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State and irrigation: archeological and textual evidence of water management in late Bronze Age China

Zhuang, Y; (2017) State and irrigation: archeological and textual evidence of water management in late Bronze Age China. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Water , 4 (4) , Article e1217. 10.1002/WAT2.1217. Green open access

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Abstract

Ancient China remains an important case to investigate the relationship between statecraft development and ‘total power.’ While important economic and social developments were achieved in the late Neolithic, it was not until the late Bronze Age (first millennium BC) that state-run irrigation systems began to be built. Construction of large-scale irrigation projects, along with walls and defensive facilities, became vital to regional states who were frequently involved in chaotic warfare and desperate to increase food production to feed the growing population. Some of the irrigation infrastructures were brought into light by recent archeological surveys. We scrutinize fast accumulating archeological evidence and review rich historical accounts on late Bronze Age irrigation systems. While the credibility of historical documents is often questioned, with a robust integration with archeological data, they provide important information to understand functions and maintenance of the irrigation projects. We investigate structure and organization of large-scale irrigation systems built and run by states and their importance to understanding dynamic trajectories to social power in late Bronze Age China. Cleverly designed based on local environmental and hydrological conditions, these projects fundamentally changed water management and farming patterns, with dramatic ecological consequences in different states. Special bureaucratic divisions were created and laws were made to further enhance the functioning of these large-scale irrigation systems. We argue that they significantly increased productivity by converting previously unoccupied land into fertile ground and pushed population threshold to a new level. A hypothesis should be tested in further archeological research.

Type: Article
Title: State and irrigation: archeological and textual evidence of water management in late Bronze Age China
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1002/WAT2.1217
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1002/WAT2.1217
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1551523
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