The Jianghan Plain in central China has been shaped by its relationshipwith water. Once a prolific rice-growing region that drew immigrants toits fertile paddy fields, it has, since the eighteenth century, becomeprone to devastating flooding and waterlogging. Over time, populationpressures and dike building left more and more people in the regionvulnerable to frequent water calamities. The first environmental andsocioeconomic history of the region, Coping with Calamity
considers the Jianghan Plain’s volatile environment, the constantchallenges it presented to peasants, and their often ingenious andsophisticated responses during the Qing and Republican periods.
1 Changes in the Environment of the Jianghan Plain
2 Water Calamities and the Management of the Dike Systems
3 The Dike Systems and the Jianghan Economy
4 Agriculture, Commercialization, and Environmental Adaptability
5 Tenancy and Environment
6 Fisheries and the Peasant Economy
7 A Water-Rich Society: Socio-Economic Life in a Marshy Kingdom
Appendix: The Yield of Rice in the Jianghan Plain in the Qingand
Glossary; Notes; References; Index
The environmental history of China is still a much under-studied area, and Zhang’s book is a very welcome and important contribution to the field. He has consulted an extensive array of sources and has also lived and worked on the land of this region, which gives him unique insight. His empathy for its people and his understanding of the impact of the environment on every level of their lives permeates the discussion, adding depth to the scholarship.
Laura Newby, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford
Coping with Calamity is the first English-language book on the ecology, economy, and society of the Jianghan plain, one of the most important agricultural areas in late imperial and modern China. It is unique in interpreting rural economic and social institutions in modern China using an environmental approach. Zhang’s book is essential reading for students of rural China and modern Chinese history.
Huaiyin Li, author of Village China under Socialism and Reform: A Micro-History, 1948-2008