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Full Access Heirs of Yu the Great: Flood Relief in 1740s China

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Heirs of Yu the Great: Flood Relief in 1740s China

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image of T'oung Pao

This article presents a case study of the bureaucratic response to devastating floods that struck northern Jiangsu and Anhui provinces in 1746. It is based on the detailed official directives preserved in an anonymous casebook of administrative correspondence. The work offers revealing glimpses into the world of a senior official striving to balance correct bureaucratic procedure with prompt, meticulous attention to the pressing needs of over 800,000 flood victims. The article highlights some noteworthy features of the approach to flood relief reflected in the casebook, thereby complementing previous scholarship on the state's response to drought in the same period and refining our understanding of some points of procedure. The material arguably represents Qing famine-relief efforts at their peak of conscientiousness, on the eve of a long era of decline. Concluding reflections place the study in a larger, cross-cultural framework, identifying possible implications for the diplomacy of human rights in our own day. L'étude de cas présentée dans cet article porte sur la réponse de la bureaucratie aux inondations dévastatrices qui affligèrent les provinces du Jiangsu et du Anhui en 1746. Elle s'appuie sur les directives officielles détaillées conservées dans un recueil anonyme de correspondance administrative. L'ouvrage livre des aperçus révélateurs de l'univers d'un haut fonctionnaire s'efforçant de jongler entre l'application correcte de la réglementation et une attention immédiate et méticuleuse aux besoins urgents de plus de 800 000 victimes d'inondations. L'article met en lumière quelques traits remarquables des méthodes adoptées pour secourir ces dernières, ce qui permet de compléter les travaux antérieurs consacrés à l'action contre la sécheresse pendant ces mêmes années et d'affiner notre compréhension sur certains points de procédure. Les matériaux analysés représentent probablement les efforts pour combattre la famine sous les Qing au maximum de leur efficacité, avant une longue période de déclin. Les remarques de conclusion replacent cette étude dans une perspective interculturelle plus large et suggèrent de possibles implications pour la diplomatie des droits de l'homme aujourd'hui même.

Affiliations: 1: University of Sydney


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