The survival of members of flood-stricken communities cannot be explained simply by examining charity and relief. [39] The flood began in late spring yet the first shipments of American relief grain only arrived in Shanghai in November. New York: Columbia University Press, 1964. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007. Those who lived in rural areas foraged for wild wetland food, including aquatic plants, fish, and waterfowl. Bourdillon” February 23rd 1932 John Hope Simpson Papers, Folder 6 (i), Balliol College Archives, Oxford; North China Herald, “Wuhan Cities Faced With Famine Conditions” August 25th 1931. [31][32], Meteorological causes and physical consequences, harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFNational_Flood_Relief_Commission1933 (, sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFNational_Flood_Relief_Commission1933 (. "[30], In 1953, after the end of the Chinese Civil War, Chinese Communist Party leader Mao Zedong traveled to areas neighboring the Yangtze River to promote the Three Gorges Dam flood control project. Lipkin, Zwia. Shijiazhuang: Hebei Renmin Chubanshe, 2001 [1933]. Report of the National Flood Relief Commission 1931-1932. “Zaihuang yu nongmin de shengcun wiiji——yi 20 shiji 30 niandai qianqi changjiang zhong xiayou diqu wei zhongxin. The core flood zone comprised the eight provinces of Anhui, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Henan, and Shandong. [14] Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981). Forgotten China Flood of 1931 – The Most Devastating Flood of the 20 th century,. With no food, people were reduced to eating tree bark, weeds, and earth. “Lun zhengfu zai zaihuang jiuji zhong de zuoyong – yi Wuhan 1931 nian shuizai wei ge’an de kaocha (An Examination of the Effectiveness of Government Disaster Relief – Using the Wuhan flood 1931 as a Case Study).” Jianghan Tribune, December 2006: 87-90. Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images Hanyang xianzhi (Gazetteer of Hanyang County). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2014. The biggest killer was disease, which accounted for 70% of all fatalities. On Hunan see Peter C. Perdue, Exhausting the Earth: State and Peasant in Hunan, 1500-1850 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987). When the city itself was inundated in the early summer and after a catastrophic dike failure at just before 6:00 AM on July 27,[20]:270 around 782,189 urban citizens and rural refugees were left homeless. Zhang Qiang, Xu Chongyu, Jiang Tong, and Wu Yijin. By August of 1931, the Yellow, Yangtze, and Huai Rivers had all flooded so badly that most of central China was submerged. Initial attempts to fund the relief effort through issuing bonds failed due to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, which had caused the bond market to collapse. [8] The water flowing through the Yangtze reached its highest level since record-keeping began in the mid-nineteenth century. 144 (2006): 29–37. In 1931, China experienced arguably the most lethal flood in history. Ordinarily, the region experienced three periods of high water during the spring, summer and fall, respectively; however, in early 1931, there was a single continuous deluge. Saving the Nation: Economic Modernity in Republican China. Shanghai: Shanghai tushuguan cangshu, 1932. [20] Ka-Che Yip, “Disease, Society and the State: Malaria and Healthcare in Mainland China,” in Disease, Colonialism, and the State: Malaria in Modern East Asian History, ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987. 230,000: 1975 Banqiao Dam failure: 1975 4. Eventually the region descended into hydraulic crisis, with low-level water control problems being punctuated by catastrophic flood disasters. Ye Zhiguo. Song Lingling, ed. These periodic crises only began to abate when the state once again began to invest in the dyke network, thereby beginning the hydraulic cycle anew. Having landed the relief grain, the NFRC then had to transport it upstream through hostile territory, where bandits and Communists attacked boats, commandeered supplies, and kidnapped relief workers. The neglected hydraulic defences that protected human communities living alongside the Yangzi and Huai Rivers stood little chance. (Famine and Peasant Crisis Survival – The Middle Yangzi Region in the 1930s)” Huaihua xueyuan xuebao 7 (2006 ). In July alone rain totaling over 2 feet Frankfurt and New York: Peter Lang, 2009. The city of Nanjing, then the capital of Republican China, was also severely affected by the disaster. He estimated that approximately 2 million people had been killed nationwide as a result of the 1931 flood. Probably the most famous Chinese language response was a short story entitled Water (Shui) by the acclaimed left-wing novelist Ding Ling. The relief effort become much more difficult following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in the autumn of 1931, which caused the Chinese bond market to collapse. Yellow River flood, 1938-47. Heavy rainfall has led to severe flooding in much of southern China. Kung Y.J. Flood victims employed a sophisticated repertoire of coping strategies based