The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China

Yale University Press, 2004 - 564 Seiten

A landmark account of China's environmental history--by an internationally pre-eminent China specialist

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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Ausgewählte Seiten


Landmarks and Timemarks
Humans v Elephants The Three Thousand Years War
The Great Deforestation An Overview
The Great Deforestation Regions and Species
War and the Logic of Shortterm Advantage
Water and the Costs of System Sustainability
The Riddle of Longevity Why Zunhua?
Nature as Revelation
Science and Superfauna
Imperial Dogma and Personal Perspectives
Concluding Remarks

Richness to Riches The Story of Jiaxing
Chinese Colonialism Guizhou and the Miao

Andere Ausgaben - Alle anzeigen

Häufige Begriffe und Wortgruppen

Beliebte Passagen

Seite xxvi - These wild things, I admit, had little human value until mechanization assured us of a good breakfast, and until science disclosed the drama of where they come from and how they live. The whole conflict thus boils down to a question of degree. We of the minority see a law of diminishing returns in progress; our opponents do not.
Seite xi - The aim of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, which is located in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies in the Australian National University, is to advance the study of strategic problems, especially those relating to the general region of Asia and the Pacific. The Centre gives particular attention to Australia's strategic neighbourhood of Southeast Asia and the Southwest Pacific. Participation in the Centre's activities is not limited to...
Seite xiii - The man who saw dragons: Science and styles of thinking in Xie Zhaozhe's Fivefold Miscellany.

Über den Autor (2004)

Mark Elvin is professor of Chinese history at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra. Author of The Pattern of the Chinese Past and other works, he has taught at Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, and Heidelberg, and been a visiting research fellow at Harvard.

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