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Ecology of the Chinese Peasant Household The House-Field-Town Nexus and its Decline in the Qing An accompaniment to chapter 3 of An Ecohistory of People’s.

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Presentation on theme: "Ecology of the Chinese Peasant Household The House-Field-Town Nexus and its Decline in the Qing An accompaniment to chapter 3 of An Ecohistory of People’s."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ecology of the Chinese Peasant Household The House-Field-Town Nexus and its Decline in the Qing An accompaniment to chapter 3 of An Ecohistory of People’s China Stevan Harrell Revised for Han Chinese Society and Culture 6 February 2013

2 Historical Frequency of Floods and Droughts in the Wei River Plain Source, Yin Shuyan et al., Historical Drought and Water disasters in the Weihe Plain. Acta Geographica Sinica 15(1):197-205, 2005.

3 Qing—Disturbance and slow variables Qing slow variables: Population growth (Oct 5) Agricultural extension and Intensification (Oct 10) Increased water capture (Oct 12) The house-field-town nexus and the decline in its resilience (today, October 24)

4 Qing--Hysteresis Qing Hystereses: Eroded lands Altered watercourses Overtaxed institutions (today we concentrate on household level)

5 P r o d u c t i v i t y R e s I i e n c e Waterworks as illustration of the curvilinear relationship between productivity/intensification and resilience Start with irregular rainfall Build a reservoir Reservoir contains excess in big storms Reservoir retains water in droughts Natural events don’t become disasters Harvests become more reliable Reclaim more land Reservoir can’t release water, exceeds capacity Community more dependent on lands that will flood Natural events become disasters Resilience varies directly with productivity Resilience varies inversely with productivity Intensification

6 The Household Developmental Cycle NuclearStem Joint Nuclear

7 The House-Field-Town Nexus Water Fuel, Wild foods, Ecosystem services Construction materials Forest and Pasture Fields House Village Town Sales, Rents, Taxes Purchases Food, Fiber Fertilizer Wate r Cooperation Figure 3-3 Flows of Household Goods and Services Solid arrows are private goods Dashed arrows are common pool goods Importance of flows is roughly proportional to weights of arrows. Cooperation Affines’ Village Household’s Own Field

8 The house-field-town nexus

9 The house-field-town nexus: materials and ventilation

10 The house-field-town nexus: House plans and spirits

11 The house-field-town nexus: House plans and household structure

12 The house-field-town nexus: The Village as an agglomeration of houses with obligations of reciprocity

13 The house-field-town nexus

14 The house-field-town nexus: Private resources

15 The house-field-town nexus: Resource Commons

16 The house-field-town nexus Market State Landlords

17 Buffers or Guarantors Infrastructure: mostly waterworks Institutions – Kin groups – Irrigation Associations – Temples Beliefs and values: See descriptions in Fei, Yang, Leonard, etc. – Frugality – Recycling – Generational Continuity – Within-community Reciprocity Ecological buffers – Wetlands – Forests: Recall Elvin and Marks – Fallow land – Ungrazed pasture

18 Population Growth in the Qing and PRC www.chinaprofile.com Kent G. Deng, Unveiling China’s true population statistics for the pre-modern era from census data. Population Review 43 (2), 2004

19 food, feed, clothing, construction mat. sales, rents, taxes purchases fertilizers Energy (s+r+t)-p=exploitation Within bounds=moral economy Rough balance Guarantors Infrastructure Institutions Values Eco. buffers Flows in the house-field- town nexus

20 food, feed, clothing, construction mat. sales, rents, taxes purchases fertilizers Energy (s+r+t)-p=exploitation Rough balance Guarantors Infrastructure Institutions Values Eco. buffers Slow variable change in the house-field- town nexus Depletes Topsoil Forest biomass Ground water Game animals, etc

21 food, feed, clothing, construction mat. fertilizers Energy New World crops in hilly areas as slow variables Increases Fertility Population Area Planted Depletes Topsoil Forest biomass Wetland reserves Weakens Guarantors Infrastructure Institutions Values Eco. buffers

22 food, feed, clothing, construction mat. fertilizers Energy Population explosion as slow variable Increases Fertility Population Area Planted Depletes Topsoil Forest biomass Wetland reserves Weakens guarantors Infrastructure maintenance Adaptability of institutions

23 Summary of Loss of Ecosystem Resilience in the Qing Dynasty INSTITUTIONS INFRASTRUCTURE ECOLOGICAL BUFFERS VALUES Wetlands reclaimed Forests converted to grain Pastures grazed more intensely Swidden cycle shortened Strain increased More locked in Maintenance deteriorates Limited adaptation to new environments Reaching capacity in rule-making and adjudication Migration and refugees disturb composition Desperation leads to re-evaluation of self-interest Value transmission and teaching disrupted

24 Positive Feedback Loops Within the House-Field Axis Convert Forest to Arable Increased runoff Soil Loss Flooding Lower Productivity Need for more land

25 Positive Feedback Loops Within the House-Field Axis Reclaim Wetland Lose buffer against storms Flooding Lower Productivity Need for more land

26 Positive Feedback Loops Within the House-Town Axis More demand on granariesLess tax collection Less relief and market grain Decreased resilience in the house-town axis Institutions of granaries and market fail as guarantors Moral economy disrupted Prices rise Less cooperation Tax evasion More state coercion

27 Positive Feedback Loops Between the House-Field and the House- Town Axes Reclaim Wetland Lose buffer against storms Flooding Less reliability of crop Less goods Convert Forest to Arable Decreased resilience in the house-field axis: Ecosystem buffer fails as guarantor More demand on granaries Less tax collection Less relief and market grain Decreased resilience in the house-town axis Institutions of granaries and market fail as guarantors Moral economy disrupted Prices rise Refugees Rebels Decreased resilience on both axes, community institutions and values fail as guarantors

28 Implications for Resilience Theory System can remain in backloop for a long time 100-150 years

29 Implications for Resilience Theory Or chaos of late Qing can be seen as alternative stable state Population Growth Guarantor Weakening Weather events Military actions Increased exploitation Mid-Ming System State Late Qing System State


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