Forbidden Rice
By Cynthia Kirkeby
Jul 19, 2004, 09:20


Topic: Forbidden Rice

ClassBrain Visitor:

What is the history of forbidden rice? Was only the emperor allowed to eat it or was the rest of the royal family also permitted? Were peasant farmers trusted to grow it? If so, how did their taxes work; did they grow regular rice as well as forbidden rice and have to pay taxes on that as well? Thank you for your help!

ClassBrain Response:

According to Riso Gallo, an Italian rice company that has been around for 150 years: Forbidden rice comes “Originally from China, nowadays it is grown in particular areas of the Poí Valley.” 

The story goes that it was enjoyed at the court of the ancient Chinese emperors for its nutritional properties and as an aphrodisiac (hence the name forbidden rice). Most references say that it was reserved for the Emperor’s table, and since it’s considered an aphrodisiac, it was probably shared with the emperor’s consorts, as well as other members of his family and the court at his discretion.

Forbidden rice is high in iron and is also considered a blood tonifier. It is not a glutinous rice, which makes it fairly unique among asian rice.

I could not find any information about the restrictions on the farmer’s, however, if it was supposed to be reserved for the Emperor, the restrictions on it would have been very careful. It probably would have been grown on the royal grounds and carefully accounted for by the emperor’s forces.

The rice tax was based on a percentage of the anticipated harvest. If the harvest was not as good as anticipated, then the farmer had to sell some of his possessions, or even his daughters (to the Geisha houses).

I hope this helps.
Cynthia Kirkeby
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