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The Role of Rice in Southeast Asia

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This essay will explore the significance of rice in traditional Asian culture. Examples will be drawn primarily from Southeast Asia, a region of the world where the majority of the population continues to reside in agricultural villages. The pace of social change has accelerated markedly throughout Asia in recent decades. Urbanization has been increasing and off-farm employment opportunities have been expanding. The explosive growth of educational access, transportation networks, and communication facilities has transformed the lives of urban dweller and rural farmers alike. Despite the evident social, political, and economic changes in Asia in recent decades, the centrality of rice to daily life remains largely unchanged. In most farming villages rice is not only the principal staple, but is the focus of much labor and daily activity. In remote rural locales rice remains the focus of ceremonial as well as economic activity, recalling the earliest of Asian religious traditions.