upon a deep knowledge of their natural and social environments. Comparatively, that’s an area almost equal to the whole of England plus half of Scotland. Buck, Pearl S. The First Wife and Other Stories. This is based the figure published in the first few pages of The Report of the National Flood Relief Commission, 1931-1932. [19], As well as inundating rural areas, the flood caused widespread destruction to a number of cities. This story map was created with the Story Map Journal application in ArcGIS Online. The catastrophic flood that struck China in the summer of 1931 was neither a natural nor a human-made disaster – it was both. Useless to the State “Social Problems” and Social Engineering in Nationalist Nanjing, 1927-1937. Close. (Herafter NFRC). Zhang Jiayan. By early August 1931 one of the most populous regions in the world was under water. 900,000–2,000,000 1887 Yellow River (Huang He) flood: 1887 3. Science. Zhongguo jindai shi da zaihuang, pp.207-208. The burden of evidence, including that provided by the study itself, suggests that this figure underestimates the extent of mortality by a large margin. Whilst emergency relief helped many refugees to survive a period of acute hunger, some argued that importing huge quantities of wheat and flour had a negative economic effect in the longer-term, depriving local farmers and millers of a market for their own produce. [30] The relief effort was also described as an important progressive step in establishing the legitimacy of the new government and undermining the threat from Communism. In 1931, the greatest natural disaster ever recorded happened in China. This was actually an estimate of the number of people drowned, which did not account for other flood-related deaths. Wu Yijin, William A. Gough, Jiang Tong, Wang Xuelei, and Jin Weibin. Wuhan tongshi: Minguo juan (xia) (A Comprehensive History of Wuhan: The Republican Period (Part Two) (Wuhan: Wuhan Chubanshe, 2006). [29], As part of an anti-superstition campaign by the Kuomintang Government, a Dragon King Temple was demolished in Wuhan shortly before the flood hit. His forthcoming monograph provides an environmental and social history of the disaster. [20] Growing numbers of freshwater snails caused a spike in the infection rate of an endemic wetland disease called schistosomiasis. The Central China Flood may have killed as many as 3.7 million people. Fifty million people were affected when all three of China’s greatest rivers combined in a flood of biblical proportions between July and October 1931. Agricultural Instability in China, 1931-1990: Weather, Technology, and Institutions. Outside China, the flood has received relatively little attention. Wu, W. A. Gough, T. Jiang, and H.T. [7] In the summer China experienced an extremely powerful East Asian Monsoon. (Flood protection danger zone— the Dragon King Temple )” In Wuhan zhanggu, edited by Xiao Zhihua and Yan Changhong Yan. This is a lengthy monograph published shortly after the disaster by a journalist named Xie Qianmao, who became a refugee after his home city of Wuhan was flooded. David Pietz’s Engineering the State provides one of the most detailed analyses, including a chapter on the flood in his study of the Huai River Conservancy. Chen, Janet Y. Hong Kong: Chinese University press, 1985. by Stuart R. Schram (Hong Kong: Chinese University press, 1985). The two figures cited most commonly are both problematic. Across China, 160.000 square kilometers of farmland and townships were submerged. Excessive deforestation, wetland reclamation, and the over-extension of river dyke networks transformed regular flood pulses, which were an integral feature of the fluvial ecosystem, into destructive inundations, which wrought chaos upon human communities. The rivers of Huai, Yellow and Yangtze had managed to burst all the dikes and flood waters enveloped regions much bigger than the whole area of England. Other diseases, such as measles and smallpox, proliferated due to widespread overcrowding. This survey offers a wealth of information for economic historians. The Hubei Provincial Government published a hagiographic study entitled The Party Leads the People to Victory over the Flood (Dang lingdao renmin zhanshenle hongshui), which included photographs, propaganda cartoons, and oral testimony designed to highlight the distinctions between the bitter past in 1931 and sweet present during the 1954 floods. In July of that year alone, nine cyclones hit the region, which was significantly above the average of two per year. “Xinyang yu Quanzheng: 1931 nian Gaoyou ‘Da Chenghuang’ Fengchao zhi Yanjiu. Historians such as Zhang Bo and Kong Xiangcheng have focussed upon the role that local and national governments played in the relief effort. “Climatic Jumps in the Flood/Drought Historical Chronology of Central China.” Climate Dynamics 6 (1992): 153-160. Wuhan: Wuhan chubanshe, 1989. Wu Changzhe and Wu Liande. London: Routledge, 2002. “The Floods of China, a National Disaster.” Journal of Geography 31 (January/December 1932): 199-206. [42] Finally, Anne Lindbergh wrote a memoir describing her flight over the disaster zone, which also charts her husband’s