All About Rice!

For millions of families and communities around the world, rice is at the core of daily life and culture, especially in Asia. Did you know that over 90% of world’s rice is produced in Asia and that rice is the staple food for more than half the world’s population?

The theme of rice conjures up images of the journey of the story: From a seedling planted in the fertile fields of the creator’s mind, nurtured with an endless flow of imagination and countless hours of work, the story takes root and grows. With each generation of content creators, undaunted by floods and droughts, there is a growing offering of both old and new varieties. The challenge is not only in the production and processing, but in the distribution of the staple of children’s literature to everyone around the world.

Rice Download Bibliography* (1.5MB)

* PDF of annotated bibliography published in 2014.

Sub-themes:

Mythical and Mystical Rice-themed Folktales

Mystique and magic are woven into stories transforming the commonplace to something that is otherworldly. Folk wisdom highlights the importance of not wasting a single grain of rice. Tales of the ill fortune and horrible bad luck that follow, even in the after life, have persuaded many generations of children not to take this staple for granted, and not to leave even a single grain of rice in their bowls.

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Rice Customs & Traditions

The harvesting of our stories are rooted in rituals and oral tradition. Many Asian cultures revere rice as a special link between the land (and/or the deities) and people. It is used in countless ceremonies and festivals to greet, attract blessings, bring prosperity and promote fertility.

Rice is said to be the first food offered by an Indian bride to her husband in lieu of a wedding cake, the latter being customary in many Western countries.

In China, young girls are told that each grain of rice they leave in their bowls will be the mark they should expect to find on the face of their future husbands.

In Japan and in the Philippines, there is a ritual-like process which surrounds the production and preparation of rice from seed selection to land preparation, water and nutrient management, harvesting and post-harvest to cite a few. One Japanese belief is that soaking rice before cooking gives the person who eats it a more peaceful soul as the life energy of the rice is released in the process.

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Rice and Survival

Rice is the staple food for more than half the world’s population, and the only source of nourishment and survival for the less fortunate. Rice is deeply symbolic
and is particularly associated with good fortune. In Sanskrit, one of the words for rice, dhanya, also means ‘sustainer of the human race’. In China, rice symbolises a link between Heaven (Gods) and Earth (Men). It is one of the twelve symbols of sovereignty, traditionally representing the emperor’s capacity to feed the people, and therefore prosperity and fertility.

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Festival of Food

From individual creative toil, the passage to trade for global consumption requires many hands. In Asian countries, rice is primarily produced by smallholders and harvesting is still carried out manually by many farmers themselves. Harvesting is followed by threshing, often by hand. Milling, distribution and trade follow. Similarly, writers and illustrators work to create content in their own houses, followed by editing, publication, distribution and consumption, like the processes of threshing, milling, distribution and trade. It’s a hard grind but necessary and, ultimately, worthwhile and rewarding.

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Gift of Nourishment

As we are sustained by rice, so we are sustained by stories. Rice was first cultivated in China, and the practice spread to South East Asia and South Asia. It was later introduced to Europe and Africa, and then to the Americas via colonisation. Today rice is not only a staple food in Asia but also the most important grain worldwide in terms of human nutrition. In many Asian countries the words for food and rice are synonymous or interchangeable. Approximately 90% of the rice in the world is grown in Asia.

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