Indica variety rice found in Tibet dates back 1,300 years
Beijing, Mar 14 (EFE).- A Chinese team of researchers has found remains of rice of the indica variety in an archaeological site in the autonomous region of Tibet, which suggests the crop spread in that region about 1,300 years ago, state media said Tuesday.
Scientists found at the Kongsangqiao site, in the city of Xigaze, remains of pottery, fragments of animal bones and numerous plant residues, including charred rice grains morphologically similar to the indica subspecies, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The genetic sequence of this variety of rice was also detected in DNA remains recovered at the site, confirming the initial theory, said Gao Yu, a member of the team and a researcher at the Tibetan Plateau Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Tests of the rice remains date back to the early Tang dynasty (618-907), Gao said, adding that the find could shed light on the “mystery” of how and when the indica variety of rice arrived in China.
Indica is, along with japonica, one of the two main varieties of rice grown in Asia.
According to current theories, japonica rice was domesticated about 4,000 years ago in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River and then spread to the northern parts of South Asia, where a hybrid arose that gave rise to the indica species.
This species was later introduced to Southeast Asia and southern China, where it is still widely cultivated.
Gao ruled out that the indica rice found in the excavation in Kongsangqiao was cultivated there due to the altitude of the place, almost 2,700 meters above sea level, and pointed out that the grain would have reached Tibet “through trade.”
This theory would provide an alternative to the current belief that indica rice was first introduced to China via Vietnam.
Lanzhou University professor Yang Xiaoyan said Kongsangqiao lies on what was once the Tibet-Nepal route, a key nexus for political and cultural trade exchanges between South Asia, the Qinghai-Tibet platform and the central plains of China.
“Our research suggests that in 8 AD, indica rice may have reached China via the ancient Tubo-Nepal route,” Yang said. EFE