In China, the rice field are in the flood lands along the big rivers. There, it is often a question of keeping the water out when it is not wanted. So banks have to be built, and treadmill pumps used. And the rivers themselves, filled with water as thick and brown as bean soup, are dredged with baskets to bring up the rich soil to spread on the fields. Tens of thousands of men work these treadmills and dredging baskets by hand. Men are even hitched to rude, wooden plows. Blind-folded water buffaloes walk patiently around and around the pumps. As in Japan, nothing is wasted. Straw is cut off at the roots. It is woven into hats and sandals, matting and bagging. Roots are carefully burned and the ashes scattered to fertilize the fields.

In Burma, the banks of the Irawadi River is one long rice field. Water buffalo drag wooden plows and log harrows. Women and children punch holes in the mud with their fingers and set the plants. There "every one works but father." He sits on a flowery bank and smokes and sees that his family keeps busy. The grain is threshed by the water buffalo that trample it on hard ground. In India, the swarming people are terribly poor. They scratch the earth to dust with pointed sticks, weed and flood the land, cut the grain with sickles or little knives, pound the husks off in wooden mortars and do every part of the work by hand.

If you look in a big Geography you can find all these countries —Japan, China, India, Burma, Siam and Malay peninsula in a big continent called Asia. The hundreds of millions of people who live in these countries are mostly yellow. Some are white, and down in Malay they are brown. Rice is the bread of all of these people. And trailing out into the sea, from Malay and Japan, are hundreds and thousands of big and little islands where chiefly brown people live. Our Philippine Islands are among them, and they alone have ten million people. In all these lands and sea islands, rice is grown in much the same way, by the hardest hand labor. In Java the small brown people put little temples, like pigeon houses, in the rice fields, in honor of a goddess who blesses their labor. To these temples they bring gifts of food—sugar cane, ripe fruit and bowls of boiled rice to keep her in a good temper. For oh, they all know that they may work hard, and still the wind and rain and sun may go wrong, and the crop fail. Then they are poor indeed!

But in many of these warm islands, there are bananas and pineapples and cocoanuts, and other good things to eat growing wild, and fish in the sea for the catching, and bamboo and palms for building houses and boats and nets, so the rice crop is not of such tragic importance as it is in parts of Japan, China and India. In the Philippines the growing of rice is not made so much of a task. Few families grow more than is needed for their own use. Every family has a humpy, horny, pig-skinned water buffalo, to drag the plow and pull the cart. Lazy brown children sprawl on the flowery banks around the fields and watch the clumsy cow struggle in the mud. Each cow has a friendly crow or crane on her back to catch the flies that annoy her, so she doesn't trouble to switch her tail. Brown women in big straw hats, red calico skirts and white cotton jackets put in the plants, weed them and cut the grain with sickles. The buffaloes tread out the grain. And it is a daily "chore" for the children to pound hulls from rice in wooden troughs, and toss the grains in baskets to let the chaff blow away.

In the southern part of the United States rice is grown, too. From Carolina to Texas along warm gulf shores are many stretches of rice fields. But how differently they are worked. The fields are large, and they are owned by white men. They are cultivated by negro laborers who are paid good wages; and oxen, mules and fine machinery are used. The seeds are sown in deep, water-filled trenches a foot and a half apart. The entire field is flooded after planting. Everything is done with machinery and animals—plowing, reaping, threshing, hauling, milling and shipping to the nearest seaport.

It is this Carolina rice that you eat—the long, pearly white grains that make such good puddings, or that is served for a breakfast cereal with sugar and milk, or in the place of potatoes with stewed chicken. Really, as a food, rice is more like potatoes than wheat. It is three-fourths starch. In the brown skin, that is polished away for us, is a small amount of gluten, not one-third as much as there is in wheat. Fortunately, the poor people who live on rice cannot throw away this good brown skin. They have no milk or meat gravy to add to it. In the warmer islands sugar cane is grown, and brown sugar is cheap. But in China and Japan the poorest people feel very lucky if they have a little weak tea to drink, and some dry salt fish to cook with their rice.

We have several names for wheat—wheat when it is in the field and in the threshed grain, flour when it is ground, and bread when it is baked. Many rice-eating people have five names for their chief food—one in the field, one when cut, one when threshed, one when milled (paddy), a fourth name when polished white, and a final name when it is cooked. It is cooked in only one way—plain boiled or steamed, whether it is meant for the table of the Emperor or for a peasant. But there are as many varieties of rice as there are of apples. There is cheap, dark, small-grained "coolie" rice, and big, fat, white "mandarin" rice. The finest rice of all, like the finest tea, is used by the royal family.

Thousands of years ago the Emperor of China used to head a splendid procession, and sow the first rice seeds of the season in the palace water fields. That ceremony was supposed to insure good crops to the toiling millions. Perhaps that was the origin of the little good-luck god, Dai Goku, of Japan. He certainly looks very old and wise and kind. See Rice, page 1610.