ZHANG, Wenxu &

(China Agricultural University, Beijing 100094) 

PEI, Anping 

(Archaeological Institute of Hunan Province,Changsha 410008)

Zhang WenXu & Pei Anping: "Study of Ancient Rice of Bashidang of Mengxi in Li County, Hunan. Cultural Features 1997:1:36

(translated by  David Wang; edited by Bing Shi and Bryan Gordon)

        In January, 1966, much ancient 8,000-9,000 year-old cultivated paddy rice was found in level T43 (18) in the Bashidang site of Mengxi in Li County, Hunan, with 373 grains studied. This type of paddy site deserves detailed study because of their old age and number. As the origin of Chinese cultivated rice has always been a worthwhile research topic, with many scholars willingly devoting time and effort, we believe our results give worthwhile data and a deeper understanding of the topic.



1.1    Material

        The 373 8,000-9,000 year-old Bashidang rice grains included 133 regular and 240 paddy grains (Fig 1 and Fig 2). They were compared with 16 grains of Oryza indica, 10 of O. japonica and 14 of rufipogon (ordinary wild rice) from the middle and lower Yangtze River.

1.2    Method

        Using scanning electron microscope model S-540, we measured and recorded any distinguishable grain traits such as length, width and bi-peaked tubercle of lemma in 15 grains of ancient Bashidang rice, supplementing these with photographs.

Fig. 1    The scatter of grain length and width in ancient rice, hsien, keng and O. rufipogon


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Fig. 2    The scatter of L/W in ancient rice, hsien, keng and O. rufipogon


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2.1    Ratio of grain traits of Bashidang ancient rice

        Using modern indica, japonica & rufipogon as reference, Bashidang ancient rice was the shortest and narrowest (7.2 & 2.65mm; ratio of 2.74:1; Table 1 and table 2; Fig 1 and Fig 2) and very different from modern rice.While Bashidang and japonica grain lengthdiffer, it is moderate, and the l/w ratio is not unlike indica, but differs from japonica & rufipogon.         The ratio of Bashidang grain length was 57.1% and width 72.9% (Table 3); i.e., smaller than modern japonica, indica & rufipogon, and with many modern traits.

2.2    Unique character of bi-peaked tubercle of Bashidang ancient rice

        From 15 excavated rice grains, only #1, 2, 4 & 9 (Fig. 5) retained their bi-peaked tubercle shape, the rest poorly preserved. L/w ratio of #1 was smallest at 2.27 (Table 4, Figs. 5-7). Its bi-peaked angle of 113 deg. was large like japonica. Grains 2, 4 & 9 were more like indica, with remnants of broken awns.

        Distances between the bi-peak ridges of #1, 2, 4 & 9 ranged 18.0-29.36 m m, with the valley of #1 narrowest and #2 widest. Their col depth ranged 2.67-3.87 m m, ratio of distance/depth 6.0-10.91, peak angle 67.33-82.80 and col angle 144.49-159.23. Bi-peak tubercles were typed as #1 acute-1; #2 obtuse-1; #ís 4 & 9 acute-2. Consequently, #ís 1, 4 & 9 resemble modern indica, while # 2 resembles modern indica-japonica.

        Grain # 1 shape most closely resembled modern japonica, but its bi-peaked tubercle matched modern indica. Grain 2 is opposite, but its shape is similar and its ridges resemble japonica, while #ís 4 & 9 shape and ridge size matched modern indica; i.e., Bashidang rice was in the process of changing.

Table 1    The character of grain of ancient rice in Bashidang

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3.1    A research reference system on ancient cultivated rice

        As comparison is very important in scientific research, excavated ancient rice as an historic product can only be compared to modern rice using the following criteria:

(1) some local popular rice for comparison.

(2) different types of rice for sub-comparison.

        For comparison we chose 16 kinds of indica from the Yantze Basin, 10 kinds of japonica from Hunan and 14 kinds of rufipogon from east Asia.

3.2 Traits of Bashidang ancient rice

(1) Bashidang ancient rice is smaller (l & w) than modern rice due to genetics and time.

(2) Bashidang ancient rice has many indica, japonica & rufipogon traits (Table 3).

(3) Bashidang ancient rice bi-peak tubercle and grain character show multi-polarization.

(4) 133 grains of ancient rice are polarized, being 78.2% awned and 9.8% non-awned.

        The above reasons infer Bashidang ancient cultivated rice is a differentiator for other ancient cultivated rice.


Monograph of the Origin and Evolution of Rice Cultivation in China.  China Agricultural University Press, 1996, pp. 47-53.