcoholic beverages in East and Southeast Asia also suggests the entanglement of crop varieties and culturally inherited food traditions and ritual symbolism.

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This project aims to examine the agricultural production, agricultural organization, and changes in agriculture that underpin the emergence of social complexity during the Longshan period (ca. 5000-4000BP), which represents the transition from earlier Neolithic economies to the hierarchical societies of the Bronze Age. Samples from regional survey archaeobotany in the Sushui valley, Shanxi and intensive on-site excavation at the Tonglin site, Shandong are analyzed and results are compared with other published data from northern Chinese sites with systematic flotation. Data from the Sushui valley and Tonglin site together with published data from other sites indicate that the Longshan agriculture in northern China was mainly based on millets with the addition of rice. However, the role of rice varied between different sites, which was probably due to the effect of regional climatic patterns that structured local environments in terms of water availability. Wheat was introduced into China but it seems more common in the peripheral areas than in the core area of Henan. Soybean could also be cultivated and it was more ubiquitous in Shandong and Henan than in Shanxi. The incorporation of wheat and soybean into the cropping system could also indicate possible crop rotations between wheat and rice, millets and soybeans developed from the Longshan period. Crop processing analysis indicates a shift from the Yangshao uniformity to the Longshan diversity in crop processing practices. This could be related to agricultural mobility during harvesting time, which then reflects possible social organization changes. The change in crop processing practices from Yangshao to Longshan could indicate the change of social organization from semi-communal/egalitarian to a more centralized/hierarchical system at some sites, and differentiation between different sites in the settlement system. Weed ecology analysis demonstrates that Longshan agriculture was based on permanent fields and the cultivation of permanent fields had already started in the Yangshao period. In addition, other cultivation practices, such as harvesting height, harvesting time, tillage, and soil fertility, were also inferred. This project also shed some light on the role of agriculture in the emergence of social complexity in other regions of the world such as the Near East.
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For two thousand years the disparate groups that now reside in Zomia (a mountainous region the size of Europe that consists of portions of seven Asian countries) have fled the projects of the organized state societies that surround them-slavery, conscription, taxes, corvée labor, epidemics, and warfare. This book, essentially an "anarchist history," is the first-ever examination of the huge literature on state-making whose author evaluates why people would deliberately and reactively remain stateless. Among the strategies employed by the people of Zomia to remain stateless are physical dispersion in rugged terrain; agricultural practices that enhance mobility; pliable ethnic identities; devotion to prophetic, millenarian leaders; and maintenance of a largely oral culture that allows them to reinvent their histories and genealogies as they move between and around states. In accessible language, James Scott, recognized worldwide as an eminent authority in Southeast Asian, peasant, and agrarian studies, tells the story of the peoples of Zomia and their unlikely odyssey in search of self-determination. He redefines our views on Asian politics, history, demographics, and even our fundamental ideas about what constitutes civilization, and challenges us with a radically different approach to history that presents events from the perspective of stateless peoples and redefines state-making as a form of "internal colonialism." This new perspective requires a radical reevaluation of the civilizational narratives of the lowland states. Scott's work on Zomia represents a new way to think of area studies that will be applicable to other runaway, fugitive, and marooned communities, be they Gypsies, Cossacks, tribes fleeing slave raiders, Marsh Arabs, or San-Bushmen.
Article
The process of moving from collecting plants in the wild to cultivating and gradually domesticating them has as its linguistic corollary the formation of a specific vocabulary to designate the plants and their parts, the fields in which they are cultivated, the tools and activities required to cultivate them and the food preparations in which they enter. From this point of view, independent domestications of a plant can be expected to result in wholly independent vocabularies. Conversely, when cultivation of a plant spreads from one population to another, one expects elements of the original vocabulary to spread with cultivation practices. This paper examines the vocabularies of rice in Asian languages for evidence of linguistic transfers, concluding that there are at least two independent vocabularies of rice in Asia. This suggests at least two independent starts of cultivation and domestications of Asian rice.
