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Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques

Zeitschrift der Schweizerischen Asiengesellschaft - Revue de la Société Suisse-Asie

Editor-in-Chief: Suter, Rafael

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Condensing Life Substances within the House: The Rice-Boiling Shuhi of Southwest China

Elisabeth Hsu
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  • Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, 51/53 Banbury Road, Oxford, OX2 6PE, UK
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/ Franz K. HuberORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4632-8939 / Caroline S. Weckerle
Published Online: 2017-03-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2016-0023


The Shuhi of Muli County, Sichuan Province, are one of multiple ethnic groups inhabiting the river gorges of the Qinghai-Gansu-Sichuan corridor between the Tibetan plateau and the Chinese lowlands. The Shuhi have grown paddy rice since times immemorial at an unusually high altitude (ca. 2,300 m above sea level). This article aims to explain this conundrum not merely through the ecology (as is common among Tibetan area specialists), but by researching the cultivation and consumption of rice as a historically-evolved cultural practice. According to a recently formulated agro-archaeological hypothesis regarding the macro-region of Eurasia, it is possible to identify two supra-regional culture complexes distinguished by their respective culinary technologies: rice-boiling versus wheat-grinding-and-baking. The hypothesis posits that the fault line between the two supra-regional cultural complexes is precisely along this river gorges corridor. In this article we provide support for this hypothesis arguing that Shuhi ritual and kinship practices have much affinity with those of other rice-boiling peoples in Southeast Asia, whereas certain of their current religious practices are shared with the wheat-grinding Tibetans.

Keywords: house; hearth; rice; boiling; culinary technology; Southwest China


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About the article

Published Online: 2017-03-14

Published in Print: 2017-03-01

Weckerle and Huber obtained funding from several funding bodies, including the Swiss National Foundation PBZHA-104354.

Citation Information: Asiatische Studien - Études Asiatiques, Volume 71, Issue 1, Pages 281–303, ISSN (Online) 2235-5871, ISSN (Print) 0004-4717, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/asia-2016-0023.

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