Fenjia: Household Division and Inheritance in Qing and Republican China

By David Wakefield | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
Dividing Different Types of Property in Qing Taiwan

H AVING illustrated the rights of individual in Qing Taiwan, let us now turn to the objects that these rights pertained to: property in its various forms. The major forms of property divided at division time were housing, land, and debt, but each form had myriad variations in the Qing Taiwan context.


Equality of Living Space

As to the division of living space, the primary concern when dividing housing was to provide each brother with an equal amount of space, regardless of the present size of his conjugal unit. Though equality of space was the salient concern, two other factors operated as well. First, the dividers tried to keep the newly independent families intact by providing them with rooms that were close together if not contiguous; and second, they tried to place the eldest son in the favored location to the right of the central ancestral hall.1

As a measure of equal division, one pattern was to divide the housing into exactly equal parts by the number of rooms. In an 1842 division, for example, the eldest of three brothers was dead, so the division took place between his son and the two surviving brothers. Each of the men received the same amount of space: four rooms of tiled- roof housing and two rooms of thatched-roof housing ( TWGS 1, 9: 841). In a Wu family division of 1894, five brothers drew lots specifically for housing, and each received one of the five available rooms

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