Article
This paper discusses the origins of Oryza sativa japonica rice cultivation in the Yangzi region of China and asks how and with which migrating human populations it spread south to reach Taiwan by 3,000 BC and Southeast Asia by 2,000 BC. The perspective adopted is that the spread of rice was driven mainly by demographic expansion, associated with a spread of languages and archaeological material culture. Environmental barriers also played major roles in establishing a “pause, adapt, spread, pause again” mode of movement, such barriers relating to availability of rainfall and alluvial land, latitude (photoperiodism) and climatic seasonality, and the prior presences of other populations, in some cases with vegetative gardening systems that did not involve rice or other cereals. Contingency also played its part in rice history, as we can see with the inability of this crop to spread into Oceania in part due to the route followed by Neolithic colonizers.
Article
We developed PCR-based markers for genotyping Waxy genes in common millet (Panicum miliaceum L.) and proposed a new hypothesis on the origin and dispersal of waxy type of Japanese landraces. I2-K staining indicated that almost all the Japanese landraces had waxy endosperm. Based on the PCR and dCAPs analyses of two waxy loci on different genomes we concluded that there were at least two possible lineages in Asian continent that had independent dispersal pathways into Japan. Most Japanese common millet had the similar genotypes with those in Korean Peninsula but a few particularly from northern part of Japan had common genotypes in northeastern China and Primorskaya Province of Russia.
Article
Domesticated rice, Oryza sativa, is the main carbohydrate staple for most peoples in Sarawak; its dispersal putatively linked to the origins of agriculture and spread of the Neolithic in the region. Currently it is argued that domesticated rice is an introduction from mainland Southeast Asia, following either a sea-borne route into Borneo from the north via Taiwan or west via the mainland sometime during the mid Holocene. The purpose of this paper is to reappraise the model and suggest that while rice might have been introduced during the mid Holocene, it was not successful, and in fact might not have been widely adopted until the historic period. Rice appears to be an illogical crop choice in the rainforests of Borneo; it is difficult to grow, prone to failure and often low-yielding. By contrast, people had access to many other high yielding plants, particularly the sago palms which appear to have been widely cultivated in the recent historic past. As a crop, rice, in a vegecultural world of sago and taro, may not have been adopted to reduce the ’risk’ of going hungry, but because its successful cultivation is inherently ’risky’ and prone to failure, and thus uniquely, was attractive as a playing piece in games of social competition between individuals.
Article
Bhaati jaanr is an inexpensive high calorie mild-alcoholic beverage prepared from steamed glutinous rice, consumed as a staple food beverage in the Eastern Himalayan regions of Nepal, India and Bhutan. In this paper, fermentation dynamics including growth kinetics and physico-chemical changes during fermentation of bhaati jaanr were studied. The population of filamentous moulds declined significantly (P < 0.05) each day and finally disappeared after the 5th day. The load of yeasts increased significantly (P < 0.05) from 105 cfu/g to 108 cfu g-1 within two days. Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) increased significantly (P < 0.05) from 106 cfu g-1 to 107 cfu g-1 in the first day and decreased significantly (P < 0.05) to 105 cfu/g at the end of the fermentation. The pH decreased and acidity increased during fermentation. The alcohol content increased significantly (P < 0.05) up to 10% on the tenth day. The reducing sugar content increased significantly (P < 0.05) until the third day and then decreased, followed by a decrease in total sugar content. Maximum activities of saccharification and liquefaction of rice were observed on the third day of fermentation. It was revealed that Saccharomycopsis fibuligera and Rhizopus spp. play important roles in the saccharification process of rice in bhaati jaanr fermentation. The mean pH, acidity, moisture and alcohol content of the product were 3.5%, 0.24%, 83.4% and 5.9%, respectively.
