Skip to main content
Ref ID: 19016
Ref Type: Book Section in a Series
Authors: Qin, Ling
Fuller, Dorian
Title: Why rice farmers don't sail: coastal subsistence traditions and maritime trends in early China
Date: 2019
Source: Prehistoric Maritime Cultures and Seafaring in East Asia
Publisher: Springer Singapore
Abstract: The Lower Yangtze River Valley is a key region for the early development of rice farming and the emergence of wet rice paddy field systems. Subsistence evidence from Neolithic sites in this area highlights the importance of freshwater wetlands for both plant and animal food resources. Early Neolithic rice cultivators looked inland, especially to wetlands and nearby woodlands, for their main protein sources. Links to the sea among these Neolithic populations are notably scarce. Due to the high yields of wet rice, compared with other staple crops as well as dryland rice, the wetland rice focused subsistence strategy of the Lower Yangtze would have supported high, and increasing, local population densities. Paddy agriculture demands labor input and water management on a large scale, which would have stimulated and reinforced trends towards more complex societies, such as that represented by Liangzhu in the lower Yangtze region. Population growth could have been largely absorbed locally, suggesting that population packing, not migration, was the dominant trend. Other case studies of agricultural dispersal, for the Korean Peninsula and Japan further illustrate the lack of correlation between the spread of rice agriculture and wet rice cultivation. Although wet rice cultivation was a pull factor that drew local populations towards increased density and increased social complexity, it did not apparently push groups to migrate outwards. Instead, the transition from wetland to rain fed rice cultivation systems and/or the integration of rice with rain fed millet crops are much more likely to have driven the demographic dynamics that underpin early farmer migrations and crop dispersal.
Editors: Wu, Chunming
Rolett, Barry Vladimir
Volume: 1
Page Start: 159
Page End: 191
Series Title: The Archaeology of Asia-Pacific Navigation