Bridgette Meinhold

Sticky Rice is 1,500 Year Old Secret to Super-Strong Chinese Buildings

by , 06/01/10

building technology, design for strength, earthquake proof design, sticky rice, chinese construction, china, sticky rice mortar, mortar, super strong mortar, green design, eco design, sustainable building, green renovation, renovation, restoration, historic buildings, ancient buildings, green materials, disaster-proof designPhoto by Bridgette Meinhold

Sticky rice, which has been a staple of the Chinese diet for centuries, also played a huge role in the construction of their ultra-durable cities and walls. The glutinous side dish has been used since the Ming Dynasty to create a super-strong mortar that has helped keep ancient buildings intact and resisted earthquakes. Scientists recently discovered what it is about glutinous rice that creates the super-strength mortar, and have also determined that sticky rice mortar is best available material to restore ancient and historic buildings.

building technology, design for strength, earthquake proof design, sticky rice, chinese construction, china, sticky rice mortar, mortar, super strong mortar, green design, eco design, sustainable building, green renovation, renovation, restoration, historic buildings, ancient buildings, green materials, disaster-proof designPhoto by Real Thai Recipes

Around 1,500 years ago, the Chinese started adding sticky rice soup to their traditional lime mortar mixture, which dramatically increased the strength of the mortar. Important buildings like tombs, pagodas, and city walls were constructed using this composite mixture, and some of the buildings are still standing today even after earthquakes. Bingjian Zhang, Ph.D., and colleagues performed studies to hone in on the key ingredient in the sticky rice to determine why it made for such a strong mortar.

The results showed that the organic-inorganic compound was made possible by amylopectin, a type of polysaccharide, or complex carbohydrate, found in rice and other starchy foods. The amylopectin combines with the inorganic calcium carbonate from the lime to form a mortar that has more stable physical properties, greater mechanical strength, and is more compatible than normal lime mortar. After their tests on various mortar recipes, the scientists determined that the sticky rice mortar is the most suitable mortar for restoration of ancient buildings, which means its probably also appropriate for new construction as well.

Via PhysOrg

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9 Comments

  1. appledragon September 28, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Having lived for years in China, sticky rice is a different variety of rice from the normal rice and MUCH more sticky than overboiled normal rice. It also has a different ‘chewy’ texture. Llamas come from Peru and are not related to human Lamas, who are highly educated Buddhist monks. The Lama degree is the equivalent of our Ph.D. and takes up to 15 years to complete. Tibetan culture is highly complex and involves sophisticated philosophical, logical, poetical and gnostic practices, as well as an ancient artistic and musical tradition.

  2. Paul Livesey February 28, 2011 at 6:29 am

    Rice cooked in our kitchen becomes “sticky” when I don’t fully wash the released starch out. It is likely that the starch will act as a mortar admixture, reducing the water demand and increasing strength as a result of the lower lime to water ratio.
    Paul Livesey, Visiting Research Fellow, University of Bath, UK.

  3. History102 June 29, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    sapasa, yeh, and Okinawa isn\’t a part of Japan because they invaded them and annexed them about 100 years ago, also causing untold destruction.

    The Southern US doesn\’t belong to the United States, because they stole it from Mexico in the Mexican American war. The US belongs to the natives too, because the colonists invaded and caused untold amounts of destruction.

    Tibet was actually a warlike civilization that was repeated at war with the kingdoms in East Asia. It was during the Mongol era that Tibet was first conquered. They had varying degrees of sovereignty during the Ming. It was the Qing dynasty that created the system of llamas in the first place. After the Qing, they regained semi-independence, but the ROC still claimed sovereignty. The communists later reinvaded Tibet.

    So your statement has no basis. If \”destruction and tyranny\” qualifies as not being a part of China, then the entire country of China doesn\’t belong to the CCP because the communists caused destruction and tyranny among the entire country equally.

  4. History101 June 29, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    sapasa, yeh, and Okinawa isn\’t a part of Japan because they invaded them and annexed them about 100 years ago, also causing untold destruction.

    The Southern US doesn\’t belong to the United States, because they stole it from Mexico in the Mexican American war. The US belongs to the natives too, because the colonists invaded and caused untold amounts of destruction.

    Tibet was actually a warlike civilization that was repeated at war with the kingdoms in East Asia. It was during the Mongol era that Tibet was first conquered. They had varying degrees of sovereignty during the Ming. It was the Qing dynasty that created the system of llamas in the first place. After the Qing, they regained semi-independence, but the ROC still claimed sovereignty. The communists later reinvaded Tibet.

    So your statement has no basis. If \”destruction and tyranny\” qualifies as not being a part of China, then the entire country of China doesn\’t belong to the CCP because the communists caused destruction and tyranny among the entire country equally.

  5. sapasa108 June 7, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Tibet is NOT in China! China has annexed portions of Tibet and has caused untold destruction and tyranny to locals and resources there.

  6. Vilas Gogate June 7, 2010 at 12:06 am

    As I seriously believe that traditional knowledge is more efficient to tackle present day environmental crisis. Urbanization is unavoidable ilk but lime mortar and use of rice to increase its strength is mind boggling.I shall be happy to get more information on this aspect as I intend to construct a house for me.

  7. Foodie-architect June 4, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Is this rice grown in Tibet? Llama manure is a superb all natural fertilizer that may contribute to growing seedlings organically with natural plant food nutrition. Could liquid llama manure tea fertilize rice, grains, and vegetables better than other methods?

    I saw a source for llama manure at LlamaPoo.Com where a little boy collected Llama Nuggets(TM) and his family grew giant sunflowers. The pictures made it look almost like magical growth (in their words). Normally six foot tall sunflowers grew to ten feet tall using LlamaPoo in liquid form.

    Can we grow rice in normal vegetable gardens? Or must we have a flooded rice paddy? Isn\’t Tibet in China? What variety of rice is used for this mortar mix?

    Thanks in advance for any help.

  8. davidwayneosedach June 3, 2010 at 3:29 pm

    Super glue invented 1500 years ago and still working!

  9. BrianR June 3, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Chinese rice, as in rice grown in and consumed in the vast majority of China, isn’t ‘sticky rice’ and more than any rice boiled with slightly too much water turns sticky.

    Thai rice is sticky, as is some rice from Cambodia and Vietnam: in the process of the entire grain becomming tender the surface area has already turned into a paste, hence ‘sticky’.

    Also, rice is not a side dish. It is the centre of any meal. Oodles of meat, vegetables and fish are not called a ‘meal’ unless rice (or another grain, like corn in the North of China) are present. And as long as there’s rice (or a substitute starch) how ever few dishes are called a meal, even if with 12 people around a table there’s nothing other than a bowl of rice each with a single dish of fried cabbage to share. Rice is the meal, not the side.

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