Article
Evidence for cultivated wheat at 4650 cal. yr BP, as part of a broadening agricultural-based society (4650—4300 cal. yr BP), is presented from Xishanping in northwest China. This was established from archaeobotanical evidence and radiocarbon dating. Crops from SW Asia had therefore been adopted in China about 2500 years earlier than previously thought, and long before the `Silk Road' route was known to be used. The data show that the early infiltration and blending of agriculture involving rice, buckwheat, barley, millet and wheat occurred in this region. This raises questions as to why crops from China do not appear further westward at this time and how the blending of agricultural practices contributed to the development of Chinese civilization.
Article
The earliest direct dates of wheat in East Asia come from Donghuishan in Gansu Province, China. Few other dates of wheat in East Asia are direct dates. The previous direct dates at Donghuishan were obtained from wheat without secure context. New samples were taken from a stratigraphic profile at Donghuishan and directly dated. The wheat remains are earlier than any other directly dated wheat east of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, but considerably later than the previously dated specimen from the same site. These new dates, from the early second millennium BC, are the earliest evidence of significant wheat and barley production and show that the Hexi Corridor played a critical role in the introduction of wheat to China.
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The importance of feasting in graveside ritual during both the Late Shang dynasty and the slightly earlier Xiajiadian culture is strongly suggested by the numerous vessels found in burial contexts dating to these periods. But it seems to be feasting of a different nature than that described in the classical anthropological literature on pig feasts in New Guinea, which forms the basis of many of our models of the role of feasting activities in traditional societies (Rappaport 1967). Rather than constituting a means of cementing alliances, producing Big Men, and organizing for war, early Chinese feasting activities appear to have had other goals. The evidence for graveside feasting in early Chinese society suggests that enlisting the aid of the dead was of greater importance than forming alliances with the living. In other words, it seems that the deceased, both the recently departed as well as more ancient ancestors, were more powerful and desirable allies than their earthly counterparts.
Article
Glutinous or waxy rice is the most important crop for subsistence farming economies in the hills of Northern Laos. Hill farmers continue to use traditional varieties only. Geographical and political isolation have contributed towards their preservation. Traditional varieties are mainly of the japonica type, have a good yield potential, are well adapted to the local conditions, and represent a wide genetic diversity. Farmers interviewed prefer varieties with large panicles, planted 2.7 varieties on average, with 17, 30 and 53% of the area planted to early, medium and late varieties, respectively. Out of 544 traditional cultivars 95% flowered within 88-120 days after planting. Crops planted together with rice in order of importance are: maize, cucumber, chili, taro, and sesame. Farmers reported annual milled rice production of 125 kg per capita and rice self-sufficiency for 8 months for 1992 and 1993. Maize, cassava, and products from the forest are major rice substitutes and food security in remote areas could best be improved by increasing production of maize and cassava in combination with livestock production systems.
Article
Purple rice is a type of rice with anthocyanins deposited in its grain pericarp. The rice Pb gene controlling purple pericarp character is known to be on chromosome 4, and the purple color is dominant over white color. In this study, we fine mapped the Pb gene using two F2 segregating populations, i.e. Pei’ai 64S (white) × Yunanheixiannuo (purple) and Pei’ai 64S × Chuanheinuo (purple). In the first-pass mapping, the Pb gene was located in the region downstream the SSR marker RM3820. In the fine mapping, the candidate region was saturated with InDel and CAPS markers developed specifically for this study. Eventually, the Pb gene was mapped within the 25-kb region delimited by the upstream marker RID3 and the downstream marker RID4. The delimited region contained two annotated genes, Ra and bhlh16 (TIGR Rice Genome, R.5). The former is a homologue of the Myc transcription factor Lc controlling anthocyanin biosynthesis in maize, and the latter is a homologue of the TT8 gene, which is also an Myc transcription factor gene controlling the pericarp pigmentation in Arabidopsis thaliana. Sequence analysis showed that the exon 7 of the Ra gene of Yunanheixiannuo and Chuanheinuo had a 2-bp (GT) deletion compared with those of the white rice varieties Pei’ai 64S, 9311 and Nipponbare. A CAPS marker, CAPSRa, was developed according to the GT deletion for analysis of the two F2 segregating populations and 106 rice lines. The results showed that all F2 plants with white pericarp, and all non-purple rice lines (63 white and 22 red) contained no GT deletion, but all 20 purple rice lines contained the GT deletion. These results suggested that the Ra gene may be the Pb gene and the purple pericarp characteristic of rice is caused by the GT deletion within exon 7 of the Ra gene.
