Copyright
Y K Liang.

Village and town life in China online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryY K LiangVillage and town life in China → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I'





I-



i'



•>:.



^^



T<



<



r£fi*&^':;



jH




1 — .r


i






■^ ^=Ji,




THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND
POLITICAL SCIENCE (University of London).

Scries of Studies in Economics and Political Science. Edited
by the Hon. W. Pember Reeves, Ph.D., Director.

No, 4 of the Monographs on Sociology. Edited by Profesior
L. T, HoBHousi and Professor E. A. Wkstermarck.



VILLAGE AND TOWN LIFE IN CHINA



IN PREPARATION



HISTORY OF THE
MEIJI ERA IN
JAPAN BY
PROFESSOR W. W.
McCLAREN

DiMY 8vo. About i 2/6 net
GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.



VILLAGE AND TOWN
LIFE IN CHINA



BY



Y. K. LEONG, LL.B., B.Sc. (Econ.)

AND

L. K. TAO, B.Sc. (Econ.)



WITH A PREFACE BY



L. T. HOBHOUSE

(MARTIIf WHITE PROFESSOR OF SOCIOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LONDOn)




> 1 i t i nj „ J



LONDON: GEORGE ALLEN & UNWIN LTD.
RUSKIN HOUSE, MUSEUM STREET, W.C.



FIRST PUBLISHED IN I915






[all rights reserved]



CONTENTS

PAGE
PREFACE - Vii

Part I
The Internal Working of a Chinese Village
the political position of the village within the

EMPIRE 3

^- THE ANCESTRAL HALL - 22

THE VILLAGE TEMPLE - 32

Part II
The Town Administration

THE TOWN administration - - - 45

SOCIAL organizations 66

the town LIFE - ->gO

THE POPULAR ASPECT OF CHINESE buddhism - - - II5

THE POPULAR ASPECT OF CHINESE BUDDHISM (continued) - 1 32



QriO*^o/f



PREFACE

Many books have been written about China by
Europeans. The present volume is a book about
China by two Chinese. They are, moreover,
Chinese who have had considerable opportunities
of studying other forms of civilization than their
own, having lived in England as students for some
years. Mr. Tao obtained the B.Sc. degree in
Economics at the University of London in 1913,
and is now lecturing on Sociology in the University
of Pekin. Mr. Leong took the same degree in
1914, and is still a student in the Sociological
Department at the London School of Economics.
Both have interested themselves especially in
social philosophy and the comparative study of
institutions, so that if they justly regard their
own institutions with the feelings of patriotic
Chinese, they are able equally to see them in
relation to the customs of other peoples, and to
review their merits and defects with a certain
detachment. No doubt their point of view is not
always that of the English reader. But, on the
other hand, the point of view of Europeans who
write on China is not that of Chinese, and for the
full understanding of a great Empire, which,



vn



viii PREFACE

politically and commercially, is becoming year by
year a matter of greater importance to the West,
the Chinese point of view is essential. No one is
better fitted to give it to us than the Chinese
student, educated in English ways, and particu-
larly in English social thought, and yet remaining
heart and soul a Chinese.

The book falls into two parts. Mr. Leong
describes village life, the family, the clan, and the
village society.! Mr. Tao deals more particularly
with town administration and social life, and with
the popular side of Chinese Buddhism. There is
inevitably a little repetition here and there, because
the pattern of Chinese society is strikingly uniform,
and the town is nothing more than an enlarged
village or agglomeration of villages, while the
village itself is a state in miniature. In both the
family as a great undying corporate unity, embrac-
ing the ancestors, the whole body of the living
kindred, the unborn members w^ho are to maintain
its honour and perpetuate the memory of the fore-
fathers, reveals itself as the heart of the Chinese
social structure. Neither writer can get far from
the family for long, whatever topic he is discussing,
for all Chinese custom, all literature, ethics, art,
religion, and government itself, start from the
family life and end in it again. The central govern-
ment, which has for centuries had a tribe of

^ In Mr. Leong's chapters, a few passages have been included
(by kind permisson of the Editor) from an article by Mr. Tao in
the Sociological Review (1913), on " The Family in China."



