Reaping the Benefits of Water: A Political Epistemology of Shuili (1000–1100) (Xu Chun)

In the eleventh century, the language of shuili, or “reaping the benefits of water”, gained political salience. This research situates the concept of shuili in the context of the Xifeng Reforms, foregrounding the practical knowledges and technologies that informed the particular meanings of shuili. The reformists’ idea that the state should actively reap the benefits of water, among other resources Heaven and Earth could offer, symbolizes a rearticulation of statecraft since the early years of the Song. Whereas the New Policies faction actively employed emerging technologies of statistics, cartography, topography and agronomy to advance their shuili programme, the conservatives disputed the validity of shuili as a category of knowledge and legitimate political action. Nonetheless, the vocabularies of shuili created, and the technologies of shuili materialized a domain of statecraft in which state intervention was called for and could be exercised.

水利:十一世纪的政治认识论 (徐淳)



Good Dikes: Farming Communities and Scholarly Knowledge Production in Early Modern China (1500–1850)  (Wang You)

Jiangnan (the Greater Shanghai Area today) has been China’s economic and cultural center for nearly a millennium. Since at least the eleventh century, scholars had debated over the best measure to engineer local waterscape. In its lowland, polders — arable land enclosed by dikes — were crucial to protect rice paddies from flooding and ensure agricultural harvest and economic prosperity and thereby at the center of scholarly discussion.

This study examines the efforts to explore and promote proper dike-building techniques in Jiangnan’s lowland between roughly 1500 and 1850, a period loosely referred to as early modern China. In particular, it investigates two analytically distinctive but practically intertwined approaches to produce agricultural knowledge and build dikes — the external approach advanced by outside scholars and the communal approach by some residential landowners. In the external approach, scholars viewed rural communities as part of the problem and attempted to impose strict and universal dike standards over “lazy farmers” and discipline farmer-laborers via compulsory official powers. Especially in the early nineteenth century, a new approach to waterscape engineering occurred. Refusing the standards of effective dikes set by outsider knowledge, practitioners of this approach trusted farmers with their in situ knowledge and critical skills best able to design their own dikes. Rather than attempting to coerce farmers to work arduously under official supervision — what James Scott terms “seeing like a state” — this communal approach acknowledged the multiple tasks farmers routinely faced and attempted to minimize dike-building workload while ensuring necessary hydraulic maintenance. Based on cumulative experiences of farming communities, the communal approach attempted to achieve an optimal alignment between feasibility and outcomes. The faceless “idle” farmers in the earlier agronomic and hydraulic discussion were transformed into active agents of knowledge with relevant experience in lowland waterscape management.

筑圩:明清江南的乡村知识与水利学问 (王悠)


本研究考察了明末到清代嘉庆年间,诸多文人在江南低地探索和推广合适的筑圩技术的努力。本文尤其突出了两类生产农业知识的取径:由外来学者提出的外来取径和由在地地主提出的本土取径。在外来取径中,学者们将村民的懒惰视为圩岸不修的原因之一,并试图将严格的“普适性”筑圩标准强加其上,并通过强制性的官方权力来约束村民的圩岸筑造。而嘉庆年间兴起的本土取径则否定此类由外来权威设定的堤坝标准的有效性。与之相反,他们相信村民拥有设计和筑造最合适圩岸的知识和能力。这种本土取径并不试图强迫村民在官方监督下艰苦工作,而是体认村民面临的繁重负担,并试图在确保必要的水利维护的同时尽量减少筑圩的工作量。这类本土取径在基于乡村社会的累积经验,并试图实现可行性和结果之间的最佳协调。在之前的农学和水利讨论中鲜少露面的 村民被转化为具有低乡水利管理相关经验的知识主体。

OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
MJF (December 10, 2021). Chinese-European Lecture No. 200. European Research Centre for Chinese Studies. Retrieved July 22, 2024 from

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