Wednesday, January 06, 2010

How Chinese relate to each other and the Japanese   posted by Razib @ 1/06/2010 03:16:00 PM

Last month I pointed to a paper on Chinese population structure, Genomic Dissection of Population Substructure of Han Chinese and Its Implication in Association Studies. One to note was that the average FST differentiation Han populations was on the order of 0.002, while those differentiating Europeans was on the order of 0.009. Below are the various Han population, along with Japanese. CHB = Beijing, while CHD = Denver. The Denver sample is probably biased toward Cantonese and Fujianese, since most American Chinese are from these two groups. As a point of reference, here are South Asian genetic distances.

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

From Cantonese to Mandarin   posted by Razib @ 10/22/2009 07:00:00 PM

In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin:
He grew up playing in the narrow, crowded streets of Manhattan's Chinatown. He has lived and worked there for all his 61 years. But as Wee Wong walks the neighborhood these days, he cannot understand half the Chinese conversations he hears.

Cantonese, a dialect from southern China that has dominated the Chinatowns of North America for decades, is being rapidly swept aside by Mandarin, the national language of China and the lingua franca of most of the latest Chinese immigrants.

It's more complicated than that, as the article notes that Cantonese replaced the closely related dialect of Taishanese. Another interesting twist is that the new wave of migrants are themselves not necessarily native speakers of a Mandarin dialect as they are generally from Fujian. Rather, Standard Mandarin is a lingua franca among common people in the Chinese world now in a manner it may not have been when the earlier waves of South Chinese arrived in the United States. In Singapore and Taiwan the Chinese also derive from various regions of Fujian, but Mandarin is an official language, and the monolingualism in dialects is only common among the old.

This is just a specific case of a general dynamic; French, German and Italian all replaced numerous regional dialects, some of which still retain local vitality. Just as Taiwan's predominantly Fujianese population accepts Standard Mandarin, so Switzerland's dialect speaking population accepts Standard German as the official public face of the language (no matter that privately they may converse in Swiss German).

Though linguists and anthropologists bemoan the decline of diversity and local flavor, when it comes to communication this is probably a good thing for the individuals and the societies in which they live. Not only is language often a divisive fault line, but it serves as a barrier to the exchange of ideas and socialization. Whatever marginal cognitive benefits are accrued to individuals who learn multiple languages, on the balance uniformity of speech opens up many possibilities of coordinated action. Even the ancients knew that.

Note: Of course with the dying of a language with a large body of literature some aspect of immediate comprehension and memory of the past vanishes. When it comes to dialect traditions I obviously weight the loss of collective memory less because I tend to perceive oral cultures as encoding cross-cultural values by and large. There may be a thousand twists on the tale of the "Trickster god," but moral of the story is rather the same. In any case, when the last native speaker of Sumerian died no doubt there was a subtle shift in perceptions of the story of Gilgamesh, but I think such losses are a small cost to pay for mutual intelligibility.

Addendum: According to Peter Brown in The Rise of Western Christendom the shift from Syraic dialects to Arabic among the Christian populations of the Levant and Mesopotamia was the tipping point in terms of conversion to Islam. So from some perspectives unintelligibility and separation of language are beneficial. Consider Hasidic Jews and Amish who have long been resident in the United States but continue to speak dialects of German amongst themselves (in my experience the Amish speak English without any accent except for a somewhat quaint aspect, but I have read and heard Hasidic Jews who speak English with a very strong accent which indicates they learned the language in their later teens at the earliest).

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The rise of the South (China)   posted by Razib @ 9/10/2009 06:32:00 PM

Just wanted to put some concrete data from China's Cosmopolitan Empire out there. Most people know that the Tang Dynasty witness the rise of South China, defined as the Yantgze river valley and on south, as the economic and demographic engines of China (though arguably the plains around the Yellow river remained the cultural and political heart of China). There were several censuses across Chinese history.

- Between the census of 742 and 1080 the population of North China rose by ~25%. The population of South China rose by ~325%. The reasons for this are many, but one of the primary ones was the introduction and improvement upon of Champa rice (the pre-Champa strains dominant at the beginning of the Tang died out by the Song Dynasty).

- The transformation of South China from isolated cities and a few densely populated pockets of cultivation,(e.g, around lake Tai) to a region where Han agriculture was omnipresent witnessed a shift from using animals (oxen, buffalo, etc.) to human labor.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

When China contained the world   posted by Razib @ 9/09/2009 11:44:00 PM

The Tang Dynasty is to a great extent a contemporary favorite because of the norms of the modern day West. It was a notionally native dynasty which was also open to outside influences and was strengthened by its cosmopolitan tenor. The merit-based industry of the Song lacks scale and romantic glamor. The Ming withdrew from the world after the the voyages of Zheng He. And the Manchus were outsiders and so were more exotic than cosmopolitan. During the ancient Han Dynasty the Chinese were the world for all practical purposes.

This tendency of co-opting the Tang for modern needs, a case-study of China as a cosmopolitan empire, not only is flat and lacks nuance, but ignores other aspects of this period in Chinese history which Western moderns may find unappealing. The Tang were characterized by the dominance of aristocratic values, a cabal of elite noble lineages in the capital who for all practical purposes monopolized the bureaucracy. Its foreign conquests were often done via native proxies, and divide and conquer (sound familiar?). During the second half of the Tang period the dynasty was in decline, and was given to bouts of persecution of disfavored foreign religions (all except for Daoism), and massacres of foreigners. All this is not to say that the Tang were "bad." Or frankly "good." It seems that such judgments bear less fruit than a genuine descriptive examination of the history and culture of this distinctive period in Chinese history. That is what China's Cosmopolitan Empire: The Tang Dynasty does, even if the title naturally catches the attention of the typical Western reader.

I come to this with some knowledge of this region and period, having read works such as T'ang China: The Rise of the East in World History. A more accurate title for China's Cosmopolitan Empire might have been "China's Last Empire," insofar as I have pointed out before that the Manchu administered areas outside China proper differently from China for most of that dynasty's history. Of course the claim that the Tang are native, while the Manchu are foreign, is to some extent a matter of art. The Li family of the Tang dynasty likely emerged out of the milieu of partly barbarized borderland warlords who dominated north China after the fall of the Han. Likely they had Turk and Xianbei ancestors, and they maintained many of the customs and outlooks of these non-Han peoples. Emperor Taizong fought like a nomad when necessary with native skill. The early Tang developed symbiotic relationships with nomadic federations such as that of the Uyghurs to buttress their Empire and guard their borders, relationships cemented by the fact that the early Tang emperors could move with ease among the barbarians because of shared experiences, values and background. When Taizong broke the Turks he took upon himself a barbarian title in addition to his role as emperor of China, subsuming within himself what had previously been rival opposites. It is notable the early Tang apparently also practiced the horse sacrifice on occasion, a common feature of Central Eurasian societies.