PREFACE ix

barbarian invaders at its head, and is now, since
the Revolution, hovering between despotism and
disorder, falls in their account to the secondary
place which is its due. The China that European
statesmen know is the China of the official hier-
archy, and how under such a hierarchy peace and
civilization have maintained themselves through
thousands of years, in a population as great as that
of Europe, might well have puzzled diplomatists,
if diplomatists ever concerned themselves with
questions of intellectual or social interest. But the
real China is not a centralized despotism, whether
monarchical or republican in form, but a great
aggregate of democratic communities, ordering
their affairs peacefully and happily in the main,
through the government of the heads of families.
To the European observer the Chinese family is apt
to appear mainly as an archaic structure, which
may have served its turn in the past but is now an
obstacle to progress. Its cult of ancestors figures
as a variant on the primitive belief in ghosts ; the
authority of the father is held to imply the degra-
dation of women, and the solidarity of the whole
the repression of individual enterprise. Our writers
give us the other side of the shield. They dwell on
the ethical value of the family life, the spirit of
personal self-sacrifice, derided in modern Europe,
on which it rests ; the provision for the aged, the
poor, or the helpless which it affords ; the colour
and life that it gives even to foreign religions such



X PREFACE

as Buddhism. They present the position of the
Chinese woman in a new Hght, as enjoying a reahty
of authority and power, quahfied only, in their
view, by a technical inferiority of position. They
show how family feeling is the great restraint on
misconduct and crime, the stimulus to public
service or literary distinction. They point out that
if the family union has retarded commercial
advance, it has hitherto saved China from our
" social problem."

That the Chinese social order is destined to great
modification by the inrush of Western ideas, they
are aware. Commercial industrialism is the doomi
of the modern world. Japan has succumbed, and
China will not escape. The intelligent Chinese
patriot of the present day is doing his utmost to
qualify himseK for the guidance of his country in
its new perils. In the past China has absorbed
many waves of barbarism, and, like captive Greece,
has taken captive its wild conqueror. It has now
the harder task of absorbing an immigrant civiliza-
tion, stronger materially than itself, wielding the
arms of applied science, and approaching it with
the finesse of diplomacy, the subtle encroachments
of financial " assistance " and capitalistic exploita-
tion. /Thoughtful Chinese are aware of the insuffi-
ciency of the Confucian teaching to meet the intel-
lectual demands of the new China. They know that!
it is the centre of this teaching, the soul of the family 1
which is menaced. They seek to learn alike from



PREFACE xi

the successes and failures of the West, to interpret
Europe to China and China to Europe ; and among
European lands they come first and foremost to
England. EngKsh is becoming for them the
language of education.^ There is, it would seem
to me from my own small experience, a certain
affinity which makes it very easy for English and
Chinese to understand one another and get on
together, in spite of all the differences which the
development of thousands of years engender. They
recognize a certain honesty of intention in the
English foreign policy, and look on England as the
classical home of the political and social experi-
ments which are to be forced upon them. These
chapters will serve their authors' purpose if they
help EngHshmen to see the life of China as the
Chinese see it, and therefore to appreciate some-
thing of the anxieties and the needs of a people
whose fabric of life is shaken by novel and over-
whelming forces, and who have upon them the
heavy task of remodelling without destroying that
which has conserved from an immemorial past,
along with much that is rude and obsolete, certain
elements of a simple and spontaneous harmony,
that have long been lost and are not yet replaced
in the Western World.

L. T. HOBHOUSE.



^ Chinese and Japanese students, I find, habitually converse in
English, and Chinese even use English in writing to one another.
The teaching at the Pekin University is partly conducted in
English.



PART I

THE INTERNAL WORKING OF A
CHINESE VILLAGE









VILLAGE AND TOWN
LIFE IN CHINA

CHAPTER I

THE POLITICAL POSITION OF THE VILLAGE WITHIN

THE EMPIRE

Politically China is governed in a hierarchical
order with the central government at the top.
Under the old regime the Emperor was the
supreme ruler. His will was law. All State
officials were responsible to him. There was no
restriction whatever upon his power. He was
answerable only to heaven. Beneath this central
government are the provincial governments.
Within the province the Viceroy or the Governor
is invested with supreme authority. He has full
control over finance, the army, and the administra-
tion of justice. The province is divided into
circuits, called " Taos," each administered by a
Taotai. Under the Tao are prefectures of various
degrees and importance : '* Fus," " Chows," and
'' Tings " — each controlled by an official who is a
Chi-Fu, or Chi-Chow% or Chi-Ting, as the case
may be. Chi-Fu literally means one who knows or
manages the " Fu." The prefectures in turn are



