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Supply of Public Goods: Water Rescue in Po yang Lake Area from the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China

Meiting ZHENG
Shigu LIU
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The Poyang Lake water area is not only vast but also has a complex hydrological environment, especially the Zuoli area of West Poyang Lake. Because unpredictable winds and waves frequently caused shipwreck accidents, people always considered Zuoli the most dangerous region. At the latest in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties, the local officials set up lifeboats there to " save the drowning ". In the early Qianlong period, with the strong support of the central government, the local governments in that region began to set up lifeboats on a large scale, and the money came mainly from regular state funding. From the mid-Qing period, because the Qing government was experiencing internal and external difficulties, the official lifeboats were also struggling to maintain, and civil lifesaving organizations emerged increasingly. In the late Guangxu period, the local gentry in Zuoli raised money and established the organization JiushengTongrentang. The initial funding primarily came from social donations and government grants, while its daily income relied on the rent of its fields and house properties. During the Republican period, Tongrentang faced financial difficulties due to droughts and floods. Moreover, the Japanese invasions destroyed all the lifeboats and other equipment. After the Second World War, Tongrentang was rebuilt and continued to engage in water lifesaving. However, with the widespread use of motorized boats, the demand for water rescue declined, and Tongrentang faded away gradually. The local practice of water rescue in modern China was no less efficient than the government in providing lifesaving services. However, they were still vulnerable and faced great uncertainty in their survival, with double dilemmas at the economic and social levels.

Journal of History and Anthropology