Article
The Western Himalayan region of India possesses rich genetic diversity of rice (Oryza sativa L.). Rice landraces having withstood the rigors of biotic and abiotic stresses, suit to the local conditions of farms and reflect socio-cultural preferences can still be found in crop fields located distantly in rural and tribal areas. This region is known for growing World fame basmati in the foot hills and many varieties of red rices grown at higher elevations, known for cold tolerance and medicinal properties. Genetic resources of rice were collected for about 8years (1999–2006) and 1069 germplasm accessions including 154 named landraces were collected. Prominent landraces such as Begumi, Ramjwain, Thapachini, Naurang, Hansraj, Tilakchandan, Lalsati, Jhini, Mushakbudji, Jattoo, Barpasso, Qadirbeigh, Safedbrez, Shahie known for their special quality attributes were collected. The change in land use, cropping patterns and aggressive introduction of modern varieties in the region has resulted in the loss of a large number of landraces especially from irrigated lands. The present paper looks at the status of rice genetic resources, genetic variability, genetic erosion and future strategies to conserve rice germplasm on farm and to maximize its use in rice breeding.
Article
This article was published in English in Zhongguo Renleixue Pinglun (Chinese Review of Anthropology)
Article
Replacing or repairing masonry mortar is usually necessary in the restoration of historical constructions, but the selection of a proper mortar is often problematic. An inappropriate choice can lead to failure of the restoration work, and perhaps even further damage. Thus, a thorough understanding of the original mortar technology and the fabrication of appropriate replacement materials are important research goals. Many kinds of materials have been used over the years in masonry mortars, and the technology has gradually evolved from the single-component mortar of ancient times to hybrid versions containing several ingredients. Beginning in 2450 BCE, lime was used as masonry mortar in Europe. In the Roman era, ground volcanic ash, brick powder, and ceramic chip were added to lime mortar, greatly improving performance. Because of its superior properties, the use of this hydraulic (that is, capable of setting underwater) mortar spread, and it was adopted throughout Europe and western Asia. Perhaps because of the absence of natural materials such as volcanic ash, hydraulic mortar technology was not developed in ancient China. However, a special inorganic-organic composite building material, sticky rice-lime mortar, was developed. This technology was extensively used in important buildings, such as tombs, in urban constructions, and even in water conservancy facilities. It may be the first widespread inorganic-organic composite mortar technology in China, or even in the world. In this Account, we discuss the origins, analysis, performance, and utility in historic preservation of sticky rice-lime mortar. Mortar samples from ancient constructions were analyzed by both chemical methods (including the iodine starch test and the acid attack experiment) and instrumental methods (including thermogravimetric differential scanning calorimetry, X-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared, and scanning electron microscopy). These analytical results show that the ancient masonry mortar is a special organic-inorganic composite material. The inorganic component is calcium carbonate, and the organic component is amylopectin, which is presumably derived from the sticky rice soup added to the mortar. A systematic study of sticky rice-lime mortar technology was conducted to help determine the proper courses of action in restoring ancient buildings. Lime mortars with varying sticky rice content were prepared and tested. The physical properties, mechanical strength, and compatibility of lime mortar were found to be significantly improved by the introduction of sticky rice, suggesting that sticky rice-lime mortar is a suitable material for repairing mortar in ancient masonry. Moreover, the amylopectin in the lime mortar was found to act as an inhibitor; the growth of the calcium carbonate crystals is controlled by its presence, and a compact structure results, which may explain the enhanced performance of this organic-inorganic composite compared to single-component lime mortar.