4 ; VILLAGE AND TOWN



t f if



divided into sub-prefectures, governed by sub-
prefects called Chi-yuens. The Chi-yuen is the
only official who is in immediate contact with the
people. He fulfils many functions, from reporting
upon the weather and market prices to gathering
taxes and trying civil and criminal cases. ^ The sub-
prefecture is itself divided into districts called Sze,
and the Sze into wards called Paos or Tus. This
Pao or Tu often coincides with a town or village.
In most cases several Paos or Tus make up a large
town or city. In the Pao or Tu an Elder or one
or more of the local gentry fulfils almost the same
functions of an English justice of the peace. He
is usually appointed by the people and approved by
the local officials, while a Ti-pao discharges the
duties of bailiff. He is as much under the control
of the Elder as under that of the local officials. He
is held responsible for all the less serious crimes
committed within the Pao or Tu. He also fulfils
the office of notary in witnessing deeds, etc. In
a w^ord, he is a man who is supposed to know all
about the people and everything of his Pao or Tu.
To him the runners apply when sent to make
arrests.^ This briefly is the position of the village
in the Empire politically. It generally coincides
with a Pao or Tu.

But in its actual working China is a huge republic
within which are myriads of petty republics. For

' See pp. 49-60 below.
^ See pp. 62-64 below.



LIFE IN CHINA 5

the village in China is an autonomous unit. Nomin-
ally it is governed by the central government
through a hierarchical series of officials, as is
described above. But actually, with the exception
of paying a nominal land-tax and in a few other
cases, the village is as independent of the central
government as any British self-governing colony
is independent of the Imperial Government. This
may sound strange, especially when it is remem-
bered that the principles of government are those
of unmixed despotism even under the present
regime and its laws are enforced by such a minute
gradation of ranks and subordination of officials
that it partakes more of the nature of a military
system than that of a civil government. Be this
as it may, the village in China is less governed than
any other in the world. In China the central
government plays but an infinitesimally small part
in the village life. The village has perfect freedom
of industry and trade, of religion, and of every-
thing that concerns the government, regulation,
and protection of the locality. Whatever may be
required for its well-being is supphed, not by Im-
perial Edicts or any other kind of governmental
interference, but by voluntary associations. Thus
pohce, education, pubhc health, pubhc repairs of
roads and canals, lighting, and innumerable other
functions, are managed by the villagers themselves.
In fulfilling such a gigantic network of duties a
village inevitably comes in contact with other



6 VILLAGE AND TOWN

villages, sometimes in friendly and occasionally
very hostile relations. Thus a sort of inter- village
commercial treaties arise between, and aggressive
and defensive alliances are entered into by, a con-
siderable group of villages. Occasionally there may
even be war between two groups of villages. Should
such an event happen it would be wise policy for
the local officials not to stop it by force of authority
but by the persuasion and mediation of a humble
peace-maker. In the following pages, however, I
shall confine myself to the description of the
internal working of the Chinese village.

The Internal Working of the Village.

(a) The Family,

The internal working of a Chinese village may

be studied from various points of view, but the

most convenient method is to study it from the

three centres of union : the family, the ancestral

hall, and the village temple.

\\ The Chinese family is described as based on the

I patriarchal system, i.e., having the father as the

! head of the family and each family constituting an

f, independent social unit. This is theoreticallj^ true ;

J but it is an extremely inadequate description and

needs a great amount of qualification. In theory

■ the father of the family is supreme in his authority.

In practice, however, the mother is the centre of

domestic life. She rules and controls the familv.



