Papers on Premodern History IV

Environment
Thursday
2:00 pm – 3:45 pm
Room B

  • Ting Cheung Wong, “A General Investigation of the First Attempt at Restoring the Lower Course of Yellow River from 1048 to 1057”
  • Man Sing Chan, Vicky Yuen-mei Law, “Sleep and Earthquake: Liaozhai Stories as Sources of Social History”
  • Erling Torvid Hagen Cao Agoey, “Perceptions of Climate Change during the 17th Century Cold Period in Jiāngnán”
  • Qiong Zhou, “Study on Landscape Disasters in Yunnan Ethnic Areas in the 17–20th Century”

Ting Cheung Wong, “A General Investigation of the First Attempt at Restoring the Lower Course of Yellow River from 1048 to 1057”

The Northern Song imperial government modified the North China Plain by initiating three major restoring projects on Yellow River during the mid-11 century to early 12 century. During this huge environmental drama (Prof. Zhang Ling described), people and environment were well-interacted together. In order to understand how the North China Plain was shaped after 12 century, and how the successors took actions for the consequences, we have to identify the sequence of this environmental drama. This paper is going to explain the ins and outs of the first attempt at restoring the lower course of Yellow River from 1048–1057. By this paper, how a human project that eventually changed the entire lower river course of the Yellow River for more than 700 years will be clarified. Moreover, this paper will also demonstrate how scholar-officials interact with the environment through the government decision-making aspect.

Man Sing Chan, Vicky Yuen-mei Law, “Sleep and Earthquake: Liaozhai Stories as Sources of Social History”

Liaozhai tales are famously preoccupied with ghosts and anthropomorphised foxes. A few of them describe real-life events that hold great interest for historians. This paper focuses on one such story: An Earthquake. The disaster took place on July 25, 1668, at around 7 pm, when the author, Pu Songling, was drinking with his cousin in Jixia. As a keen observer of the human comedy, he noted, in particular, the general nakedness of the frightened rabble, who ran out onto the streets, apparently unaware of their indecorous state.
Two questions arise, naturally: When did an average Chinese go to bed in Qing times? And did they sleep naked as a habit?
As this paper shows, sleeping naked was generally censured by Confucian classics. But with evidence from Liaozhai and early Qing biji, it appeared to be very widespread, particularly among the lower class across both sexes.
Sleeping time in early Qing began in the hours between 7–9pm (xushi 戌時). The dictum of Xumian yinqi 戌眠寅起 was commonly observed across all classes. It was recommended in health manuals and amply recorded in diaries, biji, and local gazettes. The habit was probably dictated by the sunlight hours, but traditionally it was also explained with theories of somatic qi circulation. This paper will investigate its Daoist underpinnings.

Erling Torvid Hagen Cao Agoey, “Perceptions of Climate Change during the 17th Century Cold Period in Jiāngnán”

My paper will examine which perceptions of climate change and the related climate events existed during the 17th century in the Jiāngnán region of Eastern China. This was a period where a worldwide cyclical turn to gradually colder weather during the so-called Little Ice Age led to increased rates of natural calamities. It also saw an increasingly serious social crisis in much of China that culminated in the last dynastic change.
Presenting the various factors that influenced thinking about climate and the related climate events, I will argue that the Chinese views in this era were manifold, complex and sometimes contradictory. Among the aspects that affected views of climate, there were theoretical concepts such as moral meteorology and correlative thinking—including also the political implications of climate events. Moreover, a number of supernatural phenomena, including Heaven, different kinds of , the Five Phases and mythological creatures such as dragons, were seen as causing certain climate conditions.
My research shows that differences existed between what was perceived as the causes of climate events on a more theoretical level and in each individual case. Moreover, when it comes to the so-called “heavenly omens” of gazetteer and historiographical tradition, this research will challenge some previous scholarly analyses of their interpretation. I will argue that climate conditions, even when they were often presented as omens, were in most cases not interpreted as such—including in political cases like dynastic changes, though with an exception for the signs related to agriculture memorised by the farmers.

Qiong Zhou, “Study on Landscape Disasters in Yunnan Ethnic Areas in the 17–20th Century”

Since the 17th century, the content of Yunnan’s “Eight Sceneries” landscape has gradually enriched, and the “Eight Sceneries” culture has gradually flourished. In the mid and late 19th century, the “Eight Sceneries” landscape declined due to the overflow of the “Eight Sceneries.” What’s more, due to the influence of human activities and the changes of environment, the “Eight Sceneries” landscape was profoundly affected by different disasters such as floods, droughts, debris flows, earthquakes, and so on. Although it left behind a special type of “Eight Sceneries Culture,” it showed the impact of disasters on the ecological and human landscape. First, the landscape of some disaster areas disappeared. Second, new landscapes appeared after the disaster. Third, the original landscape changed after the disaster. Many natural landscapes were artificially restored and more humanistic connotations were added. It shows the destructive and reshaping effects of disasters in landscape changes.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room B
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Environment