Although the flood affected much of the country the core disaster zone was concentrated in eight central provinces. Man Against Flood: A Story of the 1954 Flood on the Yangtse and of the Reconstruction That Followed It. “Sanshi niandai shuizai dui zaimin shehui xinli de yingxiang – yi liang Hudiqu wei li (The Impact of Flooding Upon the Social Pschology of Refugees in the 1930s – Using the example of Hubei and Hunan).” Jianghan Tribune 3. Ch’eng Wen Publishing Company, 1971. “Kuangliu (Raging Torrent)” Zhongguo wusheng dianying juben (Scripts of Chinese silent films). 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. “Climate Changes and Flood/Drought Risk in the Yangtze Delta, China, During the Past Millennium.” Quaternary International 176-177 (2008): 62-69. Those who lived in rural areas foraged for wild wetland food, including aquatic plants, fish, and waterfowl. Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images 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. Picturing disaster: The 1931 Wuhan flood China Dialogue.  Even well maintained dykes would have struggled to cope with this huge deluge. Ye Zhiguo. Although in most areas floodwater had receded by the winter, the problems of waterlogging, infrastructure damage, and refugee displacement continued well into the next spring. Ouyang Tieguang, ‘Zaihuang yu nongmin de shengcun weiji——yi 20 shiji 30 niandai qianqi changjiang zhong xiayou diqu wei zhongxin (Famine and Peasant Crisis Survival － The Middle Yangzi Region in the 1930s)’, 7 (2006).  The total economic losses were equal to one and a half year’s net income per family. This video will show the 1931 China flood causes, effects and controversies. Finally, Chris Courtney has examined popular religious interpretations of the 1931 flood in the city of Wuhan. Severe flooding in Hankou, China in September of 1931. 100,000+ St. Felix's Flood, storm surge Holy Roman Empire: 1530 6. At the time of the floods, China was attacking itself.  Contemporary media reports contain numerous descriptions of such behavior see for example Guo Jingrong, Guo wen zhoukan 8, no. Report of the National Flood Relief Commission 1931-1932. High quality photographs of the disaster were published in the Illustrated London News. Yin Hongfu, Liu Guangrun, Pi Jiangao, Chen Guojin and Li Changan, “On the River–Lake Relationship of the Middle Yangtze Reaches,” Geomorphology 85 (2007): 197–207. 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. “Ping 1931 nian Jiang-Huai shuizai jiuji zhong de Meimai jiekuan (The role of the US Wheat Loan in the 1931 Yangzi-Huai Flood Relief Effort).” Journal of Shandong Normal University 56, no. Zhongguo jindai shi da zaihuang, pp.207-208. The floods killed crops, washed out grain storage facilities, leveled houses, and destroyed roads. By early August 1931 one of the most populous regions in the world was under water.  The commission employed a range of Chinese and foreign experts, including figures such as famous epidemiologist Wu Liande, health minister Liu Ruiheng, public health worker John Grant, and hydraulic engineer Oliver Todd. Reposted from Disasterhistory.org. Yan Gao. Rewi Alley, one of the Maoist regime’s most ardent foreign supporters, published an English language study entitled Man Against Flood, which employed a similar methodology.  Some remained on nearby hillsides or surviving stretches of the dyke network, whilst others headed to cities in search of shelter and food.  Given the overwhelming importance of rehabilitating the dyke network, the deleterious economic consequences of the relief loan might seem justifiable. 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. Large Images: July 18, 2007 (3.43 MB JPG) ; May 10, 2007 (2.18 MB JPG) ; Unusually heavy summer rains led to widespread flooding across central China in June and July 2007. The city of Nanjing, then the capital of Republican China, was also severely affected by the disaster. Wang Lin. Song Lingling, ed. The Shanghai-based Christian periodical The Chinese Recorder offers particular insight into the involvement of missionaries in the relief effort. :269–270 Large numbers gathered on flood islands throughout the city, with 30,000 sheltering on a railway embankment in central Hankou. Vol. This may have been the result of the El Niño Southern Oscillation. In 1931 Central China experienced a devastating flood that inundated an area equivalent in size of England and half of Scotland, affected the lives of an estimated 52 million people, and killed as many as 2 million. Source: Zhongyang ribao, 3 September 1931; image provided by the author.  Although such responses were both socially stigmatised and legally prohibited, they helped refugees to survive a period of acute deprivation. Although partly the result of unsustainable patterns of agricultural expansion, Zhang Jiayan argues that this crisis also reflected the entrenched political and economic difficulties experienced by governments during the late Qing and early Republic (1800s to 1928). “Combatting the Famine Dragon.” News Bulletin (Institute of Pacific Relations), April 1928. They sit stoically awaiting death. Fang Choumei had explored how a breakdown in hydraulic governance under the Guomindang left Wuhan vulnerable to inundation. Comparatively, that’s an area almost equal to the whole of England plus half of Scotland. Agricultural Instability in China, 1931-1990: Weather, Technology, and Institutions.  Growing numbers of freshwater snails caused a spike in the infection rate of an endemic wetland disease called schistosomiasis. Clubb, Communism in China, p.105.  