In 1931, China suffered a catastrophic flood that claimed millions of lives. This was neither a natural nor human-made disaster. Rather, it was created by an interaction between the environment and society. Regular inundation had long been an integral feature of the ecology and culture of the middle Yangzi, yet by the modern era floods had become humanitarian catastrophes. Courtney describes how the ecological and economic effects of the 1931 flood pulse caused widespread famine and epidemics. He takes readers into the inundated streets of Wuhan, describing the terrifying and disorientating sensory environment. He explains why locals believed that an angry Dragon King was causing the flood, and explores how Japanese invasion and war with the Communists inhibited both official relief efforts and refugee coping strategies. This innovative study offers the first in-depth analysis of the 1931 flood, and charts the evolution of one of China's most persistent environmental problems.
Chris Courtney is an environmental and social historian of modern China. He has lived for over five years in the city of Wuhan, and is passionate about the history and culture of the region. Having completed his Ph.D. at the University of Manchester, he was awarded research fellowships at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge, and at the Asia Research Institute of the National University of Singapore.
Introduction; 1. The Long River ; 2. The flood pulse; 3. The Dragon King ; 4. A sense of disaster; 5. Disaster experts; 6. The floating population; Epilogue.