Throughout history the Yellow River, or Huang Ho, has repeatedly broken through its levees to rampage over the densely populated North China Plain. In spite of its importance as the major river of China, little has been written on the Yellow River and its management. Charles Greer fills this gap with his comprehensive and thoroughly researched book.
This work deals with the technological problems faced by the Chinese in taming the destructive river and also focuses on cultural attitudes that have governed the Chinese response to nature. For example, water control was not highly regarded by the Taoists, who preferred to let nature take its course; but the Buddhists sought to harness the river against devastating floods and also to benefit their crops.
Greer traces water use and management in the Yellow River Basin through Chinese history and discusses early Western interest in the flood problem and Soviet assistance in Yellow River development. He analyzes traditional methods of control as well as newer strategies and their implications.
The author of this book is one of a small number of social scientists able to master the original Chinese-language historical materials necessary to this undertaking. He has also examined Chinese water management methods first-hand as part of a delegation of water management specialists in 1976.
In addition to geographers and conservationists, China scholars will find this book valuable because of the axial role the control of the Yellow River plays in the fundamental economic health of the People’s Republic of China. Water management engineers will find much useful comparative material.