Land clearance and agriculture have long been associated with fire. Open fire, whether from natural or human ignition, has changed the face of many natural landscapes, especially in frontier regions. Much of modern China’s landscape has been shaped by fire, yet fire has been treated as a “disaster” (huozai) in official literature. However, fire in Chinese agriculture also played a positive role in the development of regional economies. This essay will review different meanings of “fire disasters” in recent Chinese environmental history by analyzing a few illustrative examples of late Imperial to Mao-era agricultural development, warfare, and legal institutions. By examining these elements of fire-culture landscapes, this paper will consider problems and management practices of Chinese environmental history, especially distinct ethnic, regional, and temporal trends in legal and administrative forms of fire control. These examples enable us to examine aspects of China military, agricultural, and social and ethnic history that lend themselves to cross cultural and environment comparison.
China, Fire, Environment, Law, Warfare, Agriculture
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