Resilience of the human-water system at the southern silk road: A case study of the northern catchment of Erhai Lake, China (1382–1912)

Anning Xu, Liang Emlyn Yang, Weibing Yang, Aubrey L. Hillman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

6 Scopus citations


This study focuses on the northern catchment of Erhai Lake that lies in the heart of the ancient Southern Silk Road (the Tea-Horse Roads) in southwest China. The hydrologic environment of this region is complex and evolved under significant human impacts, especially after large populations migrated after 1382 under the policy of military tillage. This led to increased pressures on the human-water relationship of this region but also stimulated social resilience to water stresses. This paper investigates the manner in which local people addressed the conflicts of utilizing limited water for people, livestock and irrigation until 1912. The approaches of statistical analysis, spatial analysis and correlation analysis were adopted, and historical data on floods, water conservation projects, plants, and disease were collected to support a detailed examination of the evolution of the human-water relationship in the study area. The results indicate that: (1) the evolution of the hydrologic environment, including the river system and the hydro-chemical environment, had a close correspondence with human activities; (2) local people constructed various water conservation and engineering facilities and changed their farming structures to cope with water stresses, which partly contributed to the break out and spread of Schistosomiasis japonica; (3) the resilience of the human-water relationship became weaker as the management of water projects diminished; (4) the sustainable development of the human-water relationship could be maintained through regular water management and environmental governance. These findings emphasize the influences of social policy and human activities on the resilience of the catchment and improve our understanding of resilience theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocio-Environmental Dynamics Along the Historical Silk Road
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages34
ISBN (Electronic)9783030007287
ISBN (Print)9783030007270
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Human-water relationship
  • Resilience theory
  • Schistosomiasis japonica Erhai lake
  • Southwest china
  • The Tea-Horse Road
  • Water environment Agriculture production

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