Science China Earth Sciences

, Volume 60, Issue 7, pp 1328–1337 | Cite as

Climate change, migration, and regional administrative reform: A case study of Xinjiang in the middle Qing Dynasty (1760–1884)

  • YanPeng Li
  • QuanSheng GeEmail author
  • HuanJiong Wang
  • ZeXing Tao
Research Paper


Based on historical records of extreme climate events and population densities in Gansu and Shaanxi, and information on climate change, populations, new cultivated cropland, and administrative system reform in Xinjiang, this study explores the interaction between climate change, migration, and regional administrative reform in the middle Qing Dynasty. The results showed that the surge in population migration from Gansu and Shaanxi to Xinjiang during 1760–1820 was caused by extreme climate events (droughts and floods) and population pressure in Gansu and Shaanxi. During 1760–1880, the climate in Xinjiang was unusually cold and humid, which was highly conducive to abundant regional water resources. This provided favorable conditions for farmland irrigation and further promoted agricultural cultivation, population growth, and town development within this region. Additionally, the interactions between climate change and the above-mentioned social factors, which acted as driving forces, spurred the reform in the administrative system of Xinjiang whereby the military administration system was transformed to a province administration system. Through this reform, the Qing government managed to restore peace and stability in Xinjiang. This study contributes to a better understanding of climate-related population migration and enhances our knowledge of the impact-response chain between climate change, ancient social developments, and political coping strategies, especially in regional administrative reform.


Climate change Migration Cultivation Regional administrative reform Xinjiang Qing Dynasty 


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This work was supported by Key Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. ZDRW-ZS-2016-6) and the National Key Research and Development Program of China (Grant No. 2016YFA0602704).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • YanPeng Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • QuanSheng Ge
    • 1
    Email author
  • HuanJiong Wang
    • 1
  • ZeXing Tao
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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