Historical Geography Research ›› 2021, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (3): 22-33.

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The Technological, Environmental and Political Elements Behind Institution: The Case Study of the Special Annual Repair Funds of Chai'tang During the Qing Dynasty

Wang Daxue   

  1. Center for Historical Geographical Studies, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
  • Received:2021-04-22 Online:2021-08-20 Published:2021-10-14

Abstract:

The large-scale reconstruct from Chai'tang (seawalls which built with firewoods) to Shi'tang (stone sewalls) in Zhejiang Province began with the fifth Southern Tour of the Qianlong Emperor. Qianlong hoped to achieve monumental feats through the Grand Canal engineering and seawall projects, so he ordered to wait for an opportunity to change the Chai'tang into Shi'tang, which need not rebuilt. He stressed that the Chai'tang should be used as the water tank and it need not paired annually as this practice violated the technical requirements of Shi'tang revetment project. Qianlong was well aware that if the indirect embankment protect works was still needed to be constructed and maintained for the new Shi'tang, it would undoubtedly show that his decision was wrong. When the courtiers talked about the need to build apron or repair the Chai'tang annually, which acted as an external protection for Shi'tang, his reaction was as follows: he repeatedly claimed that Chai'tang as an external protection for Shi'tang did not need to be repaired. He passed the blame for the decision-making mistakes on to the relevant courtiers, and vaguely or explicitly ordered the imperial commissioner to pass the responsibilities to local stakeholders. Even though the emperor tried his best to maintain that his decisions were correct, the objective technical requirements eventually convinced him to approve the special silver system of Chai'tang Annual Repairing, which also explained the initial decision was improper. The whole process shows that technology and environment often take a back seat to politics when it comes to the institutional issues of large public water projects in ancient times.The complexity of history is highlighted by the interweaving of institutional, technological, environmental and political factors.

Key words: the institution of Annual Repairing Funds, technology, environment, political, Qianlong Period

CLC Number: 

  • K928