Human Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 157–172 | Cite as

Climate, Desertification, and the Rise and Collapse of China’s Historical Dynasties

  • Xunming WangEmail author
  • Fahu Chen
  • Jiawu Zhang
  • Yi Yang
  • Jijun Li
  • Eerdun Hasi
  • Caixia Zhang
  • Dunsheng Xia


Arid and semiarid areas of ancient China include the Mongolian Plateau, northern China, and some parts of central China. These regions have experienced multiple arid phases throughout the Quaternary, and are highly sensitive to climate change (Z. Zhu and Liu 1982). These areas were traditionally managed using fragile pastoral and agricultural systems even though most of this area is covered by gobi deserts, eolian dunes, sandy land, and steppes (Fig.  1), where both agriculture and the native vegetation have been seriously degraded by frequent desertification cycles (Z. Zhu et al. 1980). Over the past 5,000 years, Chinese dynasties have been founded, have flourished, and have then declined and collapsed in various regions. In particular, the rise and decline of dynasties in northern and central China, possibly due to desertification cycles, strongly influenced China’s historical cultures (Rhoads 2003), which themselves played a dominant role in Asian and world history...


Biological Productivity Qing Dynasty Sandy Land Ming Dynasty Tang Dynasty 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by the National Key Project for Basic Research “The key physical processes of oasification, desertification and their numerical simulations (2009CB421304)”. We are very grateful to anonymous referees for their critical and fruitful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xunming Wang
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Fahu Chen
    • 3
  • Jiawu Zhang
    • 3
  • Yi Yang
    • 4
  • Jijun Li
    • 3
  • Eerdun Hasi
    • 2
  • Caixia Zhang
    • 1
  • Dunsheng Xia
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  2. 2.College of Resources Science and TechnologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.CAEP, MOE Key Laboratory of West China’s Environmental SystemsLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  4. 4.College of Atmospheric ScienceLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina

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