Lai Chi WOW! Ep3: The Story of Rice Lai Chi WOW! Ep3: The Story of Rice Lai Chi WOW! Ep3: The Story of Rice
Lai Chi WOW! Ep3: The Story of Rice
Lai Chi Wo and Rice
From abandoned farmlands to thriving crops, from desolation to bustle, Lai Chi Wo has a long farming history, with rice being one of the popular crops. Rice has been an important source of life since ancient society. However, how much do you know about rice? Here are a few fun facts about rice!
How Rice Grows
Chinese parents love quoting this singular proverb when children do not finish the rice in the bowl, “every grain costs all the strenuous efforts”. But have you ever acknowledged the hard work farmers has put into rice-farming?
So, how does rice grow? First of all, farmer must plough the field and plant the seedlings. Prior to all the technological advancement, farmers need to transplant the rice seedlings from the seedbeds to rice paddies manually. To plant each and every seedling into the paddy, farmers need to stoop down, insert each individual strain, then gently fix its root into the soil bed by foot. It requires immense physical effort and time.
Then, fertilisation follows. Farmers must adjust position of seedlings and ensure enough plant spacing before applying manure or fertilisers. Rice fertilisation was no easy task. If the timing and amount go wrong, the growth process of produce will be interrupted. Eventually, farmers need to harvest the rice crops, separate the nice ones from the damaged ones, then dry them before storing them. As rice crops are still wet straight out of the rice paddies, if that is not handled right away, all the effort made will go into waste.
Rice field in Lai Chi Wo
Rice harvest in Lai Chi Wo (Photo from "HSBC Rural Sustainability" Project)
From farm to table, to work desks
Rice, as a widely-consumed staple food for humans, can be made into all sorts of food products to support of our daily nutritional needs, for example, porridge, vermicelli, cooked rice, rice crackers, steamed rice cakes and rice paper, etc. These products are all very common. But what exactly is rice paper? It is usually used as wrappers. By adding water to the powdered rice grains, pour the mix into containers and make them into paper-like thickness and steam it. Once all the moisture evaporates, voilà, rice paper.
Never underestimate rice crops! In addition being the raw material of food products, rice crops can also be transformed into utility tools for industrial use, such as, glue, straw shoes, mild and moisturising soap and eco-friendly cutlery, etc. Lo and behold, the power of rice!
The “ Revelation” of Rice
Duk-mai (得米) – “acquiring rice”; dou-mai (倒米) – “pouring rice”; mai-yi-sing-ceoi (米已成炊) – “the rice is done”, have you ever heard of these Chinese slangs? And do you know their meaning and origin? They are all derived from the powerful rice.
Our ancestors are inspired by the process of rice farming and attain these “revelations”. Back in the old days, mai (米) – “rice” used to represent wealth. Duk-mai literally means “acquiring/getting rice”. So when one says duk-mai , that means (s)he has acquired something valuable and made some achievement. The following example also illustrates how rice symbolises wealth in history. Dou-mai literally means “pouring rice”. Wealth is lost when the rice tank is tipped over. Just as the Cantonese slang goes “you can’t do a thing without bungling it” (食嘢唔做嘢，做嘢打爛嘢), it implies someone who tries to help, but fails and even makes things worse. Last but not least, mai-yi-sing-ceoi says “the rice is done”, meaning what’s done is done and nothing could change it.
All the above rice-related anecdotes can tell how profound rice has its influence over human societies, culture and history.
Rice crops also play an important role in a the economic and historical development of Lai Chi Wo. Would you like to know more about the rehabilitation and agricultural practices in Lai Chi Wo? Stay tuned for the coming programme – Countryside Cultural Innovation Project – LaiChi Wow!