Farewell to Yuan Longping, 'father of hybrid rice'




Large crowds visited a memorial site set up in Changsha in central China's Hunan Province on Monday to bid farewell to Chinese agronomist Yuan Longping.

Starting from Saturday afternoon after Yuan's body was sent to the mortuary, residents, farmers, students and others from across the country have been visiting the site, placing flowers and banners outside the facility.

People bid farewell to Yuan Longping in Changsha City, central China's Hunan Province, May 24, 2021. /CFP

People have been expressing their grief in different ways. For example, a flower shop owner in Changsha provided chrysanthemums for free on Sunday. "Grandpa Yuan deserved our respect and I hope my children cherish food from now on," the flower shop's owner, surnamed Xia, told

Southern Metropolis Daily


Some cab drivers transferred people arriving from other places by train to the mortuary at no charge. Some of those who could not physically be there had flowers delivered to the mortuary. Others provided free bottled water and masks to people coming to mourn Yuan.

File photo of late agronomist Yuan Longping with his third-generation hybrid rice in Changsha City, Hunan Province, China, October 30, 2018. /Xinhua

Yuan, born in 1930 and dubbed "father of hybrid rice," died from multiple organ failure at Xiangya Hospital, affiliated with Central South University, on Saturday at age 91.

In September 2019, Yuan was awarded the Medal of the Republic, among the many honors he received at home and abroad. He was also an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering and director of the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center.

The scientist, known for producing the world's first hybrid rice in the 1970s, won global respect for his breakthroughs in developing the genetic materials and technologies essential for breeding high-yield hybrid rice varieties.

For those who have gone through famine and hunger, they see Yuan as a hero who solved the problem of food shortage. An old man said he came from afar and just wanted to pay his respect.

For the younger generation, Yuan is more than that. "He is an icon for all young students who want to devote themselves to science. I want to be a warrior like him in the future," a biology student told CGTN.


World leaders, representatives of international organizations and leading academicians have mourned the death of Yuan. The United Nations and its affiliated organizations and departments expressed their condolences and called Yuan a "true food hero".

Agronomists and the media in Italy paid their respect to Yuan. Giovanni Zollo, an agricultural researcher specializing in rice at the University of Verona in northern Italy, told Xinhua News Agency that Yuan's research helped set the stage for big steps in rice research, creating benefits not only in Yuan's native China, but also globally.

A sketch portrait of deceased scientist Yuan Longping is seen at Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center in Changsha City, Hunan Province, May 23, 2021. /Xinhua

"Rice producers around the world owe a debt of gratitude to Yuan Longping," Zollo told Xinhua. "He was a pioneer."

Yuan's death was reported in multiple news sites in Italy, which "bid farewell" to what the Giornale di Brescia – a publication based in Italy's rice-producing zone – called the "world-famous father of hybrid rice."

AGI, an Italian news service, praised Yuan's work for "helping feed millions of people in China," while Riso Italiano – a news site focused on the country's rice industry – referred to him as "the supreme Chinese rice scientist."

Flowers are placed in remembrance of scientist Yuan Longping at Hunan Hybrid Rice Research Center in Changsha City, Hunan, May 23, 2021. /Sina Weibo account of Xiaoxiang Morning Herald

A daughter-in-law of Yuan, surnamed Gan, told Xinhua News Agency that Yuan did not leave any last words, but when he was still able to speak, he kept mentioning hybrid rice and hoped that his students would develop well and promote the crop.

Yuan once said he had two dreams – to "enjoy the cool under the rice crops taller than men" and that hybrid rice would be grown all over the world to help solve global food scarcity.

In China, the annual planting area of hybrid rice now exceeds 16 million hectares, 57 percent of the total rice planting area, helping feed an extra 80 million people a year in a country where rice is a staple for most of the population, Xinhua reported.

In a statement released on Saturday, the China National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center said the annual growth area for this type of rice has reached eight million hectares in countries including India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Brazil and the United States, with each hectare on average producing about two more tonnes of grain than local strains.

(With input from Xinhua)

(CGTN's Cao Bing contributed to the story.)