When a couple is married, Rice is thrown on them to symbolize the acquisition of a new and strong social foundation. As such, rice refers to a basis or cornerstone of human endeavors. Moreover, since rice is a basic and necessary nourishment, its presence may imply an indispensable requirement or consummate building block recently instituted in ones waking life.
Just as bread or corn is the basic food of Europeans, so in Asia is rice, and it conveys the same symbolic and ritual meaning.
Rice originates with the gods. Not only did it take its place in the primeval gourd on the same footing as the human species, but, like manna in the Wilderness, it grew spontaneously and filled granaries. This is an article of faith in Asian legend. The toil involved in rice-growing was a consequence of the destruction of the intercourse between Heaven and Earth. Rice was brought to Japan by Amaterasu’s grandson, Prince Ninigi, and was the focus of a ceremony involving the community as a whole, during which the emperor ‘tasted’ the cereal in company with the Sun-goddess.
Rice is both the staff of life and the food of immortality and as such ‘red’ rice is the content of the Chinese secret societies’ bushel-baskets. It comes, the ritual manuals state, solely from ‘the power of the Lord Min’, that is to say from ‘light’. Like bread, it is also a symbol of spiritual food. Rice changes alchemically into cinnabar, red sulphur of mercury. This may be compared with Muslim esoterics’ ‘red sulphur’ and the ‘making of the Red Stone’ in Western alchemy.
Rice is wealth, abundance and primeval innocence. It should be observed that even in the West it is a symbol of good luck and of fertility, since handfuls of rice are thrown at weddings.