As part of Chinese intensive and meticulous farming, rice,
soybeans and other staples were farmed deliberately in rows very long ago. The
cultivation was efficient and adaptable to the use of tools. However, this
development was based on the invention of plow. Improved iron supplies and
casting techniques in China by the third century BC led to the design of iron
plowshares called kuan (moldboard plows). Greek and Roman shares were usually
simply tied on the bottom of the sole with bits of rope, which made them flimsy
compared to the Chinese ones. By the first century BC moldboards were available
for Chinese plows. Those plows could invert the soil and turn a true furrow. In
Europe, moldboards were unknown until late 10th century, and then they were
crude in their design.
The first significant revolution in Chinese agricultural technology had
occurred when agricultural implements became available to the Chinese peasantry.
The earliest iron plow found in the northern part of Central China's Henan
Province dates to the Warring
States Period (475-221 BC) and is a flat V-shaped iron piece that must have
been mounted somewhat insecurely on wooden blades and handles to serve as
working edges. They had an advanced design, with a central ridge ending in a
sharp point to cut the soil and wings which sloped gently up towards the center
to throw the soil off the plow and reduce friction. Early plows were small, and
there is no evidence that draft animals were used. Cattle-drawn plows do not
appear until the 1st century BC.
Several improvements and innovations, such as the three-shared plow, the lou
li (plow-and-sow) implement, and the harrow, were developed subsequently. By the
end of the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Chinese agricultural engineering had reached
a high state of development. When brought to Holland in the 17th Century, these
plows began the Agricultural Revolution.