Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2019


China, Late Qing Dynasty, Chinese Forestry, Arboriculture, Self-Strengthening, Li Hongzhang, Chinese Cosmology, Flooding in China, The Chinese Times, Imperialism in China


Previous examinations of Self-Strengthening in Late Qing China have focused on the movement's military and educational dimensions. Moreover, there exists a general conception of Late Qing China as being a period of decline. This paper, based on articles and official Chinese government memorials appearing in The Chinese Times, an English language newspaper that ran from 1886-1891, examines forestry efforts in the Late Qing as an example of Self-Strengthening. Looking at the movement from this angle, several newfound dimensions of Self-Strengthening emerge, including a link to Chinese cosmology and the ruler-subject relationship, examples of localized benefits, and a reexamination of the narrative of the Late Qing as a strictly deteriorating state. These considerations serve to remind us that, though steeped in foreign influence as it was, the Self-Strengthening movement had fundamentally Chinese roots. This paper also discusses the application of forestry in the Late Qing, including as a device for flood control, as a source of economic wealth, and as a powerful means of state-building, both structurally and ritually.


This paper was nominated by Roger Thompson, Department of History.

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Arboriculture--China--History; Forests and forestry--China--History; Forest management--China--History

Geographic Coverage

China--History--Self strengthening movement, 1861-1895; China--History--Qing dynasty, 1644-1912


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