When wheat arrived and became widespread in premodern China?

robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,000
Lisbon, Portugal
#1
We all know that wheat is the main crop produced in Northern China and wheat products have an ubiquitous presence in Northern Chinese dishes and it forms the main staple, but it was not like this in the past.

The main crop that was grown in the early history of the Chinese civilisation was millet - mainly the "foxtail millet" type. Wheat is without a doubt a middle eastern crop in its origin that was imported to China somewhere along history.

By saying that, I want to know when wheat first arrived in China and particularly when it turned out as the main staple in Northern China.
 
May 2009
1,294
#2
I think it depends on the area. In some places in the north wheat has been grown for thousands of years. I've read that wheat farming actually predates millet in some areas. In other areas it was introduced later. The Sung expanded winter wheat farming further south into the Yangtze delta, according to Needham.
 
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robto

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
6,000
Lisbon, Portugal
#3
I think it depends on the area. In some places in the north wheat has been grown for thousands of years. I've read that wheat farming actually predates millet in some areas. In other areas it was introduced later. The Sung expanded winter wheat farming further south into the Yangtze delta, according to Needham.
But why for a long time millet was the starch of choice in northern China if they had wheat for a millennia or so? And how wheat got there in the first place? Was there a migratory wave of people coming from West Asia during the Neolithic period?

I know that wheat only arrived later in the lower Yangtze region, but my question was specifically about northern China, specially in the northern China plain (the cradle of civilisation in East Asia).
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
5,480
New Delhi, India
#4
Interesting question for India too. The local grain was rice. What the Aryans knew was barley. So, wheat came from middle-east. The question is when?
 
May 2009
1,294
#6
Needham, again, mentions the time of the first arrival of wheat in China as being between 3000 BCE and 2000 BCE. It's mentioned as being grown by the Longshan culture of the Yellow river, which existed during that time. That might be the oldest evidence of it.

Edit: Mnsr beat me to it!
 

Ichon

Ad Honorem
Mar 2013
3,583
#9
Two most common theories I've seen is first that wheat spread rapidly to Tibetan plateau from the Eurasian steppes because of the benefits of wheat in colder climes and was adopted more slowly from there as wheat processing is different and there wasn't as obvious advantages of wheat over millet without the cooler and shorter growing season on the plateau.

Evidence shows millet was grown concurrently with wheat for millenia afterwards in northern China though wheat gradually displaced millet in most area. I think the earliest evidence places wheat in Tibet around 4,800 BCE.

The second theory is that wheat spread rapidly from the Indus valley along coasts and rivers of southern Asia reaching China from sea trade as many early remains of wheat are in Shandong which leaps over some area assuming only a northern route.

Probably wheat had more than one avenue of arrival to China because it does seem to suddenly appear in a wide area in the historical records and archaeology is discovering new evidence of wheat nearly every year at various dig sites.

The old and now partially discounted theory was that wheat arrived with migrations of peoples along the old Silk road or a slightly further north entrance than via Tibetan plateau and I've seen there is now some more slight evidence of this as well but the main conclusion is that wheat almost definitely entered China via more than 1 route but was adopted first and most widely where it met the needs of the people best/and or it was new settlers who already had wheat growing culture they brought with them.
 

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