Of course unlike the Manchu and the Yuan (Mongol) the Tang were not alien overlords despite their partial Central Eurasian provenance. The Li family claimed descent from Laozi, patronized Chinese high culture on a grand scale, and the emperors themselves were civilized aesthetes who produced original poetry. Unlike the Yuan and Manchu the non-Han populations which settled in China proper during the early generations of the Tang dynasty were not given a superior status to the natives, and on the contrary like the Li family themselves many of these individuals assimilated to a Han identity and constructed false genealogies to elide the fact of their foreign provenance. It would be wrong to suggest I think that the Tang produced a hybrid culture, rather, they fostered a cosmpolitanism with Chinese characteristics.

If you are reading this now likely you will have read my review of Empires of the Silk Road. It was fascinating to read China's Cosmopolitan Empire in the wake of that work because the intersection of concepts, facts and trends were palpable. The Tang dynasty was a period when China was a Central Eurasian power, operating in a three-way game with the Turks to the north and the Tibetans to the south. The scope of the Tang's reach is evident when one considers that in 751 Chinese proxy forces (there were very few Han in the notional Chinese force) were defeated by outriders of the Abbasid Caliphate along with their Tibetan allies at the river Talas. Up to this point Chinese and Muslim political and culture influence vied in the Fergana valley, which today spans parts of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is likely that the battle itself is important only in hindsight, but it marks a convenient turning point when Central Asia irrevocably shifted its focus west to the world of Islam, and lost its ancient connections to the east and China.

Those connections were not, and are not, trivial. The few generations of the Tang were at the tail end of what sometimes is termed the "Buddhist Age." During this period Buddhism served as a common cultural connection across much of Asia to the east of Persia. Though the city states of Central Asia were multireligious, it is arguable that Buddhism was the most prominent of those religions. It was from Central Asia that Buddhism arrived in China, and flourished in the centuries after the fall of Han. Though Buddhism was likely in decline relative to what we now term Hinduism in South Asia, it was still a relatively vital cultural force, and far more prevalent in what are today Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in the east in Bengal. In Empires of the Silk Road Christopher Beckwith argues that many Indian concepts and institutions which came to shape Islamic culture during the Abbasid Caliphate were actually transmitted via Buddhism (it is clear that there were Buddhists in Sindh when the Arab armies conquered it). The Barmakid family which was extremely powerful during the early years of the Abbasids was of course from the Buddhist priesthood of Balkh. And just as ideas flowed west from Buddhist northwest India, so they flowed east from Buddhist Central Asia. Indian Buddhist eminences also took the route through Central Asia to China to spread their teachings or aid in translations. During these early centuries Buddhism was an exotic foreign religion in China, not indigenized, and the Silk Road was the vector via which came a stream of foreign sacred objects and texts from India. To the east the Silla kingdom of Korea and the Fujiwaras of Japan patronized Buddhism as part of their imperialistic project, resulting in several decades in which Buddhistmonks could take advantage of an international network which flowed uninterrupted from South Asia to Japan.

Of course very few Indian or Central Asia monks went to Japan. Rather, much more likely was that Indian, Central Asian, Chinese, Korean and Japanese Buddhists would meet in Chang'an, the capital of the Tang which also lay at the eastern terminus of the Silk Road. Though India was the Jerusalem of Buddhism, China quickly became its Rome and Constantinople. The process of indigenization of Buddhism in China was lent a helping hand by the armies of the caliphs, as the 7th century progressed the Muslims pushed into Afghanistan and the marches of South Asia, and conquered the Buddhist and Hindu kings who patronized the great monasteries. Prominent Buddhists, such as the Barmakid family, no doubt converted to Islam. With the Tang withdrawal from Central Asia after 750 Islam totally absorbed the former Buddhist city-states. The international was broken, and China had to rely on its own resources. It is an odd parallelism that to a great extent the eruption of Islam, and its absorption of the lands from with Europe and China were evangelized in their respective dominant institutional religions, led to the rise of a self-conscious Christian West and Buddhist East. Europe was the faith, and the faith was Europe, because Islam and swallowed whole the domains of eastern Christianity. Similarly, as the centuries progressed the holy sites of Buddhism were to fall under the sway of Islamicized Turkish warlords (this dynamic was unfortunately on display with the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan).

But the resources of Buddhism in China were many. The Tang era is generally thought to be the period when Buddhism was most powerful and esteemed as an institutional religion across the Chinese class structure. The anti-Buddhist Confucian Han Yu was speaking from a position of weakness in relative comparison to the disdain or contempt which later Confucian scholars would exhibit toward Buddhism. It must also be noted that Buddhism was not officially the most favored religion during this period, Daoism was. One of the ways in which the Tang ruling family emphasized their Chinese character was their descent from Laozi, and they tacitly tolerated attacks upon Buddhism as a debased foreign religion which was inappropriate for the Chinese by prominent Daoists. This is a contrast to what occurred during the reign of Khubilai Khan, who favored the Buddhists and forced the Daoists to cease their attacks. Nevertheless, this is a case where the Tang did not eat their own dog food; Buddhism was patronized extensively, given favor, and the monasteries accumulated great wealth. The similarities to medieval Catholic Christianity are manifold, as bequests by wealthy individuals were often a form of operational tax evasion, and Tang armies marched with the blessing of Buddhist abbots. Buddhist ideas spread across China, and stories were told of how ignorant individuals were sent to hell for sacrificing animals to native gods. The monasteries became so powerful that during the later years of the dynasty there was a great persecution which ultimately destroyed Buddhism's status as an elite religion, and reserved for it the role of the opium of the masses. When the first Jesuits arrived in China they dressed as Buddhist priests to assimilate, but found they received no hearing from the powers that be. They were dismissed due to their low status as clerics in a popular religion. That is, Buddhism (in later years the Catholic missionaries tried very hard to make their religion distinctive from Pure Land Buddhism).

By the end of the Tang Buddhism was no longer a foreign religion which held some glamor for the elite. Rather, it was an indigenized popular cult. Tang cosmpolitanism seemed to exhibit a tendency whereby the foreign transmuted and became native. Whereas earlier rebellions relied on Daoism, institutional Buddhism became a new avenue for secret societies and organizations of sedition. In fact, during the 18th and 19th century Hui Islamic revivalists had to use terms derived from Pure Land Buddhism in the course of fomenting revolt because symbolism from that sect had percolated into the consciousness of the general Chinese population to the extent of it becoming common semantic currency. One aspect of the later Tang that led to the emergence of the Song which might be of foreign provenance was the rise of military bands cemented by bonds of fictive kinship. This is not a novel idea, as it as occurred in several societies, but in light of the central role of real kinship in the Confucian order, and the strong Turkic influence on the Tang, one has to wonder if this is the Central Eurasian comitatus emerging in a Chinese context, totally extracted and now assimilated. But one must not make too much of this, even if the Song Dynasty arose in part propelled by traditions and customs which the Tang imported from the steppe, it became the civilian Chinese dynasty par excellence.

