The “Incredible Famine” of 1876–79, which claimed between 9 million and 13 million lives, was the second most lethal famine in China's history. Only the Great Leap disaster (1959–61) killed more people. Through the imaginative use of local sources gathered on visits to Shanxi Province, Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley provides an insightful account of the episode and describes a perfect storm of severe drought, serial crop failures, a beleaguered Qing state, and transportation problems that proved to be deadly impediments to relief efforts. The numbers and images are shocking. Shanxi, the epicenter of the disaster, lost one-third of its population; in some counties, up to 80 percent of the people perished. Families were forced to make agonizing decisions about sacrificing some members so that others could live. Beyond capturing such traumatic experiences, the core of the book explores debates about the meaning of the famine, and it analyzes images of women and...
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Book Review| May 01 2009
Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China
Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China. By Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley.
Berkeley and Los Angeles:
University of California Press,
332pp. $39.95 (cloth).
Journal of Asian Studies (2009) 68 (2): 592–594.
Janet Y. Chen; Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China. Journal of Asian Studies 1 May 2009; 68 (2): 592–594. doi: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0021911809000783
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