failed attempt to provide medical supplies to flood refugees. Jiang Tong, Zhang Qiang, Zhu Deming, and Wu Yijin. Yaxi yabao [41] Contemporary media reports contain numerous descriptions of such behavior see for example Guo Jingrong, Guo wen zhoukan 8, no. Since the 1980s Chinese historians have adopted a much more nuanced approach to the history of disasters. USA: Tess Press, 2004 [1935]. From 1928 to 1930, China was afflicted by a long drought. Zhongguo jiuhuang shi (A History of Chinese Famine Relief). Vol. The huge transhipment of foreign grain was described at the time as an act of charity, yet the terms of the loan strongly favoured the Americans, who had long been seeking a means of offloading an economically damaging wheat surplus. Yan Gao. History focused instead on other disasters that year. China Changes. [19] With sanitation systems destroyed and refugees crowding into limited areas of dry ground, deadly diseases soon began decimating rural and urban citizens alike. When expanded to cover the entire period of the humanitarian catastrophe, which lasted approximately one year, it would seem that the original figure of 2 million deaths published by the National Flood Relief Commission is by no means an unreasonable estimate. In spite of these considerable efforts by the summer of 1931 the NFRC was in dire economic straits. In this manner, the flood not only led to an acute period of hunger but also further entrenched long-term destitution and inequality. The Great Flood of 1931 - China Ariel view of the flood: The deadliest natural disaster ever recorded occurred through the winter, spring, and summer of 1931 in central China. Ships importing grain into Shanghai had to negotiate a passage through the ships of the Japanese Navy, which were engaged in a conflict with Chinese troops in the city in early 1932. These storms dumped the equivalent of one and a half times the average annual volume of precipitation in a single month. [29] The project was restarted in the 1980s, and the hydroelectric Three Gorges Dam began full operation in 2012, becoming the world's largest power station in terms of installed capacity. Shenghuo In early 1931, melting snow and ice flowed downstream and arrived in the middle course of the Yangtze during a period of heavy spring rain. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012. Glantz, Michael H (2003). The 1931 flood is indeed regarded as one … Lillian Li’s Fighting Famine in North China includes a brief description of the disaster, based primarily upon literature produced by the relief industry, in which she provides a relatively positive assessment of official responses. [9] Even well maintained dykes would have struggled to cope with this huge deluge. By June, those living in low areas had already been forced to abandon their homes. The University of Nanjing study implies, although never explicitly states, a death toll of 625,000 for the first one hundred days of the flood. In Uneasy Encounters, Iris Borowy highlights the efforts made by the League of Nations to assist in the medical response to the disaster. This was based upon research conducted by team of academics from the University of Nanjing under the leadership of the renowned agricultural economist John Lossing Buck. Da Gongbao [16], The flood destroyed huge amounts of housing and farmland. Nongmin jiaoyu [6] This combination of unsustainable growth and systemic neglect culminated in a series of catastrophic floods, which struck the Yangzi basin throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2005. Government Responses: The 1931 flood was one of the first major tests from the Nanjing Government, which had established tentative control over much of the Republic of China in 1927. [23] For a classic study of this organization see Andrew James Nathan, A History of the China International Famine Relief Commission (Cambridge, Mass. This coincidence led to widespread discontent afterward, as many locals linked the disaster to the anger of Dragon King, a rainmaking deity. Third encirclement campaign against the Jiangxi Soviet, The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time, "NOAA'S top global weather, water and climate events of the 20th century", Agricultural Instability in China, 1931–1990: Weather, Technology, and Institutions, "Forgotten history revealed: The grandson of a man involved in relief efforts after China's worst flood", "The Great Floods Of 1931 At Gaoyou: August 26, 1931 – The Floods Come", "An Analysis of Flood and Social Risks Based on the 1931 Changjiang & Huai River Flood During the Republic of China", "Extremely heavy meiyu over the Yangtze and Huaihe vaneies in 1931", https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=1931_China_floods&oldid=993262179, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, Ni, Wencai (2006). (Accessed at www.archive.org). [40] NFRC, p.62. Contemporary studies conducted by John Lossing Buck allege that at least 150,000 people had drowned in the first few months of the flood, with hundreds of thousands more dying of starvation and disease over the following year. 65-68; Qiu Huafei, “1931 nian Zhong-Mei xiaomai jiekuan deshi