This deeper texture often renders characterizations of cosmopolitan or xenophobic trite. A simple narrative of the Tang is that the period between 600 and 750 was one of cosmopolitan expansionism, while that after 750 was one of slow long xenophobic decline. Descriptively this is not false, but it is not as if China was insulated from the rest of the world, and moved along an endogenous track. The Buddhist Age, in which Tang China was the preeminent state, gave way after 750 to what was operationally an Islamic Age, when the Abbasid Caliphs were for one century near a world empire, from the borders of China to the margins of the Atlantic. The inward focus of the Tang was partially a function of a collapse of a greater world order which had nourished them and against which they had tested their mettle. The trade routes which allowed for the Sogdians to flourish frayed, with the arc of the Caliphate expanding outward and cutting the ties which bound the older civilized centers together. Though I am cautious about a hydraulic metaphor, it seems not too much a stretch that the rise of Islam and the decline of the Tang operated in concert.

Obviously I've just skimmed some interesting points in this book. I haven't discussed literature, city planning, rural life or the nature of the mercantile cities of the lower Yangtze. It's all in there and all worthy of note, but, I want to get back to the point about cosmpolitanism. There were many foreigners in China during this period. Tang Guangzhou was a city dominated by foreigners, with Arabs being especially prominent. In much of northern China Uyghurs dominated money-lending. There are many physical depictions of people of western Eurasian appearance in artifacts from the Tang period. Where are these people's genes? I pointed out that one problem with an Indo-European origin for ancient Chinese in Empires of the Silk Road is that the genetic data seem clear that the Han people are very distinct from those to the west. And, that groups like Uyghurs are recent hybridization events between two distinct gene pools from western and eastern Eurasia. There are isolated cases of prominent generals in ancient China who were of reputed western origin who turn out to have genes which indicate that they were western. But the modern data from China show very little (if any) western ancestry.

One immediately wonders about the adequacies of the samples we have now. The HapMap had 45 unrelated Chinese from Beijing. The overseas samples are mostly from people whose families are derived from Fujian or Guangdong. But what about Guangdong? Where did the foreigners in Guangzhou go? The easiest explanation is that they were all massacred as is described in the histories. But could all foreigners in China have been massacred? Were they all recognizably foreign? As it happens Chinese speaking Muslims carry a significant western quanta of ancestry, even if it is the minority. The origin stories for this group all derive from men who arrived from western Asia, so this stands to reason. And, it shows that western ancestry does exist in some Chinese populations in China proper. So is there another reason that it is not evident among the Han? I will give a reason that Greg Cochran gave years ago for why the area around Rome is not dominated by Greek genes: the foreigners lived in cities, and the cities were demographic sinks. The cultural cosmpolitanism of Tang China had important long term historical consequences. But its genetic cosmpolitanism was less significant because the locus of that cosmpolitanism was centered around evolutionary dead-ends. The cities of yore live on in faded memory, but their blood has long gone extinct.

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Saturday, July 18, 2009

The shape of empires past   posted by Razib @ 7/18/2009 09:04:00 AM

Aziz pointed me to this article in Forbes, The New Great Game, which highlights the imperial aspect of the contemporary Chinese regime. It is important to emphasize that there is a striking disjunction between the manner in which the present spatial expanse of the Chinese state emerged, and the fiction which the modern Chinese state promotes to its citizens and abroad. The acquisitions which pushed China to the furthest extent in its history were achieved under the Qinq Dynasty in the 18th century. The Qing are also know as the Manchu dynasty, a pointer to the fact that they were outsiders. The Manchu elite took over the administrative apparatus of the previous Ming dynasty by the 17th century, but they were never wholly Chinese. The reality was that for much of the Qing dynasty China was part of the Manchu Empire. Though exemplary students of Chinese forms in their roles as Emperors of China, the Manchu rulers also remained warlords of the Manchu people, and it is in this capacity (albeit leveraging the resources of China proper) that they conquered the western territories, or pushed beyond Amur river to the north of Manchuria.

To the left is an image which shows the geographical expanses of the major Chinese dynasties over time (earliest to left, the last bottom right). Only one dynasty rivals the Manchus in terms of the territory which they controlled, the Yuan, the Mongol dynasty. Like the Manchus the Mongols ruled China as part of a greater set of domains. Of the remaining the dynasties only the Tang had a robust and wide presence in Central Asia, but this hegemony evaporated by the second half of the Tang.

Turkestan, Tibet and the lands to the north of the Amur (which were later extracted from the Manchu Empire by the Czars) were acquired due to the Manchu's greater cultural and geographic horizons than the Chinese (or, more accurately, a syngery between the enterprise of the nomad and the economic base of the Han Chinese). Like the Mongols the Manchus had a relatively good relationship with the lamas of Tibetan Buddhism, and the acquisition of Tibet occurred by way of their conflicts with the western Mongols (Oirat). The conquest of Xinjiang occurred as a byproduct of the Manchu involvement in intra-Mongol politics, as the Muslims of the Tarim Basin were chafing under the hegemony of the Dzungar Mongol confederacy. The drive to the north of the Amur would be a natural necessity to buffer the Manchu homeland against the expansion of the Russians into Siberia. Native Chinese dynasties, such as the Ming and Han, were hampered in their forays out of China proper due to their inability to maintain supply lines indefinitely and inflict any final defeat on nomadic populations which coul take advantage of the strategic depth offered by their vast ranges. It is notable that the Chinese dynasty which rivaled, though did not equal, the Manchu achievement in Central Asia were the Tang, of partial nomad background.

The fact that China was part of a Manchu Empire mattered in concrete terms because many of the domains outside of China were administered separately (though later in the 19th century there was a trend toward more thorough integration as part of a modernization drive). The Turks of Xinjiang naturally would not consider themselves Chinese, since China was simply a subcomponent of a set of territories of which also included the city-states of the Tarim Basin. Similarly, the integration of Tibet into the Manchu Empire was cemented by the personal relationship between the lamas and the ruling Manchu, as well as religious affinities between the two peoples. China was a third party actor.

All this makes more sense if you keep in mind the personal aspect of rule of hereditary kingdoms before the rise of the nation-state. George III, the king against who the American colonies revolted, was king of England, Wales and Scotland, Great Britain, as well as Ireland, the United Kingdom. Additionally, he was the Elector of Hanover. The fact that Hanover and the United Kingdom had the same ruler did not mean that these two administrative units were fused, on the contrary one of the concerns of the bureaucratic and aristocratic classes of both domains was that they not become excessively entangled in the international or domestic concerns of the other (the creation of Great Britain was favored by Scotland's ruling classes because they were excluded from many of the English colonies!). In 1837 Hanover's personal union with the United Kingdom ended because of the Salian law of inheritance of the throne. Now the connection between these two regions is simply a historical coincidence.

