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ANTH 360 Lecture Notes - Banpo, Civi-Dt, Gu Jiegang

Course Code
ANTH 360

of 13
Cradles of Civilization: China
China has an ancient tradition of historical study, but over the last few decades, entered a
Golden Age
Recurring themes in history:
Us vs. them
Center vs. periphery
Attempts at unity vs. diversity
Physical and political isolation vs. cultural interplay
Efforts at modernization vs. traditional conservatism
Tracking the processes of changes in what now amounted to Chinese civilization
The land
A vast territory and huge geographic diversity
Two large zones:
Inner China: AKA China Proper – fertile and densely populated region within…
Outer China – large NW arc with mountains and deserts
Civilization arose in association with agriculture
Centers in agriculturally productive areas
River valleys and floodplains: fertile alluvial soil, irrigation, climate (long growing
seasons, adequate rainfall, and warm), transportation
Outer China
China on a floor of highly metamorphosed rock
Tibetan mountain ranges
Mt Everest (10000m)
Plateau (3500m)
Alpine desert: too cold and too dry
Fertile lowland pockets (e.g. Lhasa)
Pastoral nomadism with yak
Tarim Desert
Inhospitable to agriculture
Dzungaria region
Better watered, with Illi River
In Xinjiang, Turfan Depression (200m below sea level)
Three great river valleys and plains
Huang (north)
Yangzi (central)
Xi (south)
Shorter, with delta near Guangzhou
Civilization rose around Huang and Yangzi
Qin (221-207 BC) and Han (206BC – AD220) conquered much of Outer China
Qing (1644-1911) reconquered these area again
For less than a century, some Mongols controlled parts of Outer China
Inner Mongolia
Long-grass steppe ideal for grazing
Served as the basis for pastoral nomadism (with sheep and goat)
Now mostly farmed
Became Chinese territory since the collapse of Mongol empire in 14C
with economic growth and infrastructure, Chinese farmers moved in and now
outnumber Mongols
grazing economy now commercial (not nomadic): sell animal products
Northeast: AKA Manchuria
Bordered by mountain barriers
Linked to north China by Mountain Sea Gate, a narrow coastal plain
Historically served as the route of invasion and migration
Most areas too cold and too dry for farming; Liao River valley milder, and has fertile
alluvial soil
Commercialized agricultural products: wheat and soybeans
Amur River marks the border with Russia
Yalu River and Changbai shan mark the border with Korea
Rich with coal, iron and petroleum
China Proper
Includes most of the agricultural land, majority of population and roots of civilization
Semi-arid climate river
deposit alluvial soil/silt
extend the coastline
e.g. Shandong used to be an island in the Yellow Sea
the “Sorrow of China”: seasonal fluctuations in volume and recurrent changes in its
course lead to disastrous floods
Drowned people and land, and silting damaged and ruined irrigation works
On the other hand, silt deposits made the area the most fertile agricultural zone
in china
Widespread deposition: river course and delta never stable
Yangzi River
The most important river system in China Proper
Half of Chinese people live in the basin
Especially the delta is densely settled (e.g. Nanjing, Shanghai)
Navigable tributaries:
useful for transportation & trade
Coupled with natural reservoirs (i.e. lakes), reduce flooding
Yangzi navigable for ocean-going ships
Dug gorges in Sichuan
Occasional disastrous flooding
Deforestration since 1949 increased the rates of flooding, erosion, etc
Not as heavily silt-laden as Huang
Delta very fertile, and heavily cultivated
Plains are extending seaward, thanks to silt deposition
Intricate navigable waterways link every settlement
Aided growth of commerce
e.g. shanghai is the largest, most populous and commercialized
cities in modern china