[From the Smithsonian Magazine]:
Scientists at Zhejiang University in China were researching the makeup of mortar used for building the Great Wall when they realized something unusual was added to the standard mixture of lime (limestone that has been heated to a high temperature) and water: sticky rice. The mixture made it the world’s first example of composite mortar, including organic and inorganic material. In their tests, the scientists compared the quality of mortar made with and without sticky rice, and found that “sticky rice-lime mortar has more stable physical properties, has greater mechanical storage, and is more compatible, which make it a suitable restoration mortar for ancient masonry.” Using sticky rice as a construction ingredient was one of the greatest innovations of the Ming dynasty, helping their structures (including tombs and pagodas as well) survive earthquakes and the elements, researchers said.
Some day, I hope, someone will build me a wall made out of inari.