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WIREs Clim Change
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The “cultural turn” of climate history: An emerging field for studies of China and East Asia

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Abstract The last few years have seen a surge of scholarly interest in how cultures have been influenced by climate, climatic changes, and extremes of weather. This “cultural turn” of climate history draws from the archives of society, rather than the archives of nature, and is heavily influenced by interpretative and methodological frameworks drawn from the humanities fields. Attention has been largely focused on European contexts and cultures. This article aims to show, however, that the climate history of Asia is on the cusp of developing its own strong cultural turn and that strong foundations and precedents have already been set. This article has two main objectives. The first is to explore approaches in the history of the climate in East Asia that claim to investigate interactions between climatic changes or extreme events and society and culture. Many of these are macro studies, comparing climatic changes with dramatic events in history. Then, it will take a closer look at scholarship that has focused closely on the ideas and beliefs that characterize a society, showing how regional customs and philosophical systems have developed in relation to weather. It will argue that better integration between the two approaches is needed if we are to fully grasp the interdependence of people and climate, a question that becomes ever more critical as we move further into the Anthropocene. This article is categorized under: Climate, History, Society, Culture > World Historical Perspectives

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