Cover image for Before the deluge : the vanishing world of the Yangtze's Three Gorges
Before the deluge : the vanishing world of the Yangtze's Three Gorges
Chetham, Deirdre, 1954-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Palgrave Macmillan, [2002]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 296 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
The Towns -- History and Myth -- Traditional Life -- Outside Pressures -- Change from Within -- War Along the Yangtze -- Remaking Man and Nature -- Decisions and Delays -- New Currents -- The Dam -- From Past to Present -- The Eve of the Flood.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS793.Y3 C495 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



A timely and compelling portrait of a world, quickly vanishing under the rising waters of the Yangtze River.

Author Notes

Deirdre Chetham has been a frequent traveler on the Yangtze River for almost twenty years. She has been the executive director of the Harvard University Asia Center since 1997, and until 2000 served concurrently as the executive director of Harvard's Fairbank Center for East Asian Research. Prior to this, she spent a decade as a U.S. foreign service officer, with assignments in Beijing, East Berlin, and on the Burma desk in Washington, D.C. She attended the Putney School, graduated from Harvard, and after graduate study in anthropology at Columbia Unversity, worked for Lindblad Travel on the Yangtze and in the far corners of China. Deirdre Chetham has been a contributor for the National Geographic News Service, Gemini News Service in London, and Radio Netherlands International. She has been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College, an associate in research at the Fairbank Center, and a writer-in-residence at the Millay Colony for the Arts

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

More than a million people will be displaced from towns along China's Yangtze River in a vastly complicated project begun decades ago to build the Three Gorges Dam. Incrementally, the water level will rise nearly 600 feet to form a reservoir by 2009, overflowing long-established communities and irreplaceable antiquities: Tang Dynasty rock engravings and the "Gorge of the Sword and Book upon the Art of War," where Zhuge Liang, before he became renowned for Mastering the Art of War, is said to have placed his book on military command. Chetham, a director of Harvard's prestigious Asia Center and an expert on the area, paints a pulsating picture of the great river, the countryside, the people and their occupations, the amazingly fluid political philosophies and the sheer endurance of all parties, past and present, involved with the overwhelming project. The panorama of China, the Three Gorges and the ever-present natural disasters and national turmoil emerges as Chetham employs a chiaroscuro-like technique, offering by turns visions of economic utopias with unprecedented generation of electrical power and darker tales in the history of a controversial undertaking. From timelines and interviews to musings of ancient poets, the story of the yielding of the Three Gorges to irrevocable change unfolds. "In China, not only does every rock and inlet have a story associated with it, but a god as well." With masterful scholarship and evocative prose, Chetham, who lived in China and understands this region intimately, chronicles myriad viewpoints. 23 pages of illustrations and b&w photos. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

What will be the world's largest hydroelectric dam is under construction in the remote Three Gorges area of China's Upper Yangtze River. Of the nearly 1500 towns that will be submerged when the project is complete, the author focuses on a handful that she knows well from her experiences as a river guide and lecturer. She describes their residents involved in their daily affairs-working, worshiping, getting by-even as the flood waters ineluctably rise around them. In some cases, communities that have existed for thousands of years, whose entire histories and cultures are centered on the river, that have survived flood, famine, and war, will be forced to uproot themselves forever. Against this backdrop, the author also recounts the broader controversies and political deal-making that went into the decision to build the dam. This book had to be written now because in just a few years these people and their world will be gone. Highly recommended for Chinese studies, travel, and ecological collections. [For more on the environmental, economic, and social consequences of this project, see also Dai Qing's The River Dragon Has Come!: The Three Gorges Dam and the Fate of China's Yangtze River and Its People.-Ed.] (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

China is about to finish the Three Gorges Dam, creating on the Yangtze River a reservoir as long as Lake Superior. This project is displacing 1.2 million people, destroying a number of towns, and eliminating a huge stretch of riverine environment. It has attracted wide opposition in China and around the world; virtually everyone outside the current Chinese leadership predicts that it will be an economic and ecological disaster. Chetham knows the area well from many visits as a tourist and traveling professional. She provides a brief history of the region, focusing on the last couple of centuries; an overview of the project; and a portrait of life on the river as she has seen it over the last few years. She does not discuss the problems in detail; rather, she reflects what she has seen and heard of local response--how people are adapting to the vast changes already coming to their lives. The book may be called a serious travel account--personal experiences, historically contexted. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers. E. N. Anderson University of California, Riverside

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Map of Chinap. xi
Map of Three Gorgesp. xii
Creditsp. xiv
A Note on Romanization and Measurementsp. xv
Dynasties and Other Historical Periodsp. xvii
Chronology of the Three Gorges Damp. xix
Prefacep. xxi
Introductionp. 1
Chapter 1 The Townsp. 7
Chapter 2 History and Mythp. 31
Chapter 3 Traditional Lifep. 49
Chapter 4 Outside Pressuresp. 71
Chapter 5 Change from Withinp. 91
Chapter 6 War Along the Yangtzep. 107
Chapter 7 Remaking Man and Naturep. 125
Chapter 8 Decisions and Delaysp. 145
Chapter 9 New Currentsp. 163
Chapter 10 The Damp. 177
Chapter 11 From Past to Presentp. 203
Chapter 12 The Eve of the Floodp. 219
Notesp. 243
Appendix I Yangtze River Facts and Figuresp. 251
Appendix II Three Gorges Dam Facts and Figuresp. 253
Appendix III Impact of the Three Gorges Dam on Selected Locationsp. 255
Appendix IV Biographic Glossary of Key Contemporary Political Figuresp. 260
Bibliographyp. 269
Indexp. 276