Bodies and Structures 2.0: Deep-Mapping Modern East Asian History

Surveying Empire

Geological surveys bolstered Han Chinese claims to resources in frontier areas from the late Qing through the Republican period and the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949. Both Japanese and Chinese geologists raced to survey contested territories. Geology quickly became the first science formally endorsed by the new Republic. The Geological Survey of China was the new Chinese republic's first scientific institution and began publishing a journal on geological research in 1919.

To fuel plans to develop Xing An, survey teams paid careful attention to potential coal and other valuable minerals in the region. In a grandiose report full of ambitious but vaguely defined plans for the construction of transportation networks, schools, and the creation of a civil administration, the discussion on the development of logging and mining delved into specific details, including information on the locations of coal seams and valuable mineral deposits. Earlier in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Russian geologists and mining engineers had surveyed the region for gold; the Chinese officers brought their own experts. Subsequently, the Japanese-controlled South Manchuria Railroad also showed an interest in developing mining enterprises in the region.

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