Chinese researchers discovered traces of indica rice indicating that Tibetans consumed rice around 1,300 years ago, during the early Tang Dynasty (618–907).
Chinese researchers discovered traces of indica rice at an archaeological site in the Tibet autonomous region, indicating that Tibetans consumed rice around 1,300 years ago, during the early Tang Dynasty (618–907).
The discovery, made at the Kongsangqiao ruins site in Gyirong county of Shigatse by an academic team attached to the second comprehensive scientific expedition to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, provides the earliest evidence of indica rice on the Tibetan Plateau.
According to a research paper, radiocarbon dating of charred rice grains suggests the remains date from around the eighth century. The survey’s findings were published in December in the journal Science: China and Earth Sciences.
Rice cultivation in Asia is divided into two subspecies: indica and japonica. Japonica rice was domesticated in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River in China around 4,000 years ago, spread to northern parts of South Asia, and then crossbred with indigenous proto-indica to form the indica subspecies. Indica has been widely planted in Southeast Asia and China.
“When and how indica rice spread into China is still a mystery,” said Yang Xiaoyan, a Lanzhou University professor who was part of the scientific expedition. “The majority of the identified charcoal fragments are Himalayan pine, implying a rather cold climate where rice could not be grown. This implies that it was most likely brought to the site, “Yang stated. The Kongsangqiao site in Tibet is 2,676 metres above sea level.
According to written records, the first rice cultivated in China was introduced from Vietnam. The Kongsangqiao site is located along the ancient Tubo-Nepal Road, which served as an official route to India for Tang Dynasty ministers.
Yang claims that the charred seed resembles long-grained indica rice but not japonica rice. Rice gene sequences were also discovered in ancient DNA extracted from the site, confirming that it was indica rice, she said.
“It suggests that by the eighth century, indica rice may have spread to the Chinese plains via the ancient Tubo-Nepal and Tang-Tubo roads,” Yang said. Several domestic academic institutes collaborated on the survey, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Lanzhou University, Northwest University, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology, and the Tibet autonomous region’s Cultural Relics Conservation Institute.