Lecture 5. A “Million Men With Teaspoons”: The Politics of Hydraulic Management in China, 2300 BCE-750 CE

This lecture module explores different philosophical and engineering approaches to early Chinese water management systems and how they related to various political contexts and dynastic rules. By taking this course, students are expected to learn how “water politics” informed and shaped the early Chinese civilization. The module begins with the Xia Dynasty (2100–1600 BCE) and its legendary founder Yu the Great’s “Taoist approach” to river management and concludes with the construction of the Grand Canal during the Sui Dynasty in the 7th century CE. The overarching theme is to understand the social, political, economic, architectural, and urban implications of early Chinese hydraulic engineering that, in various ways, utilized four key Chinese river basins: the Yellow River in the north, the Huai and the Yangtze Rivers in the central and eastern regions, and the Pearl River in the south.

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