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The commercialized economy of late imperial China depended on efficient transport, yet transport technologies, transport economics as well as its role in local societies and in interdependencies of environments and human activities are acutely under-researched. Nanny Kim analyses two transports systems into the Southwest of Qing China through the long eighteenth century and up to the mid-nineteenth century civil wars. The case studies explore shipping on the Upper Changjiang in Sichuan and through the Three Gorges into Hubei, and road transport out of the Sichuan Basin across northeastern Yunnan and northwestern Guizhou into central Yunnan. Specific and concrete investigations of a river that presented extreme dangers to navigation and carriage across the crunch zone of the Himalayan Plateau provides a basis for a systematic reconstruction of transport outside the lowland centres and their convenient networks of water transport.
In Reshaping the Frontier Landscape: Dongchuan in Eighteenth-century Southwest China, Fei HUANG examines the process of reshaping the landscape of Dongchuan, a remote frontier city in Southwest China in the eighteenth century. Rich copper deposits transformed Dongchuan into one of the key outposts of the Qing dynasty, a nexus of encounters between various groups competing for power and space. The frontier landscape bears silent witness to the changes in its people’s daily lives and in their memories and imaginations. The literati, officials, itinerant merchants, commoners and the indigenous people who lived there shaped and reshaped the local landscape by their physical efforts and cultural representations. This book demonstrates how multiple landscape experiences developed among various people in dependencies, conflicts and negotiations in the imperial frontier.