Now imagine if England made a claim on Hanover based on the century of personal union between the two polities. This would be ludicrous. But in The New Chinese Empire the author recounts that several times during diplomatic visits by Russians Deng Xiaoping referred to the territories beyond the Amur which were lost in the 19th century as if they naturally belonged to the modern Chinese state. The reality of course is that these were conquests by the Manchus, and they were losses by the Manchus (though by the latter period the Manchus were far more Sinicized than they had been in the 17th century). For nationalistic and ideological reasons the Communist regime simply pretends as if the era of the Manchus was one where their domains were conceived of as a nation-state. Because the Chinese Empire entered onto the world stage in the 19th century in the post-Westphalian context the qualitatively non-Chinese aspects of rule in Xinjiang, Tibet or Manchuria were elided in terms of their relations with other states.

Most Uighurs naturally are ignorant of these details of history. But these details of history have no doubt shaped the attitudes of ethnic minorities like Uighurs and Tibetans, for their integration into the Chinese state is naturally a thin veneer because it is a novel and new aspect to their experience. China proper emerged in its present form in larg part because of 2,000 years of institutional governance modeled on the precedents set forth in the Han dynasty; most of the Manchu acquisitions naturally lacked this background. The attempt to centralize the Manchu adminstrative apparatus in the 19th century was stillborn because of the death spiral of the dynasty. Only with the rise of the Communists did the Far West became an integral part of the nation.

Note: China is a geographically diverse, but an ethnically homogeneous, "empire." In the Soviet Union Russians were only ~50% of the population, while in China the Han are ~90%.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

China, World Values Survey 2005, part 2   posted by Razib @ 7/13/2009 03:03:00 PM

More results for the WVS 2005. I added some demographic data by province as well. I want to pool the "northern" and "southern" provinces soon. I'd appreciate Chinese readers input on the categories if there isn't something straightforward.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

China, World Values Survey 2005, part 1   posted by Razib @ 7/12/2009 10:26:00 PM

The comments below in regards to Chinese regionalism were informative. But for those of us without a more direct connection with China works can be wanting, so I thought looking at the World Values Survey would be interesting as there is a regional breakdown within it. Below the fold are a series of barplots where the different segments equal 100%. As you can see I took the first response and sorted by that. The sample sizes for some of the provinces are not high. Just ignore Chongqing where N = 1. But I am curious if Chinese readers are note regional differences just by visual inspection. Unfortunately I assume most non-Chinese (like myself) immediately know the location of only a few provinces, so the visual impact will be diminished for us. I will have a follow up post going down the list of WVS questions tomorrow. On the charts referring to "neighbors," those are mentions of people they would like not to live next too. On the freedom question, it refers to how much freedom people feel they have in their life. You can go to the WVS site to clear up confusions in the legend...I produced the charts quick & dirty from my own copy of the WVS data set. In the future I'll probably combine some of the provinces into macroregions (e.g., north, south, west) to increase sample size, but that's for later. The only thing I wonder, what's up with the wide variance in mentioned fear of the gay?

Region N
CN: Beijing 68
CN: Hebei Province 65
CN: Shanxi Province 81
CN: Liaoning Province 129
CN: Heilongjiang Province 126
CN: Shanghai 67
CN: Jiangsu Province 26
CN: Zhejiang Province 89
CN: Anhui Province 113
CN: Fujian Province 73
CN: Jiangxi Province 65
CN: Shandong Province 269
CN: Henan Province 106
CN: Hubei Province 133
CN: Hunan Province 41
CN: Guangdong Province 110
CN: Guangxi Province 96
CN: Guizhou Province 65
CN: Yunnan Province 84
CN: Shaannxi Province 62
CN: Chongqing 1
CN: Xinjiang 51
CN: Hainan Province 70
CN: Ningxia Province 25


Friday, July 10, 2009

Han vs. Tang?   posted by Razib @ 7/10/2009 06:43:00 PM

Update: After the comments I'm rather sure that though the WSJ piece was well written and generally right on specific facts (excepting the fact that Sun Yat-sen was not born outside of China as the author claimed) it is grossly misleading. I have no idea if the author had some agenda to push, but it does make me wonder as to how many boring articles the WSJ rejected only to accept the somewhat bizarre claims articulated in the piece they published. End Update

The WSJ has a long article up, China's Ethnic Fault Lines, which emphasizes the difference between Chinese speakers from various regions, who are all notionally "Han," though those of the south may refer to themselves as "Tang" in remembrance of the dynasty which witnessed a shift of China's center of gravity south.* It's a long piece with a lot of facts, but I have feeling that it tries too hard to suggest that the Han Chinese identity is a recent construction and that Cantonese and Fujianese have submerged separatist inclinations. From what I know those from south of the Yangtze have been essential players in the Chinese bureaucratic state for 1,000 years, so even hinting at an analogy with the separatism of Turks and Tibetans from western China is grossly misleading. The mercantile people of south China, especially Fujian, have long had to battle a central government, generally based out of the plains of northern China, which would have preferred that they focused on primary production. But despite this deep division in worldviews young men from Fujian were well represented in the bureaucracy. More recently both Mao and Deng Xiaoping were from south of the Yangtze. There are some tensions between people from different parts of China, as there are in any country, but the author seems a very knowledgeable person who might be leading some astray here by conflating expected regional & linguistic tensions with atavistic nationalisms submerged (I've seen some ethnic shell games before).

This all matters because the subtext of the piece is that China is more diverse than you think, and a possible near future powder keg. 91% of Chinese are Han, but if you look at mutually unintelligible dialects the index of diversity can crank up (what a language or a dialect is is to a large extent political; e.g., Croation vs. Serbian). On the other hand, if the glass is mostly full and you ignore dialect diversity for the purposes of separatist movements, and note that the huge increase in ethnic minorities in China to 9% is probably part of the same phenomenon as the doubling of Native Americans in the USA between 1990-2000, China looks rather homogeneous (the "new" Native Americans in the USA are probably likely to be less activist about their rights and identity than those who were Native American for many censuses in a row). Instead of a north-south dynamic the bigger issue seems to be the interior-coast economic chasm, which is obviously cuts across the Han vs. Tang division mentioned in the piece.

On the specific issue of the real nationalisms in China's west it seems Xinjiang and Tibet are going to have different futures. I've been hearing that Xinjiang is 40% Han for the past 15 years, so I suspect they're undercounting so as not to exacerbate resentments. With demographic marginalization the future is set & sealed (many of south China's non-Han groups exist as demographic islands surrounded by Han majorities). Tibet on the other hand is a different case because it seems that non-Tibetans experience enough physical discomfort that no one will want to settle down permanently. Extended occupation instead of absorption will be necessary so long as the locals are not quiescent (Lhasa is as 12,000 ft, 3,650 meters!).

I would like to hear from Chinese readers or those who live in China as the plausibility of the claims of the article above.

