Old Dude’s Rice Innuendo


You must not forget the rice.  It is the life force that has been gifted to you.  Understand the origins of rice, and you understand the past. ~ Old Dude

And my response to this was:  Yeah, yeah.  No worries.  I’ll take a look at it when I get a little bit of free time.  Of course, as soon as I think about the subject of rice, I get hungry and take a nice long break to think about it.

Two hours later and I still have done nothing to understand ancient rice.  But I got a lot of hands-on experience with the subject matter.  My verdict is:  Rice is yummy!



Of course, my hands-on experience has only involved about a dozen or so of the 413 lines of rice in existence because, you know, only the best for the Taobabe, right?

Well…not quite.  I remember, as a young girl, having seen (and eaten) several varieties of black and brown rice due to my mother’s altruistic attempts. My mother would open up our pantry and lend out rice (among other food items) to anyone who didn’t have enough to eat.

Her rules were simple.  As long as she was paid back in kind when situations improved for the various families in the neighborhood who were going through tough times, she would continue to lend.  She was of the mind that she would help where she could, but she also had many young mouths to feed, and she could not allow her children to go hungry.

This worked quite well, but what ended up happening, more often than not, was that subsequently, the poor families would repay what they could in brown or yellow rice, which were much less expensive than the aromatic white rice Mother would buy in huge 50 pound bags for our family.

Mother would cheerfully accept these repayments and she would keep them in their individual bags, within an airtight jar inside the cupboard, which she would then give to the wandering monks who, as a part of their practice, frequented the neighborhood, asking for alms.


I remembered asking her to make me some of those different colored rice so I could have a taste.  At first she was reluctant to do so, saying that the jasmine rice she gave me at dinner time was far more tasty, but I kept nagging until she finally relented and cooked up a small pot of black rice, just for me.

It was very different from our usual fare, and at the time, I did not know that black rice was highly prized and fairly expensive, but it got me to shut up about wanting to eat colored rice, so I guess it was worth it for her.  It also gave me an idea of the varieties of rice out there, which brings me back to Old Dude’s odd request that I dig into the history of rice.

I guess the best place to start is at the beginning.  That’s the easy part.  Determining where the beginning is would be the more difficult part.

Once upon a time, a guy-god gave the gift of rice to the Earth-girl he loved.  She taught the knowledge of rice to the rest of her people, and it spread across the world.  The end.



I wished it was that simple.

Following the genetics, it looks to be closer to 13,500 years ago, that the first strain of rice, Oryza rufipogon, became domesticated.  Oryza sativa is a grass with a genome consisting of 430Mb across 12 chromosomes. It is renowned for being easy to genetically modify, and is a model organism for cereal biology. [1]

A paper on conservation genetics of wild rice in the journal Molecular Ecology stated: “This is the most agriculturally important but seriously endangered wild rice species.” [2]

That’s high accolades for a plant that has been classified by the United states as an invasive species and listed as a ‘noxious weed’ in Alabama, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Vermont. [3]

The area where it was domesticated was in the Pearl River valley region of present-day China.


I have to say present-day China because 13,500 years ago, it wasn’t China.  Back then, the Pearl River Valley was part of the region belonging to the Bách Việt kingdom-states, with the river itself running through the kingdom states of Nam Việt and Âu Việt.


Notice that Lạc Việt is in present-day Vietnam.  It is the sole remaining kingdom of the loosely held Bách Việt kingdom-states that has not been colonized and eventually absorbed by China.

The original rice strain, Oryza rufipogon, looks like this.


From this ancient plant, we get these modern-day versions, just to showcase a few:


But a fully documented rice genealogy cannot be missing a huge area where rice was cultivated, now can it?

Think about it.

Where else would rice be cultivated, other than the tired, picked-over, and obvious places we’ve been digging at for so long?  Where are we failing to look at, that would provide the geological and paleontological information that is currently gaping holes in our understanding of this (dubiously) fascinating subject?


Two words:  Sunda Land

Ok…maybe it’s one word.  Sundaland.

In a post I wrote awhile back, Sunken Paradise, I wrote about Sundaland.  Sixty-thousand years ago, this area was a rich, fertile area, densely populated by a people with a high level of civilization.


According to geologist Peter Cattermole, Sundaland was HUGE.  It was the largest area on Earth that underwent a submersion following three waves of global flooding following glacier ice melts at the end of the last ice age.

