The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China

The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China

by Mark Elvin
     
 


This is the first environmental history of China during the three thousand years for which there are written records. It is also a treasure trove of literary, political, aesthetic, scientific, and religious sources, which allow the reader direct access to the views and feelings of the Chinese people toward their environment and their landscape.
Elvin chronicles… See more details below

Overview


This is the first environmental history of China during the three thousand years for which there are written records. It is also a treasure trove of literary, political, aesthetic, scientific, and religious sources, which allow the reader direct access to the views and feelings of the Chinese people toward their environment and their landscape.
Elvin chronicles the spread of the Chinese style of farming that eliminated the habitat of the elephants that populated the country alongside much of its original wildlife; the destruction of most of the forests; the impact of war on the environmental transformation of the landscape; and the re-engineering of the countryside through water-control systems, some of gigantic size. He documents the histories of three contrasting localities within China to show how ecological dynamics defined the lives of the inhabitants. And he shows that China in the eighteenth century, on the eve of the modern era, was probably more environmentally degraded than northwestern Europe around this time.
Indispensable for its new perspective on long-term Chinese history and its explanation of the roots of China’s present-day environmental crisis, this book opens a door into the Chinese past.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300119930
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
09/21/2006
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
592
Sales rank:
418,548
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.60(d)

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Permissions
Conventions
Introductory Remarks
Patterns1
1Landmarks and Time-marks3
2Humans v. Elephants: The Three Thousand Years War9
3The Great Deforestation: An Overview19
4The Great Deforestation: Regions and Species40
5War and the Logic of Short-term Advantage86
6Water and the Costs of System Sustainability115
Particularities165
7Richness to Riches: The Story of Jiaxing167
8Chinese Colonialism: Guizhou and the Miao216
9The Riddle of Longevity: Why Zunhua?273
Perceptions319
10Nature as Revelation321
11Science and Superfauna369
12Imperial Dogma and Personal Perspectives413
Concluding Remarks454
Notes472
Bibliography530
Index548

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