Note: The World Values Survey can be broken down by language spoken at home. I see no great difference between dialect groups and Mandarin speakers in regards to national pride. Also, here are supposed numbers for the number of people in China who speak Mandarin:
Just over 53% of the population of China or 690 million people are able to speak Mandarin, according to the Xinhua news agency. In China's cities, about 66% speak Mandarin, while only 45% speak it in the countryside. Around 70% of people between the ages of 15 and 29 speak the language, while only 30% of those over 60 can speak it.

The numbers seem a littler lower than others online. Additionally, Mandarin is not a regional identity, while in contrast Cantonese is a dialect with a strong regional association. Here is a map of dialect groups.

* The Han was China's first robust dynasty and established in many ways the patterns of Chinese culture which persist down to the present, and was also the institutional model for its government down to ~1900. The Tang was China's second great dynasty, and pushed the state's boundaries both south and west, and to a great extent was the period when southern China was sinicized.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

The problem of diverse meritocracies   posted by Razib @ 5/14/2009 07:28:00 PM

From page 17 of Neo-Confucianism in History:
...Already by the 1050s southerners accounted for the majority of the literary men; within a century southerners would tower over intellectual culture, as they would continue to do for centuries to come. By the 1070s officials from the south had come to dominate policy-making offices. Literati knew this, but in the latter half of the eleventh century they were divided over the solution. Some called on the court to institute regional quotas for the civil service examinations but defended a system that would favor talent above regional representation....

This describes the period of the Northern Song. Though militarily and politically the Song were a subpar dynasty, in terms of cultural and economic production they were exceptional. In fact it is common for historians to wonder why the Song efflorescence did not lead to a Chinese industrial revolution and Great Divergence. In any case, I am struck by the aspects of geographic determinism evident during the Song period, and the analogies one can draw to the Germanic-speaking world in the 17th and 18th centuries as recounted in Tim Blanning's The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815. While the Rhineland, the Netherlands and north German ports saw the emergence of robust proto-capitalist commercial cities facilitated by cheap water transport, the cities of the Central European Austrian domains still remained primarily centers of royal pomp and bureaucratic administration. The same contrast is clear during the Song dynasty between the inland northern cities, and those urban areas with access to water transport, particularly in the south.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Islam in China   posted by Razib @ 10/22/2008 03:32:00 PM

It's a big blogosphere. Aziz points me Islam in China. They have an interesting post up which reiterates much of what I said about the diversity of Chinese Muslims, along with obscure facts such as that the second ranking Vice Premier of China is Hui. Not that there's anything wrong it....


Monday, October 13, 2008

Uyghurs, Chinese Muslims, etc.   posted by Razib @ 10/13/2008 04:55:00 PM

Chinese Muslims, Uyghurs, have been in the news a bit. When I'm listening to them the radio I notice there's some confusion among some presenters as to the difference, if any, between Uyghurs and Chinese Muslims. Last spring I recall Chinese government mouthpieces basically make stuff up out of whole cloth about Tibet without any fluent rebuttal or challenge in the media, so it might be worthwhile to just clarify some issues here.

1) Uyghurs are Muslim

2) Most Muslims in China are not Uyghurs

3) A greater number of Muslims in China are Hui, Chinese dialect speaking Muslims (called Dungan in Central Asia)

4) Uyghurs as we know them today are to a great extent an artificial identity which served specific imperial and bureaucratic interests of the Russian, Chinese and Soviet states

The last is probably a bit confusing to you. In short who occurred in Central Asia in the 19th and the 20th centuries was that nation-empires sliced and diced various tribal and local level identities into discrete ethnicities. The broad substratum of sedentary peoples who spoke Turkic dialects from the Caspian to what is today Western China were traditionally bracketed under the appellation Sart. These peoples were often ruled by descendants of nomadic groups (they were to some extent sedentarized nomads themselves, though admixed with indigenous Indo-European elements), or, dominated by contemporary nomadic populations. The term "Uzbek" originally applied specifically to a ruling elite who conquered the sedentary populations after the decline of Timurlane's lineage in Central Asia. Russian ethnologists simply labeled all Turkic speaking peoples under Uzbek hegemony as Uzbeks; that is how all Turkish speaking peoples within the boundaries of the political borders of Uzbekistan became Uzbek. The Kazakh and Kirghiz populations were given national identities though these were in fact more realistically confederations of different tribes ("hordes") with minimal cross-linkages. The term Uyghur comes from an early medieval ethnic-political group which was hegemonic in the Tarim basin, but Uyghur identity had disappeared in this region with its more thorough Turkicization and Islamicization (the originally Uyghurs were Manichaean, though later they turned Buddhist, and their empre encompassed a far greater expanse than the Tarim Basin). There is a minor ethnic group in Central China which actually derives from the original Uyghurs, and is called by that name as well. By analogy, some Maronite Christians in Lebanon deny that they are Arabs and claim that they are descendants of the Phoenicians. Though this may be true, obviously there is little real cultural continuity between Phoenicians and Maronite Christians who speak Arabic and whose ancestors have likely spoken Arabic for ~1,000 years.

The above is just to make clear that if you scratch under the artificial construction of Uyghur national identity, you basically have Turkish speaking Muslims. In Sons of the Conquerors the author observes that Uyghur dissidents tend to congregate in Istanbul. This emphasizes the Pan-Turkic aspect of Uyghur nationalism, and in fact the Turkish dialect of the Uyghurs is intelligible with the Turkish spoke in Turkey. Just as the French authorities may tell the children of African immigrants about their "ancestors" the Gauls, so Uyghur elites have accepted the glorious past of the Uyghur nation (the early medieval Uyghur Empire was very influential in Chinese politics as foederati). On the other hand, ethnographic surveys suggest that non-elite Uyghurs have little Uyghur nationalist self-conception, and just identify as Muslims. To some extent this parallels what exists in Turkey between a Turkic and European identified secular elite, and non-elite segment which is Islamically oriented.

What gets more complicated when you talk about Chinese Muslims is that the most numerous group are Chinese speaking and physically and culturally resemble the Han majority. These are termed "Hui people," to denote the fact that they are conceived of as a national minority, and not necessarily a religion. That is, many Hui may be secular or atheistic, just as many Han are, but they will nevertheless retain a Hui self-conception. Unlike the Uyghurs the Hui have long been embedded in a Han Chinese cultural milieu. Their religious orientation obviously separates them from the Han, for it is understood that though a Han may be Christian, Buddhist or Daoist, a Han who accepts Islam becomes a Hui. Nevertheless, the Hui have traditionally been part of the Chinese national experience for nearly 1,000 years; the famous Ming admiral Zheng He was from a Hui Muslim background (though the extant evidence suggests he was not particularly orthodox in the way most Muslims would recongize and leaned toward the syncretistic orientation of the Han majority; a tendency which was probably common enough to explain rather widespread evidence of Hui in much of South China assimilating to Han society). This is in stark contrast to the Uyghur, who were generally outside the purview of Chinese cultural influence. Within the last 1,000 years when polities based out of China had power over what is now Xinjiang, those polities were not Chinese (e.g., the Mongol Yuan and the Manchus). Though the Manchu dynasty ruled as Confucian emperors within China proper, in Mongolia, Manchuria, Tibet and Turkic Central Asia they ruled as tribal warlords. By analogy, consider that the British Hanoverian dynasty ruled for nearly a century as kings of Great Britain but were the electors of Hanover, and so subjects for most of that period to the Hapsburg dynasty. In other words, for much of the Manchu period the rule over non-Chinese territories was one of personal fealty, not one of integration into the Chinese bureaucratic state.

