List of famines in China

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Victims of a famine forced to sell their children from The Famine in China (1878)

This is a list of famines in China. Between 108 BC and 1911 AD, there were no fewer than 1828 recorded famines in China, or once nearly every year in one province or another. The famines varied in severity.[1][2]

Famines in China[edit]

Name Time Region Context Estimated number of dead
875-884 Peasant rebellion in China inspired by famine; Huang Chao captured capital
1333-1337[3] Famine in China
1630-1631 Northwestern China Eventually causing the Ming Dynasty to collapse in 1644
1810, 1811, 1846, 1849 Nearly 45 million[4]
1850-1873 Taiping Rebellion and drought 20-30 million mostly famine and plague [5]
Great North China Famine 1876-1879 Northern China Drought 9.5-13 million[6]
1896-1897 Northern China Leading in part to the Boxer Rebellion
1907, 1911 East-central China 25 million
1920-1921 North China famine 1920-1921 Henan, Shandong, Shanxi, Shaanxi, southern Zhili (Hebei) 0.5 million[7]
Chinese famine of 1928–1930 1928-1930 Northern China Drought 3 million
1936-1937 famine 1936-1937[8] Sichuan, Gansu 5 million
1942–1943 famine 1942–1943 Mainly Henan Second Sino-Japanese War 2-3 million
Great Chinese Famine 1959-61[9] Entire country[10][11] Great Leap Forward and Drought 15 to 45 million

Famines in Ancient China[edit]

In China famines have been an ongoing problem for thousands of years. From the Shang dynasty (16th-11th century BC) until the founding of modern China, chroniclers have regularly described recurring disasters. There have always been times and places where rains have failed, especially in the northwest of China, and this has led to famine.

It was the task of the Emperor of China to provide assistance, as necessary, to famine areas and transport foods from other areas and to distribute them. The reputation of an emperor depended on how he succeeded. National famines occurred even when the drought areas were too large, especially when simultaneously larger areas of flooded rivers were over their banks and thus additionally crop failures occurred, or when the central government did not have sufficient reserves. If an emperor could not prevent a famine, he lost prestige and legitimacy. It was said that he had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "China: Land of Famine". JSTOR 3014847.
  2. ^ "Heaven, Observe!". Time. February 6, 1928.
  3. ^ "Projects and Events: 14th Century". Archived from the original on 2016-01-13.
  4. ^ "Fearfull Famines of the Past".
  5. ^ "Ch'ing China: The Taiping Rebellion".
  6. ^ Cormac Ó Gráda (March 16, 2009). Famine: A Short History. Princeton University Press.
  7. ^ Li, Lillian M. (1982). "Introduction: Food, Famine, and the Chinese State". The Journal of Asian Studies. 41 (4): 687–707. doi:10.2307/2055445.
  8. ^ "Natural Disasters and Hazards - Historical Events Timeline".
  9. ^ Dikötter, Frank. Mao's Great Famine: The History of China's Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-62. Walker & Company, 2010 pp.32, 67, xxiii. Becker, Jasper (1998). Hungry Ghosts: Mao's Secret Famine. Holt Paperbacks p.xi. Yang, Jisheng (2008). Tombstone (Mu Bei - Zhong Guo Liu Shi Nian Dai Da Ji Huang Ji Shi). Cosmos Books (Tian Di Tu Shu), Hong Kong pp.12, 429.
  10. ^ Yang (2008) pp.396, 411
  11. ^ Peng Xizhe (1987). Demographic Consequences of the Great Leap Forward in China's Provinces. Population and Development Review Vol.13 No.4 (Dec. 1987) pp.646-648.