Lake Associations

2007 Jan 19

History is cooler than fiction because there’s no way people could make this shit up. This is a mini-game waiting to happen:

“Massive flooding of the Yellow River in 1851 caused two lakes on the Jiangsu-Shandong border to overflow, submerging all the surrounding land on the western shores of the two lakes. The inhabitants of the area (Pei and Tongshan counties in northwest Jiangsu) fled en masse to escape the calamity.

“Four years later the Yellow River again burst its dikes, this time inflicting its greatest damage a few miles north of the previous flood. Inhabitants of the southern Shandong area were hardest hit, and disaster victims rushed down across the border by the hundreds of thousands to seek refuge in neighboring Jiangsu. There they found the abandoned lands that had been inundated in 1851, but which by now had partially dried into fertile silted terrain. The newcomers from Shandong erected shacks and industriously set about cultivated the unoccupied lands. Their hard work paid off and soon the immigrants were enjoying bountiful harvests. This prosperity was reflected in the organization of twelve defense leagues, called lake associations [hutuan], to protect their newfound wealth. With official approval, the settlers constructed forts and stockpiled weapons to safeguard their livelihood against outside intrusion. The immigrants successfully fought off waves of rebel incursions and remained happily settled in their new homes for nearly a decade.

“At this point, however, former inhabitants of the region who had fled the 1851 floods began to reappear on the scene. Seeing that their now fertile lands had been claimed by others, the returned natives filed indignant complaints with the local authorities. When no official help was forthcoming, fighting erupted between the original occupants and the immigrant lake associations. The conflict escalated in late 1865 with an incursion of Nian rebels from Anhui, who found supporters among unruly elements in the hutuan. The area was on the verge of revolt, and order was restored only when government troops marched in to arrest and execute more than one thousand lake association members. Two hutuan found guilty of having harbored rebels were disbanded and their lands confiscated by the government and redistributed to the original owners.”

— Elizabeth J. Perry, “Predators and Protectors: Strategies of Peasant Survival” in Challanging the Mandate of Heaven: Social Protest and State Power in China (2002)

One Response to “Lake Associations”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Love it.


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