Chapter

Introduction

Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley

in Tears from Iron

Published by University of California Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780520253025
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520934221 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253025.003.0001
Introduction

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Between 1876 and 1879, the most lethal drought-famine in imperial China's long history of famines and disasters struck the five northern provinces of Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Zhili, and Shaanxi. The drought in the Yellow River basin began in 1876 and worsened dramatically with the almost total failure of rain in 1877. The lack of consensus over theories of famine causation and over definitions of moral versus immoral responses to the disaster presaged the more extreme breakdown in consensus following the famine over what values were crucial to Chinese identity. The famine thus reveals competing contexts for the consideration of trauma in a key period of transition in late-Qing China. Because the image of innocent human beings starving to death is so disturbing, a famine provides a particularly vivid window through which to view a culture's response to disaster.

Keywords: famine; disaster; China's history; Yellow River drought; late-Qing China

Chapter.  4802 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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