Asia, East by South: A Cultural Geography

Asia, East by South: A Cultural Geography

Asia, East by South: A Cultural Geography

Asia, East by South: A Cultural Geography

Excerpt

The southern and eastern portions of Asia often are placed together under the terms the Orient or the East, and are placed in contrast to the Occident or the West. There is a unity of human life here that sets the territory apart from Siberia and from southwestern Asia. The relations of the one lie chiefly with eastern Europe, and those of the other lie chiefly with Arabia and the eastern Mediterranean. It is with these lands and peoples of the Orient that this volume is concerned.

HOE CULTURE AS A SYSTEM

There are more farmers in the Orient than in the rest of the world combined. Agriculture is the most widespread occupational activity of all human callings in the East. And the terraced ricefield with reflections flashing from its liquid surface is the most distinctive picture of the Orient. Among the most easily observed characteristics of southern and eastern Asia are its native agricultural systems. These patterns of agriculture have often been described under the general term hoe culture or garden culture. Fundamentally hoe culture is an agriculture of small fields, of much detailed hand labor on the part of the cultivator, of relatively few mechanical aids to cultivation, and of relatively small numbers of draft animals per farm unit. It was at one time primarily a subsistence agriculture, concerned with food supply and only in minor proportions interested in a product for sale in a commercial market. Rice is its primary food crop, giving way to some other food plant only when water supply fails, soils will not allow rice cultivation, or local climatic factors other than precipitation make rice impossible. It is a crop of flooded fields, the only great crop so grown. This predominance of flooded fields causes the rest of the agricultural pattern to be fitted rather closely to the landscape and the planting season in order to secure a harvest.

As a crop of small field units rice produces a distinctive landscape which varies considerably in appearance in the course of the year. Where rice, itself, is not the backbone of the crop series . . .

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