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. “Fangxun xianduan longwangmiao. Since the 1980s Chinese historians have adopted a much more nuanced approach to the history of disasters. Wu Zongmo, and Wang Weichun, Wuhan difangzhi (Gazetteer of Wuhan).  The water flowing through the Yangtze reached its highest level since record-keeping began in the mid-nineteenth century. – “Une cycle hydraulique en Chine: La province du Hubei du xvle au xixe siècles (A hydraulic cycle in China: The province of Hubei from the sixteenth through nineteenth centuries).” Bulletin de l’école Française d’Extreme Orient 68 (1980): 261–288. 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.  In the summer China experienced an extremely powerful East Asian Monsoon. Widespread population displacement and the destruction of sanitation systems provided perfect conditions for a number of pathogenic microbes. Useless to the State “Social Problems” and Social Engineering in Nationalist Nanjing, 1927-1937. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007.  As the scale of the disaster became apparent, the government established the National Flood Relief Commission (NFRC) under the auspices Song Ziwen (T.V. 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. 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. Picturing disaster: the 1931 wuhan flood china dialogue central floods chris courtney. As a result, most available media reports were those published outside the disaster zone. Buck, John Lossing, ed. 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. Time Magazine  To an extent these staggeringly high death tolls were an inevitable consequence of widespread population displacement. Explore. The Central China Flood may have killed as many as 3.7 million people. The flood elicited a generous national and international charitable response, with overseas Chinese communities providing particularly large donations. Qiu Huafei, “1931 nian Zhong-Mei xiaomai jiekuan deshi yanjiu (A Study of the 1931 Sino-American Wheat Loan Issue)” Jianghai xuekan 2 (2001). “Thinking Big: League of Nations Efforts towards a Reformed National Health System in China.” In Uneasy Encounters: The Politics of Medicine and Health in China 1900-1937, edited by Iris Borowy. In July alone rain totaling over 2 feet  However, due to a lack of funding and the chaos of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the subsequent Chinese Civil War, the various commissions were only able to construct small dams along the Yangtze River. Rowe, William T. Crimson Rain: Seven Centuries of Violence in a Chinese County. , Meteorological causes and physical consequences, harvnb error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFNational_Flood_Relief_Commission1933 (, sfn error: multiple targets (2×): CITEREFNational_Flood_Relief_Commission1933 (. In 1931 Central China experienced a devastating flood that inundated an area equivalent in size of England and half of Scotland, affected the lives of an estimated 52 million people, and killed as many as 2 million. Liang, M.T. Having finally secured financial backing, the NFRC now had to distribute a huge quantity of relief throughout the disaster zone. Yet it was not the only response to the disaster.  With sanitation systems destroyed and refugees crowding into limited areas of dry ground, deadly diseases soon began decimating rural and urban citizens alike. Wu, W. A. Gough, T. Jiang, and H.T. With no food, people were reduced to eating tree bark, weeds, and earth. Hubei sheng yijiusanyi nian shuizai dang’an xuanbian (Selected documents relating to the 1931 flood in Hubei Province).  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. Around a tenth of the Chinese population was affected; over two million people died, either by drowning or by the subsequent famine and epidemics. An additional area of 12,500 km2 was inundated but less seriously affected. The Hubei Provincial Archives collated a range of primary source material – including government telegrams, police reports, etc. Wang Shaowu. Zhang Bo. Chen, Janet Y. 144 (2006): 29–37. The ultimate cause of the 1931 Central China Flood lay in the long-term interaction between human communities and river basins. Source: The Report of the National Flood Relief Commission Throughout the whole Yangtze Valley around 15% of the wheat and rice crops were destroyed, with the proportion being much higher in the flood-affected areas. W. A. Gough, T. Jiang, and H.T. Throughout the second millennium CE, the Middle Yangzi province of Hubei witnessed a repetitive pattern of growth and collapse, described by Pierre-Étienne Will as a “hydraulic cycle.” Later Peter Perdue identified a similar developmental pattern in neighbouring Hunan during the Ming and Qing dynasties. “Possible influence of ENSO on annual maximum streamflow of the Yangtze River, China.” Journal of Hydrology 333 (2007): 265– 274. In fact, the mortality rate in relief camps was much higher than that found in rural communities. Wu Jiping. Clubb, O. Edmund. The physical inundation of the landscape began in the late spring of 1931. In Gaoyou County alone, 18,000 people drowned and 58,000 died due to famine and diseases the following year. This was actually an estimate of the number of people drowned, which did not account for o… This is based the figure published in the first few pages of The Report of the National Flood Relief Commission, 1931-1932. 62-69. , Scientists and officials who raised doubts, such as Chen Mingshu, were persecuted as rightists.  