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Selected Development Project
Project Title

Climate change and economic vulnerabilities in early modern China

Principal Investigator Dr Pei Qing
Area of Research Project
Science and Environmental Studies
Project Period
From 1/1/2018 To 31/12/2019
  1. Statistically investigate the economic vulnerabilities under climate change in early modern China from a long-term temporal scale;
  2. The long-term dynamics of the agrarian economy and climate change in early modern China will be quantitatively examined;
  3. The economic impacts of climatic factors, including temperature, precipitation, ENSO, NAO, Asian monsoon and so on, will be scrutinized;
  4. The Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong Province, Hunan Province and Hubei Province will be chosen as the regional cases to supplement the findings of the whole China;
  5. Formulate new theories or improve existing theories on the agrarian economy and its vulnerabilities to climate change. The proposed project could help to restructure the philosophical basis of research and policy making to address future threats of climate change;
  6. Promote the development of Environmental Humanities with empirical evidence;
  7. Incorporate the philosophical paradigm of Environmental Humanities into current research of history as well as other social sciences; and
  8. Review current economic theories under the background of climate change.
Methods Used

My studies involve different subjects, including geography, history, economics, and demography to bridge the natural sciences and social sciences. I am the pioneer scholar worldwide to statistically investigate the climate change and history, mainly including economic vulnerability, climate refugee issue, social security, and public health at the centennial and even millennia scale.

Summary of Findings
  1. Climate change has shed their great impacts on the agrarian economy at both national and provincial scale in historical China.
  2. The economic vulnerabilities will lead to the mass-migration and even social unrests in the societies, which is true to both agriculturalists and pastoralists’ communities.
  3. As agrarian economy highly depending on climatic conditions, the notion of Mandate of Heaven has been developed in historical China.

The findings have attracted the great attention in academia. I have been invited to present my research findings in global top universities and institutions, including Princeton Institute for Advanced Studies (1), Princeton University (2), Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (3), and Teikyo University (4). Moreover, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich invited me to give a speech, which was recorded and uploaded online (3). In addition, I also gave invited talks under the invitations of international academic associations, such as Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth (ACRE) (5), Global Labor Organization (6), and Division of Forestry History, Forestry Science Association in China (7). In addition, I have been interviewed on this widely-interested topic of my research by different local and overseas media (such as 8-10) to report his findings, which has been reproduced by other media as well.

  1. Qing Pei. Climate Push and Pull: a hidden driver of geopolitical cycle in China. Institute for Advanced Studies workshop "Climate, Archaeology and History in the Eurasian Middle Ages". Princeton, US, 28-30 April, 2018
  2. Qing Pei. Mandate of Heaven: Climate change, migration and geopolitical cycles in imperial China. A Climate Change and History Research Initiative (CCHRI) Colloquium in Princeton University, Princeton, US, 24-27 May, 2018
  3. Qing Pei. Climate Change and Economic Development across Eurasia. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, 5th July, 2018. https://youtu.be/OXFg3a3kzYs
  4. Qing Pei. Document-based precipitation reconstruction and its impact in Chinese history. The 1st Japan-China Joint Workshop on Historical Climatology in East Asia. Teikyo University, Tokyo, Japan, 21st Dec, 2019
  5. Qing Pei. Cultural implications from the Climate Records of Imperial China. Joint ACRE China, Southeast Asia, and Japan workshop. Wuhan, China, 4th-6th Nov, 2019
  6. Qing Pei. Mandate of Heaven – Climate change, migration and geopolitical cycles in imperial China. International Conference Climate Change and Human Responses. Hong Kong, 31st Oct-2nd Nov, 2018
  7. Qing Pei. The digitization of historical documents and climate reconstruction. 7th China Forestry Science Conference-Division of Forestry History. Nanjing, China, 8th-11th Nov, 2019
  8. 無定向學堂﹕氣候冷暖變遷關歷史事?明報週刊,2018年4月22日
  9. Media report on ‘Migration for survival under natural disasters: A reluctant and passive choice for agriculturalists in historical China’ by Science Press. http://blog.sciencenet.cn/blog-528739-1089654.html
  10. 氣候變化和歷史社會經濟波動,經濟觀察報,2017年12月4日,第848期
  11. Due to the importance of my work, I have been appointed as Fellow/Core member/Leader in different universities and organizations worldwide (11-14). These universities and organizations have global impacts for academia, policy makers and public. In particular, I am acting one of five leaders of PAGE Group (15), which has scientific partners of World Meteorological Organization, UNESCO, and the International Council for Science. The findings of my PAGE Group have been invited to contribute to the coming IPCC 6th Assessment Report, which is one of the most influential publications with the readers from academia, politics, business and other careers of the general public.

