Chetham's elegiac book about the towns along the banks of the Three Gorges area of the Yangtze River was written on the very eve of their destruction. After great controversy, the Chinese government has begun construction of the world's largest hydroelectric dam in the Three Gorges section of the Yangtze, a place renowned for its beauty. For over two thousand years, the Yangtze has been the great transport route linking the coast with the west and southwest and providing irrigation for the farms that fed China. Once the dam is completed in 2009, the water level will rise as much as 350 feet in a hundred-mile stretch of the river. The water will submerge over a dozen large cities, almost 1,500 villages and towns, and innumerable historical and cultural sites. Over a million people are being moved, voluntarily or otherwise, altering not only their lives, but the lives of a multitude of others whose existence is intertwined with the river. Before the Deluge captures a sense of the daily life, traditions and history of the people who live along the Upper Yangtze's Three Gorges area. It chronicles the region's past and present with an eye on the disruption of an existing way of life. Perhaps most importantly, it captures a world that is rapidly vanishing under the rushing waters of one of the world's largest rivers.
""...a meticulously researched, emotionally charged account of China's uphill battle to erect the barricade.""--David Johnson, The Asian Reporter
""Readable and informative, it's highly recommended.""--Karin Glendenning, Chattanooga Free Press
""...a timely study of a condemned place.""--Washington Post Book World
""A vivid last snapshot of the communities about to come to an end with the flooding of the Three Gorges. Chetham has an intimate understanding from many return visits, informed by her Chinese language and her knowledge of history, geography, society, and politics."" --Ezra Vogel, research professor at the Fairbank Center, and former director of the Fairbank Center and Asia Center at Harvard
""When the Three Gorges dam is built and its flood waters loosed, something very special will be lost-precious artifacts of a an ancient culture, a beauty that has awed everyone through the ages who has had the privilege to behold it, a way of life that has managed to cling even in a time of rapid change. What will be left is memory-in pictures, in people's minds, and, thank goodness, in books. Deirdre Chetham has been privileged to have spent more time on the Yangtze River than just about any other foreigner. We must all, Chinese and foreigner alike, thank her for preserving something of what will be lost and telling us what is was like for those who lived along the river when they had to face the inevitability of change. A wonderful account!"" -- Anne Thurston, Associate Professor of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies
""Deirdre Chetham's evocative and informative portrait of a vanishing world will fascinate anyone who has wondered about the social and cultural implications of the Three Gorges Dam. The region's historical, archaeological, and cultural uniqueness extends to China's pre-history. Yet as Before the Deluge makes clear, even those who live in the towns being inundated have an imperfect grasp of how much is being lost. A poignant work, the significance of which will only increase after the deluge."" ----Judith Shapiro, author of Mao's War Against Nature: Politics and the Environment in Revolutionary China