Beijing – The different methods of growing rice and wheat may have contributed to the differences between Eastern and Western cultures, according to a study.

While rice cultivation in Asia necessitates joint action by the rural population because of the complex irrigation, wheat farmers can work more independently, which explains their greater individuality, says the “rice theory”, the researchers from China and the USA in the US journal Science »Represent.

In surveys, the researchers found clear connections between collectivism or individualism and the respective planting of rice or wheat in the fields.

“The idea is that rice gives economic incentives for cooperation and such cultures are more intertwined over many generations, while societies in which each individual is less dependent on the other have more freedom for individualism,” the leading scientist Thomas Talhelm is quoted as saying. who lived in China for four years.

The study expands the management theory, which so far only differentiates between shepherds and grain farmers. In order to exclude historical, political and cultural differences, research was carried out in China alone, where rice is planted in the south and wheat in the north, and where the behavior of the north and south Chinese is different. 1,162 Han Chinese were tested for individualism, analytical skills and a sense of community at six locations.

“The rice-growing southern China is more interdependent and thinks more holistically than the wheat-growing north,” write the scientists from the universities of Virginia and Michigan as well as the Beijing Normal University and the South China Normal University in Guangzhou. The differences between northern and southern China were reflected between eastern and western cultures.

There are simple explanations for the differences: irrigation networks for rice fields and water use require cooperation. Entire villages built the canals. The water consumption of a family influences the neighbors. The labor input is at least twice as great as with wheat.

Families therefore have to help each other with the harvest. From an economic point of view, cooperation in rice cultivation is therefore more valuable. Close relationships were mutual. Behavior that causes conflict is avoided.

In contrast, wheat farmers only need the rain and can take care of their own fields a lot more without being too dependent on neighbors, explain the researchers. The Chinese interviewed were mostly university students who had not even worked in fields themselves and get to know about the paddy thresher price.

According to the “rice theory”, culture has been passed on for thousands of years. “To put it simply: you don’t have to be a rice farmer to have inherited the rice culture,” the researchers say.

In order to rule out climatic factors, Chinese people were also tested along the rice-wheat border in China, where the differences were confirmed despite the short distance between the two groups. “We find that the rice theory can partly explain differences between East and West,” summarize the authors.

In addition to management theory, there are other theses that try to explain cultural differences. The modernization hypothesis assumes that people with growing prosperity become more educated, more capitalistic and thus more individual and analytical. In Japan, South Korea or Hong Kong, however, people have remained collectivist despite greater wealth.

Another theory assumes that societies with a higher spread of pathogens will move closer together. However, such pathogens are more common at higher temperatures.

The researchers emphasize that hotter climates are linked to rice cultivation. The more pronounced sense of community is more likely to be explained by the requirements of the complex planting method, they suspect.

The slim long-grain rice (6-8 mm), which tastes hearty and does not stick when cooked, sells best. Basmati and Patna are the most famous varieties. Basmati rice is characterized by its nutty aroma; its loose grain grows two to three times as much when cooked. Real Basmati is only handcrafted and the Davert mill is the only organic supplier to import it from Burma. It is of course available as a whole grain, but also in a polished form, because this is how it can best develop its intense fragrance. Connoisseurs compare Basmati rice with fine wine. The jasmine rice, which is sold “white” and “natural” in organic quality, also exudes a characteristic scent. The short grain rice, which originally comes from Japan, is significantly shorter (5 mm) and has a harder consistency. When cooked, it releases starch into the water, making it relatively soft. A round grain of excellent quality is the Spanish Calasparra, which thrives organically in the southeast of Spain. Pure mountain water and an environment without industry are the reasons why it has the lowest pollutant values ​​of all rice varieties. Medium-grain rice has similar cooking properties to round grain, but it is rarely found. Sweet rice is a particularly sticky, round grain variety that is particularly suitable for desserts. The Japanese mochi is a specialty. Black rice from Thailand is also well suited for desserts. Local mountain tribes, according to the Davert mill, guarded this treasure for a long time. He’s slightly cute becomes mild and soft when heated and releases some of its pigments into the cooking water. The red rice, which is mainly obtained from dry cultivation, is extremely resistant, a spontaneous cross between wild rice and cultivated rice, which owes its striking color to clayey soils. In Asia and Africa it is grown where other varieties no longer grow due to a lack of water. Some health food stores sell red rice from Italy or the Camargue.

An average grain of rice consists of 70 percent carbohydrates (starch), which are concentrated in the endosperm and contains very little fat (one percent). With six to eight percent protein, rice is numerically inferior to wheat, but it is clearly ahead in terms of the essential amino acids lysine, methionine and threonine. The so-called wild rice, an expensive delicacy for gourmets, has 15 to 17 percent protein. It is imported from the wetlands of North America and Canada. The Indians laboriously harvest it from their boats and have been consuming the blackish grains with the tart, nutty taste for generations. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) is actually not a grain, but a water plant. It is as hearty as it is digestible and can be mixed well with normal rice.


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