Household Division and Society: Land, Orientations, and Social Mobility
THE treatment of property during household division raises questions central to the functioning of China's economy and society. Because land was the most important means of production and because it was divided equally among the sons, it is first useful to ask, what were the effects of this inheritance regime on farming and landownership? Available evidence allows us to answer this question posed from three perspectives: Did China's peasants divide farms beyond the point necessary for survival of a single family? Did China's peasants fragment plots to the point of agricultural inefficiency? Did regional and class orientations significantly affect landholding patterns? A final related question we might ask is, how did the interaction of division, fragmentation, and regional or class orientation affect social mobility?1
When household division occurred, there was an inevitable decline in farm size. As we have seen in Qing Taiwan and Republican North China, peasants divided both house and land into equal shares rather than giving all the property to one brother. By its very nature this system caused a diminution in the size of landholdings for each brother.
Philip Huang has shown that rich peasant and managerial landlord