Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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(1,071 words)

Hunger and impoverishment, frequently triggered by natural disasters, have been leitmotifs of China's history. During the Shang period, they were still seen as punishment from heaven. In the 2000-year imperial era alone, over 1800 major famines were recorded. The relationship of the state to its poor was always seen as an indication of whether the government still ruled with the "Mandate of Heaven", for whether food shortages resulting from floods or droughts actually led to mass suffering rested ultimately on the effectiveness and integrity of the current government.

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Monschein, Ylva and Pennarz, Johanna, “Poverty”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 05 December 2023 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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