Urbanization in History: A Process of Dynamic Interactions

By A. M. Van Der Woude; Akira Hayami et al. | Go to book overview

to assist women who had experienced difficulties in childbirth.33 These matters may be relevant for any future studies of infant mortality in China, a topic that has not so far been studied in Chinese historical demography.

Finally, we must mention institutions for the relief of the poor, help during famines, and the provision of coffins and burial grounds for poor persons and vagabonds. Some studies of famine relief in traditional China already exist.34 Their functioning would undoubtedly have reduced the numbers of deaths during periods of food crisis. As regards poor relief, organizations such as yangjiyuan (asylums for the relief of the poor), which were established by the state, and pujitang (asylums for general relief), which were set up by local people, operated in most cities during the Qing period. Their object was to provide shelter for the aged and to distribute alms to widows and orphans.35 Provided these organizations functioned effectively, the support they provided will undoubtedly have saved the lives of many of the poor.

The provision of coffins and graveyards was considered to be an important philanthropic duty, at least during the Qing period. Such establishments were mentioned in many local gazetteers. Thus, between 1824 and 1841, in Wujin county, offices were set up in seventy-two rural districts to provide coffins for those who died on the roads or rivers, and these establishments kept close contact with the cunrentang (literally, Hall of Benevolence) which was set up in the county town.36 Quite apart from the fact that these provisions constituted charitable acts which would provide a return for the benefactors, the proper disposal of the bodies of those who died on the roads and rivers was an important hygienic measure for the protection of the environment.


4. Conclusion

Urbanization in the lower Yangzi region during the Ming and Qing periods developed not only through an increase in the number of market towns, but also through the specialization of towns in trading in particular commodities.

Studies based on a number of genealogies show that the proportion of remarried men tended to be higher in the towns than in the country and that this raised urban fertility. Mortality in the towns probably did not differ much

____________________
33
Chu Jiaxien, "'Jian-gu yu-ji'", 4/5b,. "'The Beginning of Shan-hui'" vol. 17; Qing-cheng-zi, "'Zhi-i xyu-bien'". 4/4b-5a, 7a, in Bi-ji xiao-shuo da-quan, vol. 22; Yu Yueh, "'Cha-xiang-shi xyu- chao'", 21/2b-3a.
34
P. E. Will, Bureaucratie et famine en Chine au 18e siècle ( Paris, 1980); L. M. Li, "'Introduction: Food, Famine and the Chinese State'", Journal of Asian Studies, 41: 4 ( 1982), 687- 710; R. Bin Wong and P. C. Perdue, "'Famine's Foes in Ch'ing China'", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 43: 1 ( 1983), 291-331; Liu Ts'ui-jung and Fei Ching-ban, "'Preliminary Study on the Operation of the Ch'ing Granary Systems'" (in Chinese), Academia Economic Papers, 9: 1 ( 1978), 1-29; Liu Tsui-jung, "'A Reappraisal of Functions of Granary Systems in Ch'ing China'" (in Chinese). Academia Economic Papers, 8: 1 ( 1980), 1-31.
35
Fuma, "'The Beginning of Shan-hui'", 205-7; Wujin Yanghu hozhi, 3/32a-33a.

-350-

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