LIFE IN CHINA 7

The father, as far as the internal working of the/
family is concerned, retains merely a theoretical]
power. Thus it is the mother who generally decide^)
such important questions as when the child is id
begin schooling. She finds the bride or the husband
for the children respectively, and arranges all the
matters concerning their betrothals. She manages
all the business of the home and directs all the
social and extremely punctilious relations with\
friends and kin. She sees that all the ceremonies
such as those of marriage, birth, and death, the
proper degree of respect due from one member of
the family to another, the regular keeping of
festivals, etc., are duly observed according to the
" Chia-li-pu," i.e., a book of family laws both
moral and ceremonial peculiar to each family. Thus
it is very far from the truth to imagine that in.
Chinese life the position of woman is low. On' )C_
the contrary, woman occupies in our actual life a
very exalted position. The mother of the family
is on an equal footing with the father. Thus an
equal amount of respect and degree of mourning
are due to either of them from the other members
of the family, and in their mutual relations the
wife is in no way inferior^ to the husband. The

^ In former days, when a g-irl was married, she paid less rever-
ence to her parents than before she left her father's house. The
Book of Rites (Liki) prescribed that the married daughter should
wear mourning of the second degree only for her own parents, but
of the first degree for her parents-in-law. This practice has been
entirely changed in the course of time. To-day a married woman,
in theory at least, belongs equally to the two houses, because she
wears the same degree of mourning for her own parents as for her



8 VILLAGE AND TOWN

I part played by the mother of the family necessarily
i differs from that played by the father. By a wise
division of labour she controls the internal affairs
of the home while the father occupies himself
mainly with the duties of earning a livelihood for
the family and maintaining the honour of his
ancestors.

The family multiplies as the children grow up
and marry. It is not uncommon for the joint

/ household to consist of four or five generations (see
diagram), or, if we include collaterals, of from ten
to fifteen groups. The increase of numbers
depends, of course, upon the fecundity of the
parents, but adoption is allowed if there is no off-
spring. The Chinese are, as a rule, disinclined to
allow a line to die out ; and it is important to note

-^that not only the perpetuation of the family but
the continuation of the direct line requires adop-

parents-in-law. Mourning in China plays a very important part
in the social life." It has been very exhaustively and accurately
treated by Professor De Groot in his laborious work, The Religious
Systems of China (vol. ii) ; and here it is necessary only to point
out that the changed position of woman is illustrated in a marked
degree by the difference between the ancient and modern rules of
mourning. In the archaic code, deep mourning was worn only
for the father ; now it is worn for both parents. Professor De
Groot has rightly observed : " The aim of the official rescripts on
m.ourning being in the first place to foster in the clan (f.e., members
from paternal great-great-grandparents down to great-great-
children) subjection to parents and elders, and also coherence and
mutual devotion between its members, it is natural that the re-
gisters should contain but few kinsmen who are members of other
clans." Hence there are even punishments prescribed for the
neglect of mourning. This may seem grotesque and strange to
Western ears, yet among the people where the family is the social
unit and ancestor-worship forms the chief cult the regulation is of
obvious value in preserving the efficient organization of society.
Its utility must not be too lightly dismissed.



LIFE IN CHINA



9



t-H

w

O



o
<1



o
I

o



=^

I O

c3 ^
0)

o



0)

bo
I

0)

O



-M —



>
o

.^

o
o

— l-i

a>
;-(

o



o



■p



4^ ^

^^
+^ CO

O cj
CI "^

&X)



O



O



O

o

C/2



>

o

OS



— d



a;

03



73

o



a ^



o

o



03

<D
4J

o



O 0) -^ ^



•l-H



a; bo

bJD-b!



i/3

o
u



^ o °^






a;



O H



O



o

a

.o






03



^ bJO



o



CH <D O _^ C
Hc2



o
o



c6

CI! o

o s



=2

0) be



^ .CI



C/3 A2






P^



73

O
o

C/2



O



10 VILLAGE AND TOWN

tion. In higher circles concubinage may be
tolerated merely for the purpose of rearing the
young, but adoption would appear to be more
prevalent. The fear of a line's discontinuance is
doubtless involved in the cult of ancestor-worship,
since the ghost must needs be served with offerings
by the descendants ; or, in the words of the Chinese,
'* the hun-soul must be appeased." There is,
moreover, the economic factor to be reckoned with,
for the son, or sometimes even the daughter, pro-
vides support for the parents when they become
advanced in age. The son-in-law is generally called
*Vhalf-son " in relation to the parents-in-law.
•^ \ L'Public opinion (not law) obliges him to support
^ ' his parents-in-law if they are left without children
and are in want. These two considerations, re-
ligious and economic, explain why marriage and
the upbringing of offspring become a duty incum-
bent upon every Chinese who is normally fit for
marriage ; and as the j^oung people do not make
betrothals themselves, the duty falls upon the
parents.

