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The Tiger and the Pangolin

The Tiger and the Pangolin: Nature, Culture, and Conservation in China

Chris Coggins
Copyright Date: 2003
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  • Book Info
    The Tiger and the Pangolin
    Book Description:

    This original and wide-ranging work examines historical perceptions of nature in China and the relationship between insider and outsider, state and village, top-down conservation policy and community autonomy. After an introduction to the history of wildlife conservation and nature reserve management in China, the book places recent tiger conservation efforts in the context of a two-thousand-year gazetteer of tiger attacks--the longest running documentation of human-wildlife encounters for any region in the world. This record offers a unique perspective on the history of the tiger as a dynamic force in the political culture of China.

    While the tiger has long been identified with political authority, the Chinese pangolin and its earthly magic have exerted a powerful influence in the everyday lives of those working and living in the fields and forests. Today the tiger and the pangolin, government officials and village communities, must work together closely if wildlife habitat conservation programs are to succeed. Extensive fieldwork in the Meihuashan Nature Reserve and other protected areas of western Fujian have led the author to advocate a landscape ecological approach to habitat conservation. By linking economic development to land use practices, he makes a strong case for integrating nature conservation efforts with land tenure and other socio-ecological issues in China and beyond.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6512-2
    Subjects: Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 Introduction: A Short History of Nature Conservation in China
    (pp. 1-26)

    The South China tiger(Panthera tigris amoyensis)and the Chinese pangolin(Manis pentadactyla),a scaly anteater, occupy ancient and important niches in the biologically diverse ecosystems of Chinese folk cosmology. Both animals are believed to have mysterious magical power and high medicinal value, and both are now under state protection. The two species have also been anthropomorphized, to varying degrees, representing two types of intelligent free agents with very different roles on earth. Until well into the twentieth century, the tiger was seen as a representative of heaven that could bring justice to the aggrieved, aid the righteous in times...

  5. PART I The Southeast Uplands:: People, Landscapes, and Wildlife

    • 2 A Mountain Mosaic: Biodiversity, Cultural Diversity, and Land Degradation in the Southeast Uplands
      (pp. 29-50)

      China has been designated by the IUCN as one of the world’s ten most biologically diverse countries, ranking fifth in species richness for mammals, and the subtropical Southeast Uplands is an area of high value for mammal conservation. High biodiversity in the region is largely a function of the relatively sparse human population in the highlands, a feature that sets the region in sharp contrast with surrounding, densely settled coastal plains and river basins, where native species of wild fauna and flora have been greatly depleted. The Southeast Uplands region also encompasses tremendous ethnolinguistic diversity, with 104 local Han dialects...

    • 3 Lord of the Hundred Beasts: A History of Tigers and People in Southeast China
      (pp. 51-86)

      Han Chinese settlement of the mountains, hills, and basins south of the Changjiang occurred in a series of wavelike migrations, first from North China and then from the southeast coast. Escaping drought, famine, poverty, political persecution, or invasions by nomadic tribal peoples, individuals and groups left the North China culture hearth, seeking refuge along the coastal plains and interior valleys of the southern subtropics. The plethora of strange vertebrate species and indigenous peoples encountered by early civilian and military settlers as they opened the wild frontier contributed to the Chinese literary record on wild animals and “wild barbarians.” Literary research...

  6. PART II The Tiger and the Pangolin:: An Environmental History of the Plumflower Mountains

    • 4 The Wealth of Mountains: Settlement, Subsistence, and Population Change in Meihuashan before 1949
      (pp. 89-106)

      The Meihuashan Nature Reserve, where tigers soon may be reintroduced to the wild, is also home to more than three thousand people in more than two dozen villages, and most of these communities are between four hundred and seven hundred years old. Villagers’ attitudes toward nature conservation in Meihuashan have developed, in part, from the region’s distinctive historical patterns of resource utilization, socio-economic change, and landscape transformation. These phenomena are best reconstructed at the village level, and a composite view of the historical human ecology of Meihuashan, fascinating in its own right for what it reveals about local cultural identity,...

