1,300-Year-Old Rice Identified in Tibet

News March 14, 2023

LHASA, TIBET—Xinhua reports that charred grains of indica rice have been found in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. The 1,300-year-old grains were found among fragments of pottery, animal bone, and other plant remains at the Kongsangqiao site, which is situated more than 9,000 feet above sea level along the ancient Tubo-Nepal Road connecting China’s central plains to the South Asian subcontinent. Kongsangqiao is thought to have been too cold to grow indica rice, which is a hybrid of domesticated japonica rice and a wild variety. “So the indica rice would have been grown in the lowlands and then brought into the site through trade,” said Gao Yu of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. It had been previously thought, based upon historical documents, that the earliest indica rice cultivated in China was introduced from Vietnam. “Our research offers a new possibility that by the eighth century, indica rice may have spread to China via the ancient Tubo-Nepal road,” concluded Yang Xiaoyan of Lanzhou University. To read about the development of regional cuisines in Bronze Age China, go to "You Are How You Cook."