Boasting one of the world's most glaring
agricultural civilizations, China's agriculture began in the remote antiquity
when there was still no written history.
|Unearthed in Li
County of Central China's Hunan Province, these relics of ancient rice,
currently collected in the Hunan Archeology Institute, were planted during
the Neolithic age, proving that China was one of the earliest countries to
grow rice in the world, with a history of at least 8,000 years.
In one of the ancient Chinese legends, there is a story of Shen Nong Shi
(also known as the Red Emperor or Yan Emperor) concerning the origin of
agriculture. Before Shen Nong Shi, people ate reptiles, little animals, mussels,
and wild vegetables. As the population gradually increased, food gradually
became more insufficient, thereby creating a desperate need to explore new means
Shen Nong Shi tasted all kinds of herbals, even poison, to finally select the
grains that could be eaten by people. Later, he also studied the climate and
invented some farm tools, which resulted the appearance of husbandry in China.
While the legend leaves behind some clues about when agriculture originated
in China, modern archeology has provided more abundant and reliable materials
about the origin and the condition of Chinese agriculture. So far, there have
been thousands of discoveries of agricultural sites during the Neolithic age all
across China, especially along the Yellow
River (Huanghe) and Yangtze
River. Chinese agriculture can be traced back to about 10,000 years ago, and
the primitive agriculture was very advanced about seven or eight thousand years
There are three major centers where agriculture first appeared worldwide:
West Asia, Central and South America, and East Asia (mainly referring to China).
With its own characteristics, Chinese agriculture also established its own
system. Of all the advantages China had for centuries over the rest of the
world, one of the greatest may have been the ability to sustain its large and
growing population through agricultural technology. With only about 10 percent
of China's land is suitable for agriculture, so farming efficiency has been a
concern as population increases.