    • 5 Three Rises, Two Falls: Political Ecology and Socioeconomic Development in Meihuashan after 1949
      (pp. 107-134)

      The above description of conditions in Meihuashan in the early 1990s, though highly reductionist and narrowly focused on classical notions of development, encapsulates several salient features of the local economy and human ecology of the time, especially for people who lacked road access for transporting goods to and from outside markets. Several households were still without electricity, and only by the end of the decade had some villages begun to use electric power in the manufacture of bamboo finished products. There was, and still is, a high level of reliance on local natural resources to meet basic needs for food,...

    • 6 Burning the Mountains: A Historical Landscape Ecology of the Meihuashan Ecosystem
      (pp. 135-158)

      Vegetation patterns in Meihuashan today are the result of centuries of landscape modification by Hakka villagers and probably by earlier aboriginal inhabitants as well. As the Hakka came to dominate the region, they continued to transform the once ubiquitous, subtropical broadleaf forests into a patchwork of cultivated, semicultivated, and wild habitats. With more than five hundred years of Han settlement, rice terraces crept up the valley sides, fire scoured montane meadows to the highest peaks, bamboo forests covered the slopes, and sacred broadleaf forests or cultivated groves ofCryptomeriatrees rose above the villages, blocking fierce winds in the water...

    • Color plates
      (pp. None)
  7. PART III Contemporary Village Resource Management and Nature Conservation Strategies

    • 7 Habitat Conservation in the Post-Reform Landscape
      (pp. 161-194)

      During the first thirty years of communist rule, an unprecedented degree of government intervention in village land tenure relationships, subsistence patterns, and cottage industries brought massive change to the traditional social and economic order of village life. As Chinese Communist Party leaders carried out land reform, collectivization, and communization, family-based commercial paper production was transformed to a communal enterprise geared toward meeting quotas set by local and regional cadres. State control over rice and bamboo production transformed villagers into government laborers on their own lands. Except for the period of the Great Leap Forward, most of the local labor force...

    • 8 White Tigers and Azure Dragons: Fengshui Forests, Sacred Space, and the Preservation of Biodiversity in Village Landscapes
      (pp. 195-215)

      In countless villages of the Southeast Uplands, whether clustered within the confines of a mountain ravine or spread out upon the plain of a broad river valley, sacred forests or individual sacred trees grace the landscape. Known as “fengshuilin” (wind-water forests) or “fengshuishu” (fengshuitrees), they are protected by ancient custom as a critical component of village landscape and cosmology. Soon after arriving in Fujian, I tried to learn as much as possible about the cultural and ecological characteristics of villagefengshuiforests in Meihuashan, to make comparative studies of such forests in other areas of western Fujian.

      In the...

    • 9 Eating from the Mountain: Hunting Traditions, the Wildlife Trade, and Wildlife Management
      (pp. 216-248)

      Nature conservation has emerged as a scientific and practical discipline in China only in recent years, and wildlife management techniques, by North American standards, are almost nonexistent or rudimentary in all but a few nature reserves. Indigenous forms of land and wildlife management, on the other hand, date from the earliest use of fire by hunter-gatherers of the later Pleistocene. Traps and weapons were used by the earliest settlers of the region to hunt game and remove dangerous carnivores, and these indigenous tools diffused throughout China and across Asia during periods of intercultural contact and waves of migration that may...

    • 10 Vital Connections: Linking Nature Conservation and Cultural Ecology in Southeast China and Beyond
      (pp. 249-284)

      The most effective way to resolve resource management problems in inhabited protected areas is to ensure as much input and involvement by local residents as is politically possible. Stevens (1997) divides indigenous involvement into three levels: consultation, co-management, and indigenous management. While consultation with local inhabitants is seen as the most basic foundation for successful management, co-management, or even full management by local people (indigenous management), provides a much more comprehensive framework for sustainable conservation. A new approach (or perhaps a new paradigm), known as “community-based conservation,” is beginning to take root in international conservation circles, and the “Yellowstone Model”...

  8. Appendix
    (pp. 285-290)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 291-316)
  10. Glossary of Selected Chinese Terms
    (pp. 317-318)
  11. References
    (pp. 319-330)
  12. Index
    (pp. 331-339)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 340-341)