This changed during the 19th century, and especially the 20th. A more direct attempt at rule of Xinjiang naturally led to resistance and rebellion. One of the more interesting ways that the Chinese central government attempted to integrate Xinjiang into the state was to use Hui, Chinese speaking Muslims, as proxies against Turkic Muslims. Though Hui groups in China proper revolted during the 19th century, in Central Asia they have often been seen to be tools of Chinese political and cultural hegemony. A disproportionate number of the Chinese settlers in Xinjiang, and merchants who trade in the former Soviet republicans of Central Asia, are Hui. While in China proper the Hui are a separate and distinct ethnic group with peculiar folkways (in many areas of China they are the only minority of appreciable numbers), in Turkic Central Asia their Chinese cultural characteristics become much more salient to both themselves and to other Muslims. Though with the rise of mass communication the religious Hui have become generally conventional Muslims, it is notable that during Islamic reformist revolts the Hui used Daoist motifs to motivate mass risings because that was the most efficient way to communicate to a Chinese speaking population with a Chinese sense of cultural history despite their religious distinctiveness.

All this is to clarify the point that anti-Chinese feeling in Xinjiang intersects with both religious and ethnic differences, and the existence of the Hui as a group whose relation to the Han majority is highly conditional on circumstances complicates the picture. Though the Hui are often at tension with the Han majorities among whom they live there is an established modus vivendi, facilitated in large part by the fact that linguistically and physically the Hui are no different than the Han (some Hui show evidence of their non-Chinese origins in their features, but these exemplars are actually outliers). The Han Chinese push into Xinjiang on the other hand brings to mind a different dynamic, while the Hui are Jews among gentiles, the Uyghurs are like the Sioux being encircled by homesteaders. Though Xinjiang has been under political rule of a China based government since the 18th century, for most of that period it was operationally indirect enough so that it had little effect on the average Uyghur peasant in the oases. Local Turkic elites served as intermediaries and proxies for the Manchu political elite, just as in China proper the Confucian bureaucracy administered the country under the direction of a non-Chinese military elite.

At this point numbers are hard to come by, but it is assumed that Han Chinese are probably a majority of the population of Xinjiang. But, an important point must be made that Xinjiang as a cultural-administrative unit is a creation of the Chinese government. During the 18th century the northern half of the province, Dzungharia, was populated predominantly by Buddhist Mongolian peoples. During a series of wars these regions were ethnically cleaned and Muslim Kazakhs and Uyghurs entered into this vacuum. It is in this region that the city of Urumqi is situated, and where most Han in Xinjiang reside. Until recently the heartland of the Uyghurs, the string of oases and cities around the Tarim Basin were spared large scale immigration by the Han (in part for reasons of lack of transportation). But with the completion of railroads all the way to Kashgar that isolation is ended and there are reports that the number of Han Chinese is now increasing. Naturally this will result in more ethnic conflict. Unlike in Tibet proper the elevation in Xinjiang is not so extreme as to make it physiologically uncomfortable for outsiders. On the other hand, like Alaska Xinjiang is strongly geared toward a resource extraction economy at this point, and it seems plausible that if the Chinese rate of growth decreases to a point which chokes demand somewhat then the net flow of settlement might reverse. But I suspect that that will only occur a generation from now when the development of China starts to approach a more stationary state.

Until then, it seems likely that the cities of the Tarim Basin where Uyghurs remain a majority, albeit a progressively marginalized majority, will be loci for conflict. Religion is often a very good way to mobilize, motivate and coalesce group identity, so it seems likely that the banner of Islamic resistance will come to the fore in future decades. But, it is important to remember that the Uyghurs are not the most numerous Muslim group in China, the Hui are, and the ultimate root of the conflict is probably less to do with religious differences as it does with the fact that the ethnic groups of China proper, the Han and the Hui, seem likely to dispossess the Turkic Muslim groups of Xinjiang in their own lands in the coming years.

Note: Numerical note. The Chinese census suggests that about 50% of the population of the traditionally Muslim nationalities in China are Hui, that is, Chinese speaking Muslims. 40% are Uyghur, with the balance being taken up mostly by other Central Asian groups. I say traditionally Muslim nationalities because it seems likely that a large percentage of the Hui are not religious believers, just as a large percentage of Han are not religious believers. Since they are tabulated as an ethnic group this is irrelevant to their identity as Hui. Now, consider if a subset of Hui become involved in radical transnational Islam which attempts to subborn the Chinese state; the fact that Hui identity is both ethnic and religious will come to the fore. Whatever issues that an atheist Hui might have as a perceived ethnic minority in Han China, it seems implausible that they would align themselves with the Islamic world over their identification with China, in particular since many of these Hui have abandoned Islamic ritual prescriptions in the compromises necessary to live in an urban milieu (think the orthodox Jews from Poland who arrived to America's shores to work in the textile factories and what not). In contrast, the non-Hui Muslims are far less well integrated into Chinese culture and are ill equipped to piggy-back upon the rise of the Chinese economy. Additionally, anecdotally I've read reports which suggest that the Uyghurs are generally practicing Muslims, to a far greater extent than the Turks of the former Soviet republics. So a "buy in" to some abstract pie-in-the-sky Caliphate seems much more plausible from that sector.

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

The wealth of communities   posted by Razib @ 8/31/2008 09:49:00 PM

Variation is interesting. Why are there species, for example? Why do identical twins vary in life outcomes at all? How, and why, do the two antipodal maritime temperate regions of Eurasia, China and Europe, differ? The answers one comes up with vary by discipline and scope. In Farewell to Alms the economic historian Gregory Clark explains the genetic outcome of differences in lactase persistence (LP) as a function of variation in wealth; Europeans were wealthier so they could invest in the expensive production of milk and meat. I suspect most natural scientists would look to environmental constraints as the largest effect variables; LP arises in environments where cattle culture is more productive on a per area unit basis than grain culture. And then there is of course the fact that human lifestyles do not exist in a social and historical vacuum. There is evidence that wide swaths of the north China plain were abandoned by farmers during periods of political disorder due to their vulnerability to the depredations of nomadic groups (Genghis Khan's plan to depopulate the Yellow River plain and turn it into pasture was not as bizarre as one might think). When political stability returned there would be a shift in the boundary between nomad and farmer. If Peter Turchin is right then the variables effecting these changes are endogenous to a model of historical dynamics which are characterized by cycles (Turchin's case study of the expansion of Slavs and farming along the Ukrainian Cossack frontier is a classical case where politics rather than ecology served as the limiting reagent).

