Wild Rice and "Bird Shit Paddy"

There are patch upon patch of short grasses on the edges of the forests and in marshes along the forests in Xishuangbanna, and people used to regard them as rice. When grains grow on their ears, people would realize that they were wild rice actually. For the time being, altogether three kinds of wild rice are discovered in China, and they are separately Oryza granulata,O. officinalis and O. rufipogon, which scatter everywhere in Xishuangbanna. Wild rice species are  close relatives of our cultivated rich O. sativa, and they play very important roles in upgrading O. sativa and creating species with high yields. That's why we put so much emphasis on them. Now, wild rice species are listed as protective plants in China. 

Do the cultivated rice of Xishuangbanna come from wild rice? It's a very hard question to answer. However, in the legend of the Dai folks named "the origin of grains", the local folks vividly described how their ancestors found the Bird Shit Paddy and the process of planting them. In immemorial times, the places where the ancestors of the Dai folks live was in a situation that "people are more than ants, people are more flourishing than bees, the mountains are crowded with people, and all people try to find food. The animals become less, and the fruits are eaten up; people begin to pick up the shits of the birds to eat". Since there were grains that were not digested in the bird shits, the people felt that they could eat to their full. Therefore, they began to seek for such bird shits everywhere. Later on, they found that green plants grow out of the bird shits, and the plants began to have fruits, and the fruits were quite tasty. They began to take the seeds back and planted them beside the rivers or ponds; people gradually learnt to plant the rice. For a moment, they were in possession of rice, they could eat to their full, and no one wanted to leave there any more. This description for the beginning of farming is quite simple and chaste. It is said that, this sort of wild rice is still being planted in some backward communities until today. 

In Xishuangbanna, places where there is water are all cultivated into paddy fields for the planting of rice; and people plant dry rice in dry land. Each paddy has more than 100 varieties, which are quite special. While the wild paddy, some grow in humid places, and some grow on mountain areas. Through many years of mixed existence, it is very difficult for the present people to tell that whether or not the wild rice and the cultivated rice have crossed; let along to tell whether or not the current rice have the genes of wild rice. We could only say that this might be one of the reasons why there are so many rice varieties and why the wild rice species are so precious. We could not just get rid of them just because we have cultivated some high-yield rice varieties. The Tropical Botanical Garden of Xishuangbanna also established a specie storehouse, and the local rice, particularly dry rice species are the important objects for their keeping; this is no doubt a significant work.