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Environment and History

Ventilation for the Nation: Fresh Air, Sunshine, and the Warfare on Germs in China's National Quest for Hygienic Modernity, 1849-1949

Rune Svarverud

Environment and History 26 (2020): 307-329. doi: 10.3197/096734018X15254461646558

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This article analyses ideas about indoor air pollution, fresh and foul air, ventilation and modern hygiene in China during the century between 1849 and 1949. The main focus is on conceptions of and provisions against air pollution in China during this period. The article scrutinises the early history of air pollution in China through a study of the introduction of scientific information, the foreign inspiration for health, hygiene and ventilation, the popular discourse, and the dissemination of knowledge about air quality, fresh air and ventilation. Air pollution in this article is understood in a broad sense involving all airborne substances seen to have adverse health effects on humans, thus including ideas about the positive and negative health effects of clean and fresh air, dust particles, germs and sunshine. This is a story of how science and technology formed part of the history of transmission of knowledge from West to East and how this knowledge took on new and indigenous forms in its Chinese context. This analysis can serve as a historical grounding for understanding current interpretations of fresh and foul air in China today.

KEYWORDS: Air pollution, fresh air, ventilation, dust, germs, sunshine


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