Historical Sources and Their Limits
THE structure of this book is the result of the interplay of purposeful theoretical concerns and, perhaps more important, the serendipitous availability of materials. The core of the book is constructed from household division documents (the rough equivalent of wills in the West),1 which are extant in various collections. The main collections are the Taiwansifa (referred to as TS in the text), a collection of land, inheritance, and adoption documents collected and published by the Japanese government after their colonial conquest of Taiwan in 1895. A second source is the Taiwangongsi cang guwenshu yingben(referred to as TWGS in the text), a massive collection of Qing family, property, land sale and pawn, and inheritance documents located in the Hoover Institution library on the Stanford University campus. These two collections make Taiwan by far the best documented province in China on the topic of inheritance.
Another large collection is housed at the Economics Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, which contains just over one hundred documents from Huizhou in Anhui province. A similar collection of Huizhou materials housed at the History Research Institute of the same academy was published too late to have a significant impact on this study.2 Smaller collections exist from Fujian province in Xiamen University's History Research Institute and in the private papers of Zheng Zhenman, a fellow of the institute. About twenty household division documents are extant at the Zhejiang Provincial Museum. And, finally, there are scattered household division and inheritance-related documents in the lineage genealogies produced in the Ming and Qing periods and available at the Genealogical Society of Utah in Salt Lake City.