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New Data on Land Ownership Patterns in Ming-Ch'ing China—A Research Note

  • Kang Chao


The author analyzes some of the empirical data contained in the local archives of farmland in three provinces from Ming-Ch'ing times: these data have heretofore not been used by scholars. The new data show the wide dispersion of land ownership, the absence of big landlords, the high degree of land fragmentation, the slow speed of land accumulation in land-owning families, the low turnover rate of land transactions, the substantial bargaining power of tenants, the high frequency of rental defaults by tenants, the remarkable stability of land value between 1500 and 1760, and the steadily rising trend of land value thereafter. All these findings appear to be inconsistent with the traditional views based on nonempirical historical materials. In view of the new evidence, the land problems in Chinese history will have to be reexamined.



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1 China's Agricultural Labor Productivity: Rent and Land Concentration at the End of the Ming Dynasty and the Beginning of the Ch'ing Dynasty (1620–1720),” Ching-chi yen-chiu (Economic research), 1955, no. 3, pp. 124–39.

2 “On the Forms of Feudal Land Ownership and the Society in Ming and Ch'ing,” a research paper prepared in 1979.

3 On the Land Ownership Systems in the Early Ch'ing Period,” Li-shih yen-chiu (Historical research), 1963, no. 5, pp. 75108.

4 Elvin, Mark, The Pattern of the Chinese Past (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1973), Chap, 15; Seiji, Imabori, “Resistance to Paying Rents during the Ch'ing Dynasty,” Shigaku zasshi, 1967, no. 126, pp. 3842.

5 Buck, John L., Land Utilizations in China (rpt., Nanking: University of Nanking, 1973), p. 194.

6 Su, Ching and Lun, Lo, Ching-tai Shan-lung Ching-ying ti tsu ti she-hut hsing-chih (The social nature of managerial landlords in Shantung during the Ch'ing dynasty) (Shantung: Shantung People's Press, 1959).

7 Ching Su and Lo Lun, pp. 50–51, 69, 76, and 82.

8 Buck, Land Utilizations, p. 181.

New Data on Land Ownership Patterns in Ming-Ch'ing China—A Research Note

  • Kang Chao


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