Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mid-nineteenth century Chinese maps controlled water and directed labor

Date:
November 14, 2013
Source:
University of Hertfordshire
Summary:
A sequence of twelve maps from the mid-nineteenth century reveal that they were accurate enough for planning and executing middle-sized water control projects for the department of Dengchuan in southwest China.

A section of the Miju River near Dengchuan, China.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Hertfordshire

A sequence of twelve maps from the mid-nineteenth century reveal that they were accurate enough for planning and executing middle-sized water control projects for the department of Dengchuan in southwest China according to University of Hertfordshire researchers and published in Water History.

Related Articles


The woodblock maps show the Miju River and the irrigation system that lay at the heart of the Dengchuan’s farming economy. They include administrative details related to the compulsory mobilisation of the local labour for the annual clearance of mud – making them very unusual among Chinese maps depicting water control in this period.

Dr Darren Crook, a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Life and Medical Sciences, said: “The clarity of these unusual maps help us to understand the environmental processes behind the recent formation of a long, spit-like delta of deposited sediment that juts out into the Erhai lake, the large mountain lake into which the Miju River empties. And they also assist with the dating and analysis of the environmental crisis during the late seventeenth century and much of the eighteenth, which caused the spit.”

Population pressure during the late seventeenth century, and most of the eighteenth, increased the demand for agricultural land – forcing the use of unstable mountain soils on the slopes of the catchment just upstream of the section depicted in the maps. The result was a massive increase in the river’s load of sediment. This made the level of the dykes downstream rise higher than the surrounding farmland.

Dr Crook continued: “The riverbank dykes were split into sections identified by distinctive names and assigned to local households. Each household was responsible for digging out the sediments accumulated at their own dyke – with each section dredging in sequence. Dredging upstream had to be completed first, and those downstream had to wait their turn.”

Coordination on water control operations on this scale was essential – with large numbers of workers without machinery at their disposal. The researchers showed that the accuracy of these twelve sequential woodblock maps was adequate for planning and delivering water-control projects in response to these environmental crises at that time.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Hertfordshire. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Darren Crook, Mark Elvin. Bureaucratic control of irrigation and labour in late-imperial China: the uses of administrative cartography in the Miju catchment, Yunnan. Water History, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s12685-013-0091-1

Cite This Page:

University of Hertfordshire. "Mid-nineteenth century Chinese maps controlled water and directed labor." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 November 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131114132100.htm>.
University of Hertfordshire. (2013, November 14). Mid-nineteenth century Chinese maps controlled water and directed labor. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 31, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131114132100.htm
University of Hertfordshire. "Mid-nineteenth century Chinese maps controlled water and directed labor." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/11/131114132100.htm (accessed January 31, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

Raw: Rare Clouds Fill Grand Canyon

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) For the second time in two months, a rare weather phenomenon filled the Grand Canyon with thick clouds just below the rim on Wednesday. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

Senate Passes Bill for Keystone XL Pipeline

AP (Jan. 29, 2015) The Republican-controlled Senate has passed a bipartisan bill approving construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. (Jan. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

"Cloud Inversion" In Grand Canyon

Reuters - US Online Video (Jan. 29, 2015) Time lapse video captures a blanket of clouds amassing in the Grand Canyon -- the result of a rare meteorological process called "cloud inversion." Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Why Researchers Say We Should Cut Back On Biofuels

Newsy (Jan. 29, 2015) Biofuels aren&apos;t the best alternative to fossil fuels, according to a new report. In fact, they&apos;re quite a bad one. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins