6th Grade - Social Studies

LESSON PROBLEM: History: What is the history of the consumption of rice?


Humans have gathered and eaten rice for thousands of years. Archaeologists believe that rice was first cultivated as a crop about 5000 BC in the area that is now known as eastern China and Thailand. Nomadic people from that area traveled west to what is today China and India, carrying with them seeds to grow in new lands.

Shih Ching, or Book of Songs, is a Chinese text that is dated about 600 BC. A ballad in the book describes how Chinese men fermented rice for wine. By 700 BC, rice cultivation had spread to almost all parts of Southeast Asia. Rice is also mentioned in a third century BC Chinese poem, entitled, "The Summons of the Soul". The poet mentions fried honey cakes of rice flour as a delicacy.

When Alexander the Great returned from a military expedition in the fourth century BC, rice was introduced to the western part of the world, through Greece. An ancient menu from a royal banquet in India describes a dish called kosali, which was spiced roast meat rolled in rice. Arab traders in the eighth century AD brought rice to Spain. Marco Polo detailed the use of rice by the Chinese of the 13th century. The Chinese had cultivated numerous types of rice, including varieties of pink, white and yellow. Rice was served separately from other foods so the diner could appreciate the different flavors.

During the middle ages, Europeans created mortrews. Meat, that had been salted to preserve it, was tenderized by pounding it with a mortar. The meat was then served with a pudding of almond milk and rice. It was hoped that the pudding would absorb the salty taste.

Portuguese and Spanish explorers took rice to the Caribbean and South America on expeditions in the 15th century. Rice was first grown in the United States in South Carolina during the late 1600s, and the crop was soon cultivated in Georgia and North Carolina. At the beginning of the 20th century, U.S. rice production moved to Louisiana and Texas. Today, Louisiana and Texas are joined by Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and California as states that count rice as an important crop.


Describe two rice dishes discussed in the study guide.

Name two ways rice cultivation spread to other countries.


Read the biography of Marco Polo by Charles Graves. Create a menu, that includes rice recipes, of dishes served to Marco while he was in China.


Culinary Food Timeline

Food Museum

Medieval Renaissance Food

Ancient Roman Dishes

African American Food History


  • archaeologist
  • ferment
  • expedition
  • delicacy
  • tenderized

Click here to play Rice Rampage!
How is Rice Grown:
Farming rice is hard work. Click here to learn more about the Stages of Farming Rice.
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