  12. Carson Fellow, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany
  13. Fellow, Global Labor Organization (GLO)
  14. Core Member, Environmental Humanities AG, Swiss National Academic of Art and Science
  15. Core Member, Environmental Humanities Switzerland
  16. One of five leaders of PAGES Group “Climate Reconstruction and Impacts from the Archives of Societies”. The other four leaders are from Ohio State University, USA; Leibniz Institute for History & Culture of Eastern Europe, Germany; Heidelberg University, Germany; and University of Bern, Switzerland.
  17. Selected Awards

    Based on significance of my research outputs, I have been awarded both externally (16-17) and internally (18) to recognize my research and scholarship.

  18. Second-class Award in the Natural Science category in the Higher Education Outstanding Scientific Research Output Awards (Science and Technology) from the Ministry of Education, China, 2019.
  19. Early Career Scheme Award from Research Grant Council, University Grants Committee, Hong Kong, 2018-2019.
  20. President's Award for Outstanding Performance in Research (Early Career Research Excellence Award), Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2019.
Selected Output
* indicates corresponding author
  1. Pei, Q.*, Li, G., Winterhalder, B., & Lowman, M. (2019) Regional patterns of pastoralist migrations under the push of reduced precipitation in imperial China. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 29(3), 433-443
  2. Pei, Q.* (2020). Division of Hunan and Hubei Provinces in the Qing Dynasty: Pragmatism in the Unity of Heaven and Governance. The Professional Geographer, 7(2), 283-296.
  3. Pei, Q.*, Nowak, Z., Li, G., Xu, C., & Chan, W. K. (2019). The Strange Flight of the Peacock: Farmers’ atypical northwesterly migration from central China, 200BC-1400AD. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 109(5), 1583-1596.
  4. Pei, Q.*, Zhang, D. D., Li, J., & Fei, J. (2019). Proxy-based temperature reconstruction in China for the Holocene. Quaternary International, 521, 168-174.
  5. Pei, Q.*, Lee, H. F., Zhang, D. D., & Fei, J. (2019). Climate change, state capacity and nomad–agriculturalist conflicts in Chinese history. Quaternary International, 508, 36-42.
  6. Pei, Q.*, & Forêt, P. (2018). Source Note: Introduction to the Climate Records of Imperial China. Environmental History, 23(4), 863–871.
  7. Pei, Q.*, Lee, H. F., & Zhang, D. D. (2018). Long-term association between climate change and agriculturalists’ migration in historical China. The Holocene, 28(2), 208-216.
  8. Pei, Q.* (2017). Migration for survival under natural disasters: A reluctant and passive choice for agriculturalists in historical China. Science China Earth Sciences, 60(12), 2089–2096.
  9. Xu, C., Pei, Q.*, Wong, V. K., Gu, C., & Zhang, D. D. (2018). Western wind meets eastern soil: road to industrialization in China (1874-1927). Asian Geographer, 1-15.
  10. Fei, J., & Pei, Q. (2019). Ferdinand von Richthofen’s loess research in China. Progress in Physical Geography, 43(1), 144–156.
Biography of Principal Investigator

Dr Qing Pei has joined the Department of Social Sciences, The Education University of Hong Kong as an Assistant Professor in 2016. Before joining the department, he used to work as the fellow in the University of Cambridge, UK; the Swiss National Science Foundation Fellow at the University of Zurich, Switzerland; and the Post-doctoral Fellow in the University of Hong Kong. His research areas cover Historical Geography, Environmental Humanities, and Human Ecology, which mainly encompass social responses to climate change of global past, methodology in environmental humanities, and environmental problems and sustainable policy.

Funding Source

Early Career Scheme