Fenjia: Household Division and Inheritance in Qing and Republican China

By David Wakefield | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Rights of Individuals in Qing Taiwan

W ith a basic understanding of the whys, whens, and hows of household division, let us now turn to a case study: Qing dynasty Taiwan. This chapter presents the principles and practices of household division in Qing Taiwan from 1730 to 1900. Rooted in ground-level materials such as family documents, it analyzes the rights of each individual in the family at the point of household division and in so doing creates a baseline from which to compare Qing Taiwan to Republican North China in Chapter 7.


The Rights of Sons: Basic Principles

Household division among the Chinese in Taiwan during the Qing dynasty followed the inheritance regime rooted in Chinese law and custom, even though Taiwan was a frontier society that included many recent settlers. Household division was guided by the property rights of the individuals in the household, the most prominent of which was the right of each son to an equal portion of the property. Thus at the point of household division the first critical question was, who was a son?

The simple answer was, all sons of the same father. If a father had only one son, household division was unnecessary, and the transfer of property to the son upon the parents' deaths was so natural there was no legal act to mark the transfer. The one son inherited all family property without legal process. Even assuming that a family had two

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