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100 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995© 1995 by University ofHawai'i Press Mark Elvin, Hiroaki Nishioka, Keiko Tamura, and Joan Kwek. Japanese Studies on the History ofWater Control in China: A Selected Bibliography. Canberra, Australia: The Institute ofAdvanced Studies, Australian National University, 1994. xv, 240 pp. Paperback. As a bibliography, this attractively presented collaboration between the Institute of Advanced Studies ofthe Australian National University and the Centre for East Asian Cultural Studies for UNESCO of the Toyo Bunko is one of those labors of love that is likely to occupy a very small scholarly niche. It presents citations of fifty-three books and roughly five hundred articles, all in the Japanese language, all accompanied by brief subject codes and indicators (in kanji only) ofthe time period and region covered. There are few helpful guides for non-Japanese researchers , even if they happen to read Japanese and are interested in delving into a rich lode of scholarship on the history ofwater control in China. One finds no abstracts, in any language, and no indications to the outsider ofhow one would go about finding these materials. Articles are not indexed by any of the eighteen English-language or forty-two Japanese topic codes—for that, the eager researcher is told to search the pages of future issues of the journal EastAsian History for their possible availability on the Internet. Given the limited number of subject codes (only the English ones are used) and the definitely finite quantity of citations, anyone who is really eager can do the job the old-fashioned way, by leafing through the pages, and leave the electronic surfing for bigger waves. In any case, most of the time the title of the book or article is more informative than the subject codes. The inaccessibility of the bibliography is mitigated by Mark Elvin's introductory spot survey, although not without a great deal ofhis supplemental interpretation . Elvin dismisses the work in this area by Chinese scholars as being almost exclusively technology-oriented. He then declares that there is "no coherent Western corpus of scholarship on water control in China," due in large part to a desire to avoid theoretical contamination by the dreaded Wittfogel and his "hydraulic despotism" dogma. Since Elvin's own work is part of this allegedly incoherent corpus, one might be inclined to agree with him. Nonetheless, from his subsequent discussion ofthe alternative it is not entirely clear what the value of coherence is. The Japanese scholarly community took up the issues ofwater control in China with less reluctance than their Western counterparts by providing their own gloss on the pontificating ofMarx and Wittfogel, throwing in some of Max Weber's postulations while they were at it. In particular, Elvin notes that Japan's scholars have been interested in three institutionalist themes: the historical evolu- Reviews 101 tion ofthe kyödötai ("collectivity," or Gemeinde), the linkages between water control and the imperial state, and the role ofwater control in economic and environmental development. The original interest in investigating kyödötai was to show that China had passed through the putative Asiatic mode ofproduction, exemplified by statecontrolled collectivities, by the end ofthe Tang dynasty. Eventually, according to Elvin, the Japanese propensity for thoroughness in collecting source materials and their "cultural tradition that stresses the explicit presentation ofdocumentary evidence , its siting in social context, and detailed textual explication" led the analysis , almost in spite ofitself, to transcend the bounds of Eurocentered stage-of-development theory. In its place is something that can be analyzed more from a contemporary governing-the-commons perspective, although it is not clear from Elvin that the Japanese scholars bring this (or any other) new intellectual framework to the problem. The second intellectual agenda that has driven Japanese scholars is the Oriental despotism puzzle, that is, whether there is a connection between hydraulic works and the nature ofthe state. Elvin notes a great deal of disagreement here. Nishijima claims that there was no "clear and direct" connection between water and tyranny, a conclusion that is in line with comparative historical reviews ofthe problem done by non-Japanese scholars après Wittfogel. Sakuma finds a subtle connection through the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 100-101
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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