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How are we to understand the history of a nonmodern civilization without refracting and distorting what we see through the prism of the ostensibly individualistic and egalitarian modern culture in which most of us live and which we tend to take as normative? In this article I invite other modern-minded readers to turn our worldview upside down and look at Chinese society over the long term from the perspective of its official ideology and not from the perspective of a universalized modern worldview in which economic relations are privileged above all others.
The narrative richness of the Chinese Ming (1368–1644) novel known as the Hsi-yu chi, or The Journey to the West, presents a daunting challenge to the interpreter. The bewildering array of cultural lore—especially from the three major religious traditions of China (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism)—is so diverse and boldly interwoven that it almost appears as “simply furniture thrown in to impress, or mock, the reader” (Plaks 1977:181). Thus any interpretation faces the danger of exaggerating the importance of these cultural and religious elements, only to discover that the author offered them in jest.
The classic model of Chinese kinship organization, with its complementary emphases on patrilineality, patrilocality, and patriarchy, continues as a framework for research on Chinese social organization despite accumulating evidence of alternative models or of disjunctures within the elite model. This model has come under critical scrutiny from a variety of perspectives, most notably anthropologically informed historical research (Watson 1982; Watson 1985) that has led to a questioning of the lineage model (Freedman 1965) and field-based research that has drawn attention to the prevalence of uxorilocal and “small daughter-in-law” (tongyangxi) marriage and to the nurturing of uterine families (Wolf and Huang 1980; Wolf 1972). My purpose is to contribute to this reassessment with a discussion of customary practices of postmarital dual residence for women and continuing ties between married women and their natal families. These practices and ties cannot be accounted for within the framework of the structural-functionalist model and require an adaptation of practiceoriented theory. This may illuminate the specific structuring patterns and disjunctures described below as well as suggest possibly fruitful lines of analysis for other societies in which lineages are salient. The contribution of this article is to identify and explore a significant dimension of structuring practices in informal kinship relations in rural China.
The nationalist military intelligence service has long been a controversial topic in the history of the Chinese Republic (1912–49). This organization, known as the Military Bureau of Statistics and Investigation (Junshi Weiyuanhui Tongji Diaocha Ju, or Juntong), first impinged on civilian society in the 1930s, when it carried out violent deeds against urban-based intellectuals critical of the Nationalist party's rule. Newspaper writers and editors subsequently compared Juntong to the infamous Eastern Depot and Embroidered Guards of the despotic Ming emperors, denouncing the “feudal” and “fascist” nature of Nationalist rule in political tracts and assemblies. During the Pacific War the image of Juntong's chief, General Dai Li (1897–1946), was blackened when he was compared to the Nazi Heinrich Himmler by the Western press. In the bitter and protracted civil struggles between the Chinese Communist party (CCP) and the Guomindang (GMD) after 1941, the Communists focused sharply on the atrocities committed by Juntong and portrayed Dai Li as a monstrous instrument of Chiang Kai-shek's dictatorship.