Farm Produce of the South and North
Long before farming and animal husbandry came into being, human beings had lived and thrived for a million years.
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During that long period, people supported themselves on fruits, herbal roots, hunting and fishing. With the application of farming and animal husbandry, people began to cultivate natural food through their own labor, and started to lead a productive life.
Compared to that of elsewhere in the world, the history of China's productive economy in some respects is identical to that in other parts of the world, while in others it bears its own characteristics. China's productive economy appeared as early as the Neolithic Age, identical to other parts of the world. The reaches of the Yellow River and the Yangtze were the birthplace of China's primitive agricultural production. In the reaches of the Yellow River, many cultural relics of the early Neolithic Age have been found, on the site of which many farm tools were also excavated. These testify that primitive farming had appeared m the reaches 7,000 years ago. On the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, farm tools and various grams have also been excavated, showing that primitive agricultural production had also reached a certain level 7,000 years ago in the area. Another similarity to other parts of the world was the fact that the first animal husbandry began in China by domesticating wild animals which would otherwise be hunted, and the first agricultural production began by fostering wild plants.
Farm production and animal husbandry, however, had different functions in the history of different societies. Some first developed animal husbandry, with crop production then being developed to provide feed to the animals. Others first invented farming skills while animal husbandry followed as a sideline production, always attached to the former. Along the Yellow River and the Yangtze, farm production was dominant in economic life and animal husbandry occupied a less important position. Crop production constituted the principal part of China's productive economy During the Neolithic Age, having a significant influence on China's social and cultural development.
The development of primitive agricultural production occurred in different stages. Initially, slash-and-burn cultivation was necessary to claim land for growing crops. At first, it was possible to reap good harvests, but after several years of cultivation, the soil would become arid, resulting in declining yields. This forced people to develop new land for cultivation, later, it was discovered that after several years, the abandoned land could be used to plant crops again with harvests that were as good as before. From this they came to understand the land they had claimed could be used alternately for cultivation. As a result, primitive farm production made much headway During the time of Yandi and Huangdi.
Such great development in agricultural production could be attributed to natural conditions. Soil, sources of water, and fish are natural resources which can be used as a means of subsistence by mankind, while waterfalls, navigated waterways, forests and mineral reserves are a natural wealth which mankind can use as means of labor. During the primary stage of social development of man kind, people could make little or no use of such natural wealth because of the low level of the productive forces. At that time, wherever resources which could be used as a means of subsistence were abundant, that place would be readily and quickly developed. Situated on the East Asian continent, China boasts a vast and rich land and abundant sources of water, which provide adequate and favorable natural conditions for its farm production. As a result, China was one of the world's most ancient birthplaces of agricultural production.
Prehistoric farming Culture in China had its own features which differed from that in prehistoric Western Asia, Northern Africa and India. Since it originated from two centers around the Yellow River and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, this Culture could be further differentiated by their respective geographical, rich and colorful features, to form two main systems of farm culture. This has been demonstrated clearly in the variety of grains, the strains of domesticated animals, farming tools, and the manner of settlement.
Millet and rice were the main varieties of cereal crops of this farming culture. At that time, China had no wheat, sorghum or maize, which were introduced into China at later time.
The northern area centered around the reaches of the Yellow River mainly produced millet, or Selaria ilalica, hence the farming of the area may be called farming of millet crops. As it has be come the principal variety of crops in the north, in some areas, millet is also sometimes simply called grain or cereal, which was originally cultivated and developed from a kind of wild plant, suit able to grow in arid Yellow soil. Millet has been discovered at 27 prehistoric sites. The earliest of these may date back more than 7,000 years, and most may date back 4,000 to 6,000 years. Nine- teen of these 27 sites are located in the Yellow River valley. All these discoveries show that, in China, the growing of rice originated from the Yangtze River valley, and the primitive tribes in southeastern China had been the inventors and disseminators of rice growing. The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River were the earliest region of growing rice in the world. In the past, some scholars abroad believed that rice growing had originated in India, and been introduced into China from there. In fact, rice growing in India appeared much later than in China. The earliest discovery of rice in India dates back about 3,700 years ago. The earliest Sanskrit record of rice was around 3,000 years ago, or several thousand years later than in China.
Unearthed prehistoric farm tools in China also showed the thriving of its primitive agricultural production about 5,000 years ago.
