Timber and Forestry in Qing China: Sustaining the Market

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Timber and Forestry in Qing China: Sustaining the Market Author: Editor: K. Sivaramakrishnan Format: Paperback / softback First Published: Published By: University of Washington Press
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Pages: 280 Illustrations and other contents: 4 Illustrations, black and white; 3 Maps; 5 Recorded music items; 8 Tables, black and white Language: English ISBN: 9780295748870 Categories: , , , ,

In the Qing period (1644-1912), China’s population tripled, and the flurry of new development generated unprecedented demand for timber. Standard environmental histories have often depicted this as an era of reckless deforestation, akin to the resource misuse that devastated European forests at the same time. This comprehensive new study shows that the reality was more complex: as old-growth forests were cut down, new economic arrangements emerged to develop renewable timber resources. Historian Meng Zhang traces the trade routes that connected population centers of the Lower Yangzi Delta to timber supplies on China’s southwestern frontier. She documents innovative property rights systems and economic incentives that convinced landowners to invest years in growing trees. Delving into rare archives to reconstruct business histories, she considers both the formal legal mechanisms and the informal interactions that helped balance economic profit with environmental management. Of driving concern were questions of sustainability: How to maintain a reliable source of timber across decades and centuries? And how to sustain a business network across a thousand miles? This carefully constructed study makes a major contribution to Chinese economic and environmental history and to world-historical discourses on resource management, early modern commercialization, and sustainable development.

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[O]ne of the most interesting books for understanding the Chinese system of timber trade during the Qing era. Zhang's book can be useful to us today because we are living in a time of deforestation of the Amazon, climate change, and problems with the actual economic system. The explanation provided by Zhang might be part of the solution for shaping humanity's common future. * H-Net * Zhang's work is superlative... [T]his remarkable book belongs on the shelves and syllabi of any scholar interested in the economical and environmental history of early modern China. * Journal of Asian Studies * For the reader unfamiliar with the details of imperial Chinese political economy, this is a work that is attentive to what you need to know. For the specialist it is skilled in logical weaving together of the impact of a complex set of institutions and practices. This should encourage wide readerhip among comparative historians as well as China scholars. * Journal of Chinese History * This carefully constructed study makes a major contribution to Chinese economic and environmental history and to world-historical discourses on resource management, early modern commercialization, and sustainable development. * New Books Network *

Author Biography

Meng Zhang is assistant professor of history at Vanderbilt University.