• People catch fish along the Yellow River after water and sediment regulation.

People catch fish along the Yellow River after water and sediment regulation. (Photo : Getty Images)

A bizarre historical account of China's water-centric society showcases some of the least visited facets of the Middle Kingdom before it became the second most powerful nation in the world.

"The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China" presents a rarely discussed image of China as "a civilization permeated by water," Nature Journal's Andrea Janku explained.

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Discussing one of science writer Philip Ball's creations, Janku explained how the historical account clearly defines why the author consider hydraulic engineering as something that is closely linked to the country's moral rectitude, governance, and metaphysical speculation.

The Water Kingdom: A Secret History of China

According to the Nature Journal, "The Water Kingdom" is a book that is written thematically in a way that presents historic accounts in a somewhat non-chronological way.

In the book's early chapters, Ball discussed the Great Rivers of China including the Yangtze and the Yellow Rivers, mentioning China's mythical ruler Emperor Yu as well as Communist leader Mao Zedong, the father of the People's Republic of China.

Ball also discussed philosophical texts covering the subject matter such as the fourth century BC teachings of Mencius which unveil the origin of the Chinese political ideology stating that he who controls the water controls the people.

He also tackled some historical proof of such ideology particularly in the art of war and real conflicts where the Great Rivers were used as weapons.

The Power of Water

"In 204 BC, for instance, an intentional rupturing of the Wei River dams led to the victory of the Han-dynasty forces," cited Nature.

Aside from that, the journal also took note of the addition of the Nationalist government's attempt to stop the advancing Japanese army in 1938 through the breach of the Yellow River dykes.

Of course, there had been destructive consequences for the Chinese people during those events though the point was still made in the end.

In recent years, China appears to be applying the same concept in terms of gaining global power either consciously or subconsciously.

Take for example the extensive claims of the country in the South China Sea.

While it is a fact that the South China Sea is not a river, it acts as a passageway for traders and shippers in the Asia-Pacific and houses immeasurable underwater resources.

Considering that the Yellow River is about to dry up for good due to the continued water stress cited by the China Dialogue, the Middle Kingdom is bound to look for another body of water to make use in its quest for growth and power.