This means that, soon after our ancestors migrated out of Africa (and archaeogenetics show that it was in one big wave of migration, not two smaller waves), one of the first places we went to was Sundaland.

The weather was nice, the food was plentiful, we proliferated and grew in numbers.  We lived and worked and played in that area for at least 50,000 years—plenty enough time for a fairly advanced level of civilization to occur.  [5]

Plenty of time for high-level rice cultivation to occur.


(to be continued)

[1]  Oryza Rufipogon

[2]  Molecular Ecology

[3]  Noxious Weeds

[4]  Largest Rice Genetic Study

[5]  Climate Change and Postglacial Human Dispersals in Southeast Asia





27 thoughts on “Old Dude’s Rice Innuendo

Add yours

  1. The idea of huge land masses rising and falling from under the ocean for whatever reason I find to be fascinating. 60k years for Sundaland seems to be an amazingly short amount of time for such a drastic change to occur!
    Recently I’ve been learning more about ‘Mid-Oceanic Ridges’ and the meandering, super-long pathways the take mostly under the oceans, and how they periodically plunge to great depths, and surface right in the middle of some interesting places.
    We have one right off the coast of Washington/California:


    The pairing of the ridge, which provides an upwelling of magma adding to the Earth’s crust, with a subduction zone, sending crustal material back down into the Earth for recycling is occuring along an incredibly extensive, almost continuous pathway, all over the Earth and mostly hidden by water. Mostly ‘lake over mountain’, sometimes ‘mountain over lake’, is it possible that “Lian Shan Yi”‘s ‘continuous mountain changes’ was an ancient oracle attempting to forecast impending hydrogeological disruptions?

    Thanks for another apparently ‘weedy’ post. By necessity of course…there are many who consider the Yarrow a weed 🙂



  2. Stephen

    Unless I pursue a serious academic effort of translating the ancient written works into English (and I mean it is written in old-as-dirt ancient Viet) I don’t know of any and have not yet found anything that has been translated into English.

    I will keep looking though. Every time I go back to Vietnam, I am always hanging out at the old book stores in hopes of finding some gem. Sometimes, I actually get lucky.


  3. Allan,
    You really bring up all these seriously intriguing ideas. Should I do a write up on some of these ideas, or are you going to showcase them into your writing in the near future?


  4. Thanks, I’ll try learning sometime. I’m really interested in this topic and very hopeful for follow up posts.


  5. Stephen
    It is a huge topic. There are scholars out there who know this subject matter very well. I’ve only met a couple, and they are of the ‘very old men’ type of people. They don’t take me seriously because I’m 1. female and 2. much younger than they are. But I have found that if I nag at them, they eventually give up some pay dirt.

    Having said that, I have, in my hot little hands, the entire unabridged book of the nòng nọc language, hunted down with much difficulty during one of my many visits to Vietnam. It’s not even a real book. It is a huge bound folder with the book photo-copied in its entirety. The book itself is not available and not in print. I have been meaning to do the translation, but have not yet found the time.

    Methinks I need to find the time to do this.


  6. If any of my comments intrigue you or suggest further topics to write about, feel free to do so…it’s always interesting to read what comes from your dreams and imagination!



  7. Allan,
    I will find some cool things to share with everyone. I always do. My brain bing bongs here and there, like a greedy little kid in a candy shop.


  8. Sorry, I meant the map of Sundaland. Seems contiguous with a lot of the nations involved with the sea dispute there?


  9. So when you add in Bách Việt states, where exactly is this ancient legitimacy that China has been claiming to the waters there?


  10. Stephen
    There is none. This sea has a name. For thousands of years, It has always been called Biển Đông (The Eastern Sea) by my people. This has not changed, even to this day.

    When you add in Bach Viet States, you are still talking about the lands of the Viet people. In any case, international waters still are respected, no matter who lives in the surrounding land areas. Vietnam, The Philippines, Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, and India, to name a few) have all use the international shipping routes. There is only conflict here if someone decides all of a sudden, to restrict movement within international waters.

    That someone is China, and there will be repercussions.


  11. I know, I was being sarcastic as I’ve been hounded by propagandists lately on that issue. But I’m really glad you presented this information as I would not have found it as easily otherwise even if I thought to look and had an idea where. Thanks again.


  12. Just for you, Stephen, my next post will be more of the Bách Việt kingdoms. There is a lot of history that stretches far back into the distant past. I will recount a few of them, just for fun.


