05 Jul 2023
 | 05 Jul 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Reconstruction of ancient drought in Northwest China and societal responses: A case study of 1759

Zhixin Hao, Haonan Yang, Meirun Jiang, Danyang Xiong, and Jingyun Zheng

Abstract. According to the written records and scores of grain harvest in the official historical documents of the Qing Dynasty in China, the spatial-temporal distribution of and the impact caused by the 1759 AD drought in Northwest China were reconstructed, and the response of Chinese society to the drought at that time was summarized. In the spring and summer of 1759, vast areas of northern China suffered from drought, of which that experienced in the northwest region was the most serious. Starting from 27 April 1759, droughts covered Zhili, Shanxi, Shaanxi, and Gansu provinces, and the droughts in Gansu and northern Shaanxi provinces lasted until 23 July 1759. This severe drought caused the worst crop failure in Northwest China in 1759 during the period 1730–1900. By implementing a series of disaster relief measures, the Qing government managed to ease the adverse societal impact of the drought in the summer of 1760. Among the relief measures, tax reduction and exemption in disaster-stricken areas, grain storage in the northwest region, and bumper agricultural harvests in Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Anhui provinces in 1759 were the main reasons for the rapid recovery from the drought impacts. With better climatic conditions in the 18th century, China had higher agricultural harvest levels in the 18th century than in the 19th century. Favorable financial conditions increased drought relief efforts, which was the background for the greater societal adaptability to the climate disaster of 1759.

Zhixin Hao et al.

Status: open (until 28 Oct 2023)

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Zhixin Hao et al.

Zhixin Hao et al.


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Short summary
At ancient time, social systems could successfully responded most extreme climate events, such as droughts. To explore society’s adaptability to extreme climate events, we chosen the 1759 drought as a typical case study. We collected historical records on climate as well as on crop harvests and failures, then reconstructed the meteorological distribution of drought spatially and temporally, analyzed the impacts of the drought on society, and summarized the adaptive measures employed at the time.