Fenjia: Household Division and Inheritance in Qing and Republican China

By David Wakefield | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Qing Household Division: Why, When, and How?

F rom the vantage point of three thousand years of history, let us now turn to household division in the Qing period.When households divided, they did so for a variety of reasons and with a variety of outcomes in mind, but they did so through a fairly universal process. I propose to view this procedure from three perspectives, looking at the reasons why, the timing of, and the process through which household division occurred.


Why Did Households Divide? The External Factors

The reasons why and when households divided varied, with all aspects of family experience playing roles. As Maurice Freedman so well put it: "The problem is to find out at what point partition took place and why--a problem which is economic, legal, moral, religious, and, in a restricted sense, psychological" ( Freedman 1979:236 ).

Franz Schurmann argues that no legal or community pressures mandated division, and he further suggests that division was caused by internal family dissension and possibly external economic pressures ( Schurmann 1956:512 ). Schurmann has the balance right, but the definition of external economic pressures should be refined to include the forces of taxation, warfare, and banditry, which may have played roles in the timing of division at various points in Chinese history. As presented in Chapter 2, Lord Shang of Qin used tax policy to force families to divide early, and increased taxes on families with

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