But for a moment I want to zoom the scale. In The Retreat of the Elephants: An Environmental History of China, there is a chapter, The Riddle of Longevity: Why Zunhua?:

People lived longer in the late-imperial department Zunhua in the mountains along the old Ming northern frontier...The expectation of life at birth for a woman was in the high forties, twice as long as in Jiaxing....

...The latest gazetteer from imperial times...has no record of epidemics of infectious disease....This was in marked contrast with the coastal province in which Jiaxing was located, namely Zhejiang. In Zheijang people were gripped by a fear of epidemics....

Jiaxing is highlighted because another chapter focuses on the taming of this region and its transition from being a marginal territory on the periphery of Chinese civilization to a rationally managed agricultural heartland. A case in point supporting the thesis of hydraulic despotism. The author notes a few points to contrast Zunhua and Jiaxing:

1) Climate. Zunhua was much colder in winter, with temperatures generally falling below zero. This surely dampened the local pathogen load.

2) Ecological differences. Zunhua is relatively mountainous, while Jiaxing is a coastal wetland region tamed into an expanse of intensive rice production. Irrigation is common in Jiaxing, but there were ecological constraints on its utilization in Zunhua (the soil is very sandy and so there are major issues with drainage which reduced the efficiency of canals).

3) Differences in diet. Zunhua's populace had a relatively diverse diet, where dry land agriculture was balanced with animal husbandry and hunting and gathering. In contrast, Jiaxing was a classic climax rice monoculture where almost all calories were from grain.

4) There were differences in ethnicity. The local historical identity of non-Han peoples was far stronger in Zunhua than in Jiaxing. The process of Sinicization had proceeded to completion in Jiaxing, which now lay along the axis of the economic heartland of China. In contrast, Zunhua was for nearly 3,000 years on the northeast boundary of Han habitation. It was known to the ancient Chinese, and Han populations were generally extant within its territory, but it was often dominated culturally by non-Han groups who would play a large role without Chinese history, culminating in the Manchus.

The author also notes that there was a large difference in the extent of female labor in Jiaxing and Zunhua. It was a prominent feature of the life of peasants in Jiaxing, but not so of Zunhua. Additionally, one bureaucrat observed that unlike many other parts of China it was not typical for very poor women in Zunhua to supplement their income with de facto prostitution (random "walks" in the fields). The inhabitants of Zunhua were consumers of a fair amount of meat, but interesting they were also milk drinkers, atypical for China.

The Census data from 1820 to 1910 suggests that Zunhua was relatively underpopulated (the author's focus here is on observations hinged around the late Imperial Manchu dynasty). This probably explains the relative wealth of a the typical peasant in Zunhua vis-a-vis one in Jiaxing (as well as lack of epidemics). But why was Zunhua so underpopulated in the first place? Are the data from the late Imperial period just a transient which captures a snapshot before the region is caught in a Malthusian Trap? To some extent I suspect so, but, I wanted to note specifically that Zunhua was on the radar of Chinese annalists nearly 3,000 years ago. Unlike vast regions of far southern inland China it was not new to Sinicization, rather, Sinicization simply never completed itself over the ensuing centuries. In fact, the region was for long periods under barbarian rule and outside of China proper.

First, I want to repeat one of the major obvious insights of The Retreat of the Elephants, the process of Sinicization was inevitable, a matter of time, across much of what is today China. The millet and rice based agricultural systems associated with Han Chinese swept away competing lifestyles before them like a deterministic physical system. A proactive program of cutting down forests and clearing land, as well as channeling and controlling the flow of running water across the landscape, was part and parcel of the expansion of the Chinese state and Han identity. Some of the increase in the numbers of the latter is surely a matter of demographics, as Chinese settlers push into cleared land. On the other hand, there is extensive documentary evidence that those non-Chinese tribes which adhered to lifestyles which were at variance with that of the Han on many occasions adopted the intensive farming lifestyle when their territories were impinged upon. Eventually they saw themselves as Han. In the Christian and Islamic world it was common to assert that war against those outside of the bounds of their religious civilization was by nature just because they were infidels, and that enslavement of unbelievers was acceptable. Some of the material in this book highlights a similar ideology on the part of the the Han Chinese through their perception that those who were not Han were fundamentally not human or subhuman. But, just as with Christianity or Islam, tribes and peoples could become Han. This process was one less of ideology, though certainly elites adopted Confucian ethics and the Chinese classics, as opposed to one characterized by a way of life in terms of the optimal mode of resource extraction and utilization. To be Han the commoners farmed like the Han, and the rulers ruled like the Han.

The Han way of life was eminently successful in terms of extracting more productivity per unit are of land, as evidenced by the fact that China is now well over 90% Han, and, its historically high population density. It was not a rigid orthodoxy, the original millet based farming system which arose around the Yellow River plain gave way to the dominance of rice agriculture, likely originally a feature of the culture of non-Han populations of central and south China. The Han way of life was one of maximal resource extraction and mass mobilization of populations under the aegis of a central governing unit. The transition from Han to non-Han seems to have been partly due to demic and cultural diffusion as a bottom-up process, but, as documented in The Retreat of the Elephants, it was also a function of the greater robusticity of the war machines of Han states. Not only could they mobilize more men, but they could they could organize and coordinate their actions because of the central nature of their polities. Local peoples had an advantage in terms of their knowledge of regional conditions and could wage a persistent rearguard action over the centuries by disrupting the social and agriculture systems (e.g., canals, bridges, bureaucrats, etc.) which Han society depended upon, but over the long haul Sinicization marched on. The machine could be broken, but never utterly destroyed.

So why did Zunhua resist Sinicization so long? I suspect that the prevalence of animal husbandry indicates that the Han agricultural complex was simply not as well suited to this region. In areas too dry for agriculture irrigation is an option, but as noted above it was not an ideal one in Zunhua because of the characteristics of the terrain and soils. During the Former Han dynasty the emperor Wu engaged in a series of wars with the nomadic Xiongnu, but a serious problem with defeating these peoples was that a Chinese victory did not result in cultural assimilation. There were instances where the nomads could not win, but they could never truly lose. In areas too dry, cold and rugged for Han agricultural techniques nomadic life simply was more economically more efficient, or, more accurately the only option aside from hunting and gathering. The final Chinese "victory" over the Xiongnu occurred via co-option from their within by dividing their elite and brandishing the allure of civilized luxury goods. To some extent there was little difference in the material conditions of the Xiongnu elite, instead of engaging in raids to obtain wealth they were bribed or paid by the Chinese polity. In terms of efficiency this reduced the uncertainty on the part of the Chinese and so was economically a good decision as it allowed for a shift toward lower time preference.

