Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (12): 1994-2006.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1576-8

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Reconstructing provincial cropland area in eastern China during the early Yuan Dynasty (AD1271-1294)

Meijiao LI1,2(), Fanneng HE1,*(), Fan YANG1,2, Shicheng LI3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. School of Public Administration, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China
  • Received:2018-03-09 Accepted:2018-05-20 Online:2018-12-20 Published:2018-12-27
  • Contact: Fanneng HE;
  • About author:

    Author: Li Meijiao, PhD Candidate, specialized in historical land use/cover change. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Key R&D Program of China, No.2017YFA0603304; National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671149; The Special Program for Basic Work of the Ministry of Science and Technology, China, No.2014FY210900


Reconstructing historical land use and land cover change (LUCC) at the regional scale is an important component of global environmental change studies and of improving global historical land use datasets. By analyzing data in historical documents, including military-oriented cropland (hereafter M-cropland) area, the number of households engaged in M-cropland (hereafter M-household) reclamation, cropland area, and the number of households, we propose a conversion relationship between M-cropland area and cropland area reclaimed by each household. A provincial cropland area estimation method for the Yuan Dynasty is described and used to reconstruct the provincial cropland area for AD1290. Major findings are as follows. (1) Both the M-cropland and cropland areas of each household were high in the north and low in the south during the Yuan Dynasty, which resulted from different natural conditions and planting practices. Based on this observation, the government-allocated M-cropland reclamation area to each household was based on the cropland area reclaimed by each household. (2) The conversion relationship between M-cropland and cropland areas per household showed conversion coefficients of 1.23 and 0.65 for the south and north, respectively. (3) The cropland area in the entire study area in AD1290 was 535.4×106 mu (Chinese area unit, 1 mu=666.7 m2), 57.8% in the north and 42.2% in the south. The fractional cropland areas for the entire study area, north, and south were 6.8%, 6.6%, and 7.1%, respectively and the per capita cropland areas for the whole study area, north, and south were 6.7, 15.6, and 4.1 mu, respectively. (4) Cropland was mainly distributed in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River (including the Fuli area), Huaihe River Basin (including Henan Province), and middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River (including Jiangzhe, Jiangxi, and Huguang provinces).

Key words: historical LUCC, cropland, area estimation, historical documents, Yuan Dynasty