Ancient China Farming

Ancient China farming was important to the country and the people. Farming in ancient China was dependent on two major crops which are millet and rice.

Ancient China farming was labor for the farmers. They would try to grow two to three crops a year in their fields.

Ancient China farming also created several new tools to help clear the land and plant crops. Ancient China farming helped feed a country with a rapid birth rate and growing population.

Major Crops

Ancient China farming depended on two crops which were rice and millet. A cereal crop called millet was grown in the northern portions of the country where the climate was cool and dry. Rice was grown in the southern portion of the country where the climate was wet and warmer.

During the winter months in northern ancient China, farmers would plant seed to grow millet. In the spring time the millet would be ready to harvest. After harvesting their spring crops, they would plant seed again to produce summer crops.

Many rivers flooded land in the spring time in southern ancient China. Rice would be planted before the fields were naturally flooded by nearby rivers.

Ancient China farming relied on as many crops per year that could be harvested. Rice growing season lasts four to five months.

The flooded fields help the control weeds and help the rice plants to survive especially during the flowering stage. The flooded areas of rice fields are called rice paddies.

Farming Techniques

Ancient China developed several unique farming techniques to help use every inch of available land. Terracing steep hillsides was common practice in ancient China. Terraces were carved into the hillsides which would then catch water ran downhill.

Ancient China farming included building canals and channeling water to crops. Over time ancient China farming constructed dikes to help control the flooding of rivers during wet times.
Agricultural Region in China
The lack of animals in the region prohibited ancient China farming from using waste material for fertilizer. Ancient China farming was enhanced by using human waste as a fertilizer.


Farming tools in ancient China were originally made of bone. Sickles would be carved out of leg bones of large animals. Stones were used to sharpen the bones.

Smaller bones would be attached to wood sticks by leather straps. Sickles were needed to harvest crops quicker and more efficiently.

Ancient China farming also helped developed the harness. The harness was used to help animals and humans pull a plough. The harness eased the stress and demand on animals and humans.

Most farmers planted their seeds by hand. This method of planting was mostly inefficient and many times the seeds would not sprout. Ancient China farming created an iron seed drill to help make planting more efficient.

Wheelbarrows were developed to help move soil, tools, plant seeds, and for harvesting. There were two types of wheelbarrows which were a front wheeled wheelbarrow and a centrally mounted wheelbarrow.

Centrally mounted wheelbarrows distributed the weight of the load between the two wheels. They also required less energy to pull or push.
Shennong ploughing fields
Ancient China farming included iron tools too. These tools included a spade which is similar to a shovel. The long iron blade was attached to a wooden handle. Iron sickles were developed as well as iron ploughs that were then pulled by animals like oxen.
Terraced Fields

Important facts about ancient China farming

  • There were two important crops involved in ancient China farming which were rice and millet.
  • Wet and warmer growing conditions in the southern portion of the country were ideal for rice.
  • Dry and cooler growing conditions in the northern portion of the country were ideal for millet.
  • Ancient China farming involved carving land on steep hillsides into terraces.
  • Rice would be planted and then the fields were flooded with water creating rice paddies.
  • Ancient China farming developed an iron seed drill, a spade/shovel, animal harnesses and two types of wheel barrows.
  • Ancient China farming techniques involved using human waste as a fertilizer.


1. What portion of the country offered prime growing conditions for rice?

Southern China

2. What type of fertilizer was used in ancient China farming?

Human waste

3. How many types of wheelbarrows were used in ancient China farming?


4. A technique where flat steps like areas were carved into steep hillsides is called?