Every second to third year, mulberry plantations in the North of China were destroyed by frost and insects. The genre of local gazetteers (difang zhi) is a major source for the Yuan-Dynasty’s reputation as an era of natural disaster. It is also the period in which Chinese sericulture production was multiplied and expanded towards the South. Scientists since Zhu Kezhen have thus used local gazetteers to discuss the impact of weather on China’s political history and socioeconomic change. Climatologists since have inquired whether the Little Ice Age may have started in China by the fourteenth century. In this lecture we introduce research on these themes with the use of digital methods. We will illustrate the political economy of disasters in Chinese historiography and show how digital methods help in-depth analytical reading and ways to understand the role of local gazetteers in the Little Ice Age and Yuan historical research.
Dagmar Schäfer is the Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.
Chen Shih-pei is the Digital Content Curator of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.