  13. Check out this wiki entry on the Sunda shelf…specifically mentioned is the shallowness of the area’s ocean, submarine rivers that still exist, and cycles of glaciation that alternately flood then expose the shelf’s surface:


    When an ice age returns, this area again surfaces and becomes marshy territory (probably perfect for growing rice?).
    I couldn’t help imagining thousands of acres of submerged vegetation providing safety and food for present day fishes, capable of supporting an actively farmed shallow water aquaculture, eventually draining as another ice age appears, allowing grain producing grasses to grow again…

    Contains a couple of decent maps showing underwater volcano locations and arcs of underwater Sunda Mountain ranges. Anyone who took advantage of the receding flood waters in a big way by farming would be probably be credited with controlling the floods and making it possible to feed vastly more people…was this Shennong?


  14. Allan
    Bingo. The ice ages last far longer than the interglacials. We’re at the tail end of an interglacial. This means that when ice age hits, Sunda rises, and we will have to figure out how to desalinate the water from the marshes to begin rice farming again.

    Rice is one of the few food crops that do well in marshy, watery areas (as well as other leafy greens (lotus, water spinach, etc.). Anyone who knew enough about horticultural genetics could create strains of rice and other food plants that could handle the water ph, temperature fluctuations, etc. of the growing seasons.


  15. Fascinating Taobabe…

    What we need now is an in depth (unavoidable pun) and intimate relationship with our oceans, long before we set foot on Mars…

    I bet it would be much easier to build, control and market a drone for underwater operation than one that flies in the air…

    Here’s my favorite…we already have many military operated units monitoring the South China Sea..cheaper and more stealthy than submarines…they don’t use propellers. Cyclically changing buoyancy and the diving plane attitude causes them to zig-zag through water horizontally…


  16. Taobabe,

    Thanks to this site and the factual information you have provided, together with your ‘connect the dots’ compulsion, I woke up this morning with the realization of a worthy purpose.

    It is time to put a lens on what’s happening all around the world in every drop of water we possess. I discovered to my horror that my youngest, an all ‘A’ student at sixteen years old, had never heard of Jacque Yves Cousteau.

    A great vehicle for doing this would be to randomly or sequentially following the mid-oceanic ridge as it plunges to the deep and ascends to the top of Mariana’s trench or the peaks of Iceland, tell all of it’s continuously change nature through the aeons, and cultivate the Field of human energy required to assure it never becomes the possession of any particular greedy, voracious, destructive group hell bent on consuming all it’s resources in the short span of one human lifetime.

    As an aside, I wonder what the undersea petroleum or hydrocarbon resources are in the Sunda Shelf. After seeing what happened as a result of our ‘Well Frog’ mentality as a result of the “Deepwater Horizon” fiasco, it’s time to follow the wisdom of “prevention is better than cure”…



  17. In the 60s, the USA built exploratory wells within the South China Sea. Once they determined there was a ton of pay dirt within the Sundaland area, for whatever reason, they capped the wells and withdrew from Vietnam. My father told me that the wells were gushing with oil, but once the US withdrew, they plugged it up so that nothing could come out.

    The oil that is found in the area is of the sour crude. Unfortunately, the manufacturing system that was put in place was for sweet crude (a very stupid and uninformed choice by someone who did not know what he was doing), so what they now have to do is to export the sour crude to other countries that have the capacity to process the sour, and import sweet crude from other countries, and then process that. So stupid and wasteful…I swear.


  18. As for Jacques Cousteau…I think the reason why s/he does not know of him is because of the age factor. He is a gem of the previous generation and your youngest was born too late to have been in on the excitement of the day.

    I truly look forward to your exploration of the mid-oceanic ridge. There is so much in this world/realm/density/dimension to explore that even with diligence and passion, no one can encompass it all. That’s why I have to do the ‘connect-the-dots’ approach. It’s the only way that I can see enough of what’s going on to get that big-picture look at our world.


  19. About that situation, Sun Tzu would probably observe, “when you notice a potential foe making a stupid mistake, resist the urge to correct it” 🙂

    Instead of using hydrocarbons for fuel, by now we should be mining it exclusively as a feedstock for recyclable materials…like the resin for a shiny new research trimaran :)):


  20. Thanks for the vote of confidence Taobabe…this could end up being a real blast!

    Here’ a link for the song ‘Calypso’, written aboard Jacques Cousteau’s research vessel by John Denver. a true mountain man:

    No time like the present to renew the excitement of those days…

    Time to bring the sounds of the ocean back to everyone.


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