During that time, the main farm tools included cultivating tools like the ancient plough, spade, and hoe, harvesting tools such as ancient cutter and sickle, and processing tools as mill stones and clubs. The tools first appeared early in the Neolithic period about 7,000 years ago. They were modified and improved over time, and a number of new farm tools that had never been Seen before appeared in the Yellow River valley and the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River about 5,000 years ago. Farm tools at that time were made of various materials including stone, clamshells, pottery and wood. Most, however, were made of stone. Tools for processing grains, like the pestle and mortar, were mostly made of wood. Wooden tools were liable to decay and so have seldom been found.
Domestic animal breeding, a sideline of prehistoric agricultural production, had made much headway by the end of the Neolithic Age. Pigs, dogs, chickens, cows and sheep were widely raised by households at the time. Pigs, dogs and chickens had been domesticated as early as the early stage of the Neolithic Age. Pigs and dogs became the primary stock at that time, with pigs making up the majority of animals being raised. Remains of pigs have been found at a great many sites, showing a booming development of pig rearing at the time, and indicating that animal husbandry had become subordinate to crop production, which had developed to such a considerable high level that could afford sufficient feed for raised animals.
Settlements were closely related with farming. Relative stability of settlement was a precondition for farm production and, in turn, the development of farm production promoted the formation of large group settlement. Group settlement, therefore, serves as an important witness to the development of farm production. Rich sources of water for subsistence, patches of land suitable for tilling, and easy access to communications were indispensable to the settlement of tribal groups.
All the sites of the relics of Neolithic group settlement found so far were by rivers or around lakes and natural springs, where there was Yellow soil and moist fertile land for growing crops. Many relics have been found around modern cities or villages. This demonstrates that the location of a group settlement at that time was purposely selected by inhabitants to meet their needs for living, production and communications.
There were two patterns of settlement: one was set up on a terrace at the water's edge, another was on a high place above its surroundings. And the scale of group settlement had developed through a small -- large -- small process. Before the Yangshao Culture period (a Neolithic culture in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years), settled communities were small, generally covering 10,000 to 20,000 square meters. During the Yangshao Culture period, large group settlement communities appeared. The largest of these covered several million square meters, though they were generally between 10,000 and 60,000 square meters. During the period of Longshan Culture( a late Neolithic culture in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, dating back 4,000 to 4,9000 years), the number if small group settlement communities covering areas less than 10,000 square meters increased. The number of inhabitants varied according to the size of community. Before the Yangshao Culture period, a settlement community with a population of 80 to 200 was very common. During the Yangshao Culture period, about one-third of the communities had a population of less than 100, the rest having between 80 and 500. This shows an increase in migration During the late Neolithic Age.
Most communities were divided into a dwelling area, a pottery kiln area and a graveyard. In the dwelling areas, there were houses and kiln pits. The layout of many small houses was usually centered round a large house or a square. Around community borders, ditches and high walls were usually built up for defense.
Agriculture was the economic base of ancient civilization. All such civilization in the world were based on agriculture, whether in the civilized regions of western, central and eastern Asia as well or in the ancient civilized region of Mexico. But the ancient farming skills in China, which have developed without a break over several thousands of years, are unique in the world. Agriculture was important in China at a very early stage. It is especially worth noting that the Western Zhou and Qin dynasties (221-206 B.C.) that established the mode of traditional Chinese Culture for the next two or three thousand years inherited and developed the farming skills of the times of Yandi and Huangdi. During the Western Zhou, farm tools remained the same as they had been before, being made of stone, wood, bone or clam, and occasion ally of bronze. Apart from the principal tools such as the lei (fork) and si (spade), many other varieties appeared including the bo, in the shape of a modern hoe, and zhi, like a sickle. In addition to millet, rice and broomcorn millet, many other crops were also grown, including wheat, beans and sorghum. A rotation system was introduced in which a field would be abandoned after having been cultivated for three years. Techniques of artificial irrigation, weeding and growing seedlings were also developed rapidly in the State of Qin. At this time, like other states in central China, Qin began to use farm tools made of iron and build irrigation works, bringing about an unprecedented advance in agricultural production. It was based on this that Western Zhou civilization, which advocated harmony between the various strata in society, and Qin civilization, which stressed national unification, appeared. These two types of civilization became two major pillars of traditional Chinese culture. The agricultural economy underlying the cultures of the Zhou and Qin dynasties may date from at least the times of Yandi and Huangdi, justifying the claim that the dawn of civilization in China may date back to the time of these two legendary rulers.
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