In a village the well-to-do family is a rare ex-
ception, and the typical family is the working-class
family. The father is, as a rule, a husbandman,
and the sons follow his footsteps. If they do not
possess a piece of land of their own they cultivate
either the land of the ancestral hall, of the village
temple, or that of any private owner. The mother,
daughters, and daughters-in-law do the household



LIFE IN CHINA 11

work together, and also add considerably to the
family income by such employment as may be
carried on in the home. The earnings of all thej
members of the family are given to the mother in
a hotch-potch for the maintenance of the corporate
whole. The family from our point of view is a
living organism which possesses a spirit quite apart
from the individuals who form it. Each member. V
does not live and work for himself, but for the
family to which he belongs. Every other member
has a claim on his earnings. Thus in its economic
aspect the Chinese family is not unlike the monastic
system of Christianity, in which anyone's earnings
are for the good of all. So a sort of socialism is
practised within the family, while at the same time
the system does not sacrifice the individual. Unlike
the Roman patriarchal family, all the minor mem-
bers of the Chinese family are persons and not
chattels, whose rights and duties are well defined.
It is sometimes said that our family system drags
down the individual from self -development. This
is to judge the working of an Eastern system by
the logic of the West. With us self -development
is by no means sacrificed for the good of the family.
In fact, from our point of view, the good of the
family demands self -development. " The tran-
quillity and happiness of the world depends on
rightly governed states. A rightly governed state
necessitates well-regulated families. A well-regu-
lated family is made possible only by the self-



12 VILLAGE AND TOWN

culture of the individuals composing it." (The
Great Learning,)
yA The family is collectively and directly responsible

(for the crimes of each member. The amount of

>

Iresponsibility varies according to the nature of the
trime. In certain serious cases such as treason, the
crime of one member may bring even capital
punishment upon the whole family irrespective of
the sex or age of the members. This extreme
principle of vicarious punishment was in force up
to comparatively recent times. The existence of
such a ruthless principle may be accounted for by
the presumption that the misdeeds of an individual
are due to the connivance or negligence of his
family. Another reason may be that crimes are
believed to be largely the result of heredity and
domestic environment. Hence the punishment
must strike the evil at its root. It is indeed a most
effective but terrible deterrent. ^ Incidentally it
may be mentioned here the great importance we
attach to heredity. Thus " san-tai " — i.e., an
account of one's parents up to three generations —
musfb'e given in every government examination
and exchanged in betrothals. Before a betrothal is
definitely arranged each party sends confidential
agents to verify the '' san-tai " of the other unless
it is already known.

The nexus of the family organism is the parents,

^ The family, however, is not legally responsible for the civil
liabilities of its members. But in actual practice it will always
discharge such liabilities if its means allow.



LIFE IN CHINA 13

or one of them. New families arise when the old
one is broken up, and this happens only when both
parents are dead. As long as either the father or
mother is living the family still exists, and no new
families are recognized irrespective of the age of
the children. It very often happens that even after
the death of both parents the old family still con-
tinues to exist for a considerable time under the
guardianship of the eldest brother. Such a case
happens when either some of the brothers are too
young or some of the sisters are still unmarried.
The brother then who steps into the shoes of the
father of the family has heavy responsibilities. The
rights and duties of the father of the family now
rest on him. Thus it is his duty to get his brothers
and sisters properly married and settled, and in
the case of the sisters a suitable dowry, according
to the means of the family, must be provided for
each. h oj.

The family property, both real and personal, i^¥^.
vested in the father. After his death, if the family
continues to exist, it vests in the eldest son, who
steps into the rights and duties of the father. If
there is a division of the family the property is
divided equally amongst the sons. The law of\
primogeniture is unknown except that if the eldest
son should have male issue before the other sons
during the lifetime of one or both of the parents,
and if this grandson is living at the time of


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryY K LiangVillage and town life in China → online text (page 1 of 10)