RECONSTRUCTING THE POPULATION DYNAMICS
OF LATE IMPERIAL CHINA FROM THE BIOGRAPHIES
OF VIRTUOUS WOMEN IN LOCAL GAZETTEERS
Recent work on the history of China's population at a local or regional level has been mainly based on genealogies. Pioneering explorations have been the work of many hands, but it is reasonable to single out as the leaders in this endeavour Professor Liu Ts'ui-jung of the Academia Sinica,1 Professor James Lee (Li Chungch'ing) of Cal Tech and his collaborators,2 and the group assembled by Stevan Harrell,3 which to some degree overlaps with the second. This has resulted in the collection of a large quantity of data, and the generation of new insights and hypotheses, not always in easy accord with each other. Thus, Lee has argued for the major importance of both birth limitation and variable death control (in the form of female infanticide), while, from the Harrell group, Telford's findings seem to indicate that “population in late imperial China&appears to be regulated more by mortality factors than by fertility factors. Insofar as reproduction rates change&they reflect not a change in age-specific fertility but rather a change in years of exposure [to the possibility of child-bearing].”4 An exception, methodologically, is the ingenious recent study by John Dardess of T'ai-ho county in Ming times, whose chapter on elite-class demography is based on obituaries.5 Most recently of all, Lee and Campbell have also used the Eight Banner household registers for an intensive study through time of a single village in Liao-ning.6
There is another possible approach to Chinese historical mi
1 See especially Liu Ts'ui-jung 1992.
2 Li Chung-ch'ing [James Lee], and Kuo Sung-i 1994.
3 Harrell 1995.
4 Harrell's summary, in Harrell 1995:15.
5 John W. Dardess 1996:79–111.
6 James Lee and C. Campbell 1997, esp. 225–237.
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Publication information: Book title: Chinese Women in the Imperial Past: New Perspectives. Contributors: Harriet T. Zurndorfer - Editor. Publisher: Brill. Place of publication: Boston. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 135.
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