Ancient China Agriculture

Ancient China agriculture was important to the country to feed people and keep people employed. Ancient China agriculture helped the population grow rapidly with enough food and staples to feed everyone.


The two main crops in ancient China agriculture were millet and rice. Millet was grown in the northern part of the country where the climate was dry and cool.

Rice was produced in the southern part of the country where the weather was warmer and wetter.

Other crops that were farmed in the north included wheat, barley and sweet potatoes. In the south crops like soya beans, broad beans and garlic were grown.

Farm animals

Ancient China agriculture included farm animals for food. There were chickens, pigs, ducks, geese, and dogs were raised to be eaten. Working animals such as oxen and mule where also raised.
Farm Animals


Much land was needed in ancient China agriculture to produce food for a large country. Farmers began to carve flat areas of land out of steep hillsides. The carved flat areas looked like individual steps and were called terraces.

Ancient China agriculture used numerous farming techniques over the years. At first, farming was all done by hand with little tools. Seeds were planted by hand. Many seeds planted by hand did not sprout or germinate.

This method of planting seed was inefficient for a large population. Harvesting was also done by hand with little help from technology or animals.

Eventually the ancient Chinese people invented iron which led to many new inventions. One of the more important inventions was an iron seed drill.
Rice Crops
The tool greatly enhanced planting and led to larger bumper crops of millet, wheat and rice. Another invention was an iron spade and sickle.

In early days sickles were made of bone that was sharpen and shaped by rocks. The iron sickles and spades allowed easier harvesting of rice, millet as well as other staple crops.

There were very few farm animals to help with plowing at first. Humans would pull the plough to prepare the land for seeding.

Over the years, ancient China agriculture relied on animals such as dogs, oxen and mules to pull a plough. The harness was invented to help relieve the stress of the animals pulling the ploughs.


Ancient China agriculture relied on natural nutriments to fertilize their crops. During rainy season rice fields were flooded with nutriment rich water. These submerged fields were called rice paddies.

Other forms of fertilizers were human waste. There was not sufficient animal waste to help fertilize large fields of agricultural products.

In the north, millet seed was planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. Farmers in the north also planted millet after the fall harvest and these crops were harvested in late winter.
Terraced Paddy Fields
Unlike other ancient societies, the ancient Chinese did not produce crops within cities. The land within the cities were used for gardens which contained flowering trees like cherry or plum and there were plenty of flowers that provided for rich colorful scenery when in bloom.

Important facts about ancient China agriculture

  • Ancient China agriculture was important in producing enough food for a growing population.
  • Ancient China agriculture relied on two staple crops which were rice and millet.
  • Rice was grown in the warm and wet southern portions of the country.
  • Millet was grown in the northern portion where the climate was dry and cool.
  • The first farming tools were made of bone and attached to wooden handles.
  • The most commonly used fertilizer in ancient China agriculture was human waste.
  • Ancient China agriculture developed iron tools like the spade, seed drill and animal harness.
  • Ancient China agriculture carved steps into steep hillsides called terraces.


1. What was the most commonly used fertilizer in ancient China agriculture?

Human waste

2. What portion of the country was millet grown?


3. What other animal was used in ancient China agriculture besides dogs and oxen to pull ploughs?


4. How did an iron seed drill help ancient China agriculture?

Allowed for more seeds to sprout or germinate