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Controlling the Dragon examines Yellow River engineering from two perspectives. The first looks at long-term efforts to manage the river starting in the early Ming dynasty, at the nature of the bureaucracy created to do the job, and finally focuses on two of the Confucian engineers who served successfully in the decade before the system was abandoned. In the second section, the author chronicles a series of dramatic floods in the 1840s and explores the way politics, environment, and technology interacted to undermine the state's commitment to the Yellow River control system.