yanjiu (A Study of the 1931 Sino-American Wheat Loan Issue)” Jianghai xuekan, no. Widespread population displacement and the destruction of sanitation systems provided perfect conditions for a number of pathogenic microbes. National Flood Relief Commission 1931-1932. Engineering the State: The Huai River and Reconstruction in Nationalist China, 1927-1937. [7] William Barrett, The Red Lacquered Gate: The Early Days of the Columban Fathers and the Courage of its Founder Fr. 1 Comment As another part of our series on historic floods, here we look at the devastating floods that hit central China in 1931, one of which hit the Yangtze River with huge loss of life, and that particular flood is thought to be one of the deadliest floods of modern times. War and Nationalism in China 1925-1945. Wuhan tongshi: Minguo juan (xia) (A Comprehensive History of Wuhan: The Republican Period (Part Two) (Wuhan: Wuhan Chubanshe, 2006), p.222. Chris Courtney is a Research Fellow in Chinese History at Gonville and Caius College, University of Cambridge. According to Jonathan Spence (The Search for Modern China, p.434) it flooded an area the size of New York state. The flood also provided a perfect habitat for mosquitoes, which gave rise to a malaria outbreak that eventually killed an estimated 300,000 people. [5] A popular high-end estimate of 3.7 to 4.0 million fatalities "enjoys great currency online, helping the 1931 flood to secure its position on sensationalist lists of the world’s deadliest disasters."[1]. Alley, Rewi. In 1931, a 4-month long flood disaster killed 3.7 Million people and displaced another 14 Million. 261–288. Many rural communities were homeless and stranded without food, and without any way for aid to reach them. “Combatting the Famine Dragon.” News Bulletin (Institute of Pacific Relations), April 1928. Perdue, Peter C. Exhausting the Earth: State and Peasant in Hunan, 1500-1850. They sit stoically awaiting death. Yorke, Gerald. [9] John Lossing Buck eds. Wu Jiping. 100,000+ St. Felix's Flood, storm surge Holy Roman Empire: 1530 6. [13] In the short term this led to what Amartya Sen has described as “entitlement failure.”[14] It also had a longer-term detrimental impact upon the economic prospects of many households. The Yellow River and Grand Canal also experienced major flooding, whilst there were lessor inundations from as far south as the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang), which flows through the city of Guangzhou (Canton), to as far north as the Songhua and Yalu Rivers, which flow to the north of Korea. This name, however, fails to capture the massive scale of flooding. As a response, prominent officials, including He Baohua, mayor of Wuhan, and Xia Douyin, then the local garrison commander and later governor of Hubei Province, held ritual ceremonies and kowtowed to the deity. Others employed more desperate strategies, begging, stealing, and engaging in prostitution. This meant that large cities offered little respite for refugees displaced from rural areas. Most of Wuhan's buildings in those days were only one story high, and for many people there was no escape- they died by the tens of thousands. In Chinese this event is usually described as the Yangzi-Huai Flood (Jiang-Huai shuizai), yet the disaster was not limited to these two rivers. “State Intervention in the Administration of a Hydraulic Infrastructure: The Example of Hubei Province in Late Imperial Times.” In The Scope of State Power in China, edited by Stuart R. Schram. 29–37. [37] Pietz, Engineering the State, pp. In fact, the mortality rate in relief camps was much higher than that found in rural communities. The snowstorms were then followed by a spring thaw and heavy rain which raised the water levels considerably. [29] The project did not move beyond the planning stage in Mao's time, due to a lack of resources, rising Sino-Soviet tensions and the disruptions of the Great Leap Forward. Conditions such as dysentery, typhoid, and cholera, were disseminated directly through contaminated water or through insect vectors. [41] Although such responses were both socially stigmatised and legally prohibited, they helped refugees to survive a period of acute deprivation. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007. One unfortunate consequence of the flood was the inundation of printing presses. Over 100,000 people were killed in the immediate floods, but the survivors had problems of their own. by Peiwei Zheng and Guiqing Liu (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1996). Guilty of Indigence: The Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953 . When the Yangzi experienced high levels of precipitation in 1935 many of the dykes in the region collapsed once again, exposing the beleaguered population of the region to another catastrophic flood.[38]. On 1931 as an El Niño year see Ross Couper-Johnston, El Niño: The Weather Phenomenon that Changed the World (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2001), pp.128-129. Hubei Provincial Archives collated a range of primary source material – including government telegrams, police,. 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