Reading the chapter in question here, I got the feeling that the economic and social conditions in Zunhua mimicked the contrasts which one might draw between pre-modern Europe and China. Europeans had a more mixed diet than the Asian peasant, and their agricultural complex relied to a far greater extent on animal husbandry and cattle (or, differently stated, more inputs of capital than labor to increase marginal returns). The average European peasants was arguably wealthier than the average Chinese peasant. In Farewell to Alms Greg Clark points to better hygiene in East Asia leading to a different death schedule, so that the Chinese would be pushing against the Malthusian limit to a greater extent (fewer mouths dividing up a finite pie in Europe vs. China at any given time). On the other hand, economic historians such as Raymond Crotty have emphasized the peculiar ecology of Northern Europe, and the incentives that existed toward raising of cattle stock as opposed to cereal agriculture. From what I have read it seems clear that in places such as Scandinavia traditional cereal agriculture gave a relatively low in yield. After all, wheat is a crop of the Mediterranean. Oats were a better bet, but are relatively unpalatable to humans, so they were more effectively grown as fodder for cattle.

A quick look at a world map will show that Europe is far to the north of China. Because of the disparate impact of Westerlies the different sides of continents at the same latitude may experience climatic regimes which vary a great deal. Northern California and New Jersey are an example. Distance from oceans also matter, southern Nebraska has a more "continental" climate than either New Jersey or northern California despite similar latitudes. It seems to me that on reason China and Europe took such radically different paths in terms of agriculture styles, in particular northern Europe and China, were differences in their ecological parameters. Europe is a very high latitude temperate zone characterized by moderation in its climate and relative regularity in its precipitation. China is a relatively low latitude temperate zone because of its exposure to the winter air of central Asia, as well as being subject to the reversal monsoonal flow during the summer, which is the season of greatest precipitation. The region of Europe at the similar latitude as north China, the Mediterranean zone, is characterized by much milder temperatures in winter as well as an inverted precipitation regime from Asia, with a maximum during the cold season of least sunlight.

But in the case of Zunhua ecology is probably not the only constraint. Its local population in the ancient phase included many "friendly" Xiongnu, suggesting its proximity to the steppe heartland. The period which The Retreat of the Elephants surveys is one of relative peace when Zunhua was not on a political frontier, the Manchu dynasty had subjugated Mongolia, and pushed the north boundaries of the Chinese Empire past the Amur river. For much of Chinese history in contrast Zunhua was a borderland, often not under Chinese hegemony. It seems plausible that therefore Zunhua was often a "No Man's Land," and so not subject to economic exploitation because of the risks inherent. I suspect an analogy to arable regions of Ukraine which were long occupied by nomads may be made. Up until the expansion of the Czarist state during the 17th century farmers that lived in central and eastern Ukraine would be subject to brutal exploitation by nomadic peoples, a dynamic one can glean as far back as the Scythians. Only with the rise of the Gunpowder Empires were the nomads on the marchlands finally defeated and extinguished as a threatening wild card which dissuaded farmers from settling vast swaths of Inner Eurasia. To some extent this might be interpreted simply as a variant of Greg Clark's point about shifting the death schedule; during periods when Zunhua was on the borders only those who were willing to risk life and limb would settle there, and periodic wars would "clean out" the region demographically.

Ultimately though I am curious as to why agriculture developed the way it did in China, being so focused on human labor. In The Great Divergence it is pointed out that China was more densely populated than India, and that land was more plentiful in South Asia. In Cows, Pigs, Wars, and Witches it is argued that cattle reverence in India is a function of the fact that bulls are an essential draft animal (the author notes that a disproportionate number of feral cattle are cows). In When Histories Collide Raymond Crotty argues that cattle reverence in India is due to the fact that killing calves would be counterproductive in terms of milk production. I have already provided some general rationales for why animal husbandry was relatively rational in Europe. In China, the primary animal was the pig. In terms of domesticates it seems that the pig is nearly feral, generally subsisting on offal. The pig can not produce milk, nor can it serve as a work animal. Various regions of Eurasia developed "critical mass" as complex literate societies during the pre-modern era, but gross features of their modes of production still differed. Why? Some ideas.

Going off William H. McNeill's arguments in Plagues and Peoples, I suggest that South Asia had a higher pathogen load than East Asia, and so there was always downward pressure on the population so that it did not "push" against the Malthusian Trap to the same extent. This also freed up more land so that successful farmers might get a relatively larger marginal return from the utilization of cattle as draft animals.

In Europe the variables were not disease related, but structural differences in climatic regimes. Northern Europe was well watered, but extremely cool and moist. It was not suited to the arid adapted grains from the temperate zone because of the latter parameter, but also not appropriate for rice agricultural because of the former (the Po river valley has rice now due to advanced irrigation techniques). Mediterranean Europe is subject to the peculiarities of its winter maxima precipitation regime. This allows for the cultivation of olives and other specialty crops, but, it also results in a situation where most of the rain falls during the season of least sunlight.

The ecological differences between Europe and China had an agricultural/economic implication: the Chinese could maximize caloric output per unit area of land through pure cereal cultivation. In contrast, the Europeans could not maximize calorie output through cereal cultivation but had to engage in "mixed" agriculture. The caloric total extractable out of the land per unit area was lower when summing the complements which were produced in European agriculture, but, the balance of nutritional intakes (protein, vitamins, etc.) was superior. This resulted in naturally greater physiological fitness for Europeans than Chinese as well as a lower final population density, and also natural evolutionary changes such as LP to deal with specific nutritional intakes.

Finally, I want to touch upon the general manner in which farming spread. It is quite clear that over the long term in China the Han way of life resulted in reduced lifetime physiological fitness. Nevertheless, it was above the threshold of fitness necessary for viability so that an individual could reproduce. Additionally during the transient when it was expanding into regions where land was in surplus it might actually have been a lifestyle that lead to relative affluence. The main problem is that this affluence was temporary as the population reached the local Malthusian limit. At this point the exhaustion of the local ecological base which might have supplemented the grain monoculture was beyond a point of no return and the society was "boxed in" to a lifestyle predicated on surviving through the next harvest. Additionally, judging by the fact that Han elites had surplus which they could use to bribe barbarian warlords the quantitative rise in the subjects from which to extract rents was sufficient to more than cancel out the qualitative decline in the character of the tax extracted. The Han way of life might have been misery for the peasantry, but there was a reasonable case that the Confucian bureaucratic fixation on a free peasant base as the ideal subject population was self-interested. Underfed farmers made quiescent subordinates. In contrast, nomads were notoriously factious, and their periodic organized eruptions were contingent upon coalescence around a particularly charismatic figure, or, more often the collapse of the Chinese political order and the opportunity for unparalleled plunder. Nevertheless, the fact that nomads were presences along the northern edge of Chinese civilization implies that there were ecological constraints on the spread of the Han lifestyle. Beyond the reach of dryland farming and irrigation there was no possibility of settlement. While nomads could always turn arable land into pasturage, the Han could not always turn pasturage into arable land.

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