Thus Runs the River: Boat People and Wooden Sailboat Shipping in the Middle Reaches of the Yangtze River in Modern Times
By Chen Yao  Publisher: The Commercial Press, Ltd.
Paper Back
2023-07-01 | ISBN: 978-7-100-22316-4
Rights Manager: Guo Chaofeng

China's shipping industry of wooden sailboat and its practitioners "the boat people", who have been active on the vast rivers, lakes and seas, were a key force contributing to the formation and expansion of the national traditional market. Even though the shipping industry has suffered from the impacts of the emergence of ferries in the modern era, its influence has not yet disappeared by the middle of the 20th century.

This book focuses on the development of wooden sailboat shipping around the middle reaches of the Yangtze River from the 18th century to the middle of the 20th century, utilizing newly discovered historical documents of the boat people and archives of the private sailboat industry, and corroborating them with official records and Chinese and foreign surveys, to systematically examine the complex role of wooden sailboat shipping in modern inter-regional commerce and trade and to reevaluate its extraordinary contributions to wartime transportation, so as to enrich and deepen the history of the modern shipping industry and the history of China's national market. At the same time, the focus on the historical mobility of boat people is also a central theme of this book, which explores the wooden sailboat industry in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River in modern times. Through fieldwork and in-depth interviews, this book collects and organizes the genealogies, contracts, account books, waterway songs, rituals, and other documents created by the boat people themselves, and tries to present the daily life of the boat people in terms of their wages and consumption, beliefs and skills, commercial activities, and social organization from the perspective of social history, so as to reveal their sense of subjectivity and the logic of their actions in response to the changes of the modern times. Through this study of boat people and the wooden sailboat shipping industry, this book hopes to draw attention to the mobility and instability of the labor force.