The rice plant was basically a tropical semiaquatic grass. Before the advent of agriculture, it served as a food supplement to people who depended on hunting, fishing, and gathering of other food plants for subsistence living. Even today in many areas of the humid tropics where the environment is harsh, rice farming provides a subsistence level of livelihood. However, in areas outside its home habitat where water control, soil fertilization, tillage and weeding, and plant selection were well managed or practiced, rice yields steadily rose and food surpluses from farms served as the main source in supporting rapid increases in human population. Expansion in rice acreage, rises in rice yield, and multiple cropping have fueled flourishing civilizations of several Asian countries. This paper summarizes the fascinating pathway along which a lowly swamp plant has provided the impetus for accelerated progress in national economy, cultural improvements, and population increases in many Asian countries during the past two millennia.