A cholera epidemic in the subsequent year, from May 1932, was officially reported to have 31,974 deaths and 100,666 cases. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007. 2 (2001). (Herafter NFRC). Pi Mingxiu eds. As rival militarists had vied for control of China’s regions over the previous decade, many of the traditional government disaster relief functions had been taken over by the Sino-foreign organisations, such as the China International Famine Relief Commission (CIFRC). (The Collected Works of Ding Ling Vol 3. There was no warning, only a sudden great wall of water. London: The Albatross, 1947. Hubei shengzhi (Gazetteer of Hubei Province). London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. 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. Wuhan: Wuhan chubanshe, 1994. “The Variation of Floods in the Middle Reaches of the Yangtze River and its teleconnection with El Niño events.” Advances in Geosciences, February 2006: 201-205. North China famine, 1876-79.  Pietz, Engineering the State, pp.  Lillian M. Li, Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s-1990s (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), p.306. 2373-2396. Social Responses: The official relief effort has been the major focus of most historical studies of the 1931 flood. Refugees had been arriving in the city of Wuhan since the late spring. The burden of evidence, including that provided by the study itself, suggests that this figure underestimates the extent of mortality by a large margin. The first is the figure of 140,000 fatalities which has been reproduced in some English language studies of the period.  Pi Mingxiu eds. Charity poured in to help with the relief effort from throughout the world, with overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia being particularly generous.  The disaster also caused an economic shock with the price of vital commodities rising rapidly. The Central China Flood of 1931 extended over the whole of the Yangtse Valley and inundated 70,000 square miles and 8.5 million acres of farmland. In 1931, the greatest natural disaster ever recorded happened in China. Over 100,000 people were killed in the immediate floods, but the survivors had problems of their own. Ding Ling quanji 3. 1 (June 2006): 66-108. Soong), a prominent politician in the Guomindang and brother-in-law of Chiang Kai-shek..  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. Historians such as Zhang Bo and Kong Xiangcheng have focussed upon the role that local and national governments played in the relief effort. Yet history was to prove that even these infrastructural improvements, which were seen as the crowning achievement of the NFRC, were not as successful as had been assumed.  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. Zhongyang Ribao. Two Decades in China.  Some Western sources allege that death toll of between 3.7 and 4 million people based on their own claims of famine and disease. Micah Muscolino. Under favourable meteorological and political conditions the human management of river systems gave rise to a thriving agricultural economy and stable society. Guilty of Indigence: The Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953 . The combined ecological and economic impacts of the disaster caused many areas to descend into famine.  For Chinese politicians the 1931 flood represented an opportunity to reassert national control over the relief infrastructure, and also to display the modern scientific approach to disaster response that would be adopted by the nascent Guomindang regime. Borowy, Iris. 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. 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.  In another camp in Jiangxi, 2,476 of the 20,249 refugees died in just three months, constituting an annual mortality rate of 48.9%. According to Jonathan Spence (The Search for Modern China, p.434) it flooded an area the size of New York state. Great Leap famine, 1958-62 (Urban Perspective) Lauri Paltemaa. 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. Ka-Che Yip, 103-120 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009), p.104. Xinminbao – and published a volume entitled Selected Archival Materials on the 1931 Flood Disaster in Hubei (Hubei sheng yijiusanyi nian shuizai dang’an xuanbian). 29–37. Mortality: 2 Million. Shuili , Whilst the assessment offered in official reports was overwhelmingly positive, in reality the relief campaign was not entirely successful. During this period, revenue intended for the construction and maintenance of the dykes was often embezzled or redirected for military spending. The biggest killer was disease, which accounted for 70% of all fatalities. The Yangzi and Huai were the most seriously affected rivers, with devastating flooding also affecting the Yellow River and Grand Canal. As the scale of the disaster became apparent, the government established the National Flood Relief Commission under the auspices of T.V. Pierre Fuller. Wuhan: Wuhan daxue chubanshe, 1989. The first is the figure of 140,000 fatalities which has been reproduced in some English language studies of the period. Zhang Jiayan.  Eventually, the NFRC managed to negotiate a number of wheat and flour loans from the US government. Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1992. van de Ven, Hans J. “Save life!”: Chinese newspaper cartoon from 1931. In 1931, China experienced arguably the most lethal flood in history. 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