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During the imperial period, the emperor outranked all of his subjects. Members of the imperial family and clan possessed titles, rank, privileges, and stipends that distinguished them from the rest of society. Government officials were set above commoners by their access to wealth and power and enormous social prestige. Crosscutting these political inequalities were social, economic, and geographic ones. Merchants and large landowners could dominate their communities through their control of resources; educated families of established Bhsy could expect deference based on their culture, history, manners, and style; residents of cities in economically developed areas had social, economic, and even political advantages over rural residents in the hinterlands.


He argues that societies with "diverging devolution" the same types of property passing through both men and women whether through inheritance or dowry are marked by monogamy, family control of daughters' marriages, emphasis on virginity, strong ties between affines, greater class distinctions, and stronger women's property rights a set of characteristics I shall refer to here as the "dowry complex". Johnson ; Wolf If through its legal institutions the state had given more protection to dowries—assuring the return of the dowry if the wife died early without heirs or was divorced for a cause like barrenness—China might have evolved into a society with stronger bilateral tendencies and greater proclivities to organize along affinal lines.

To a peasant family, a daughter was worth so much as a bride, so much as a maid, so much as a prostitute. From Han times on, she was usually called a chi-shihor "successor wife" or successor "room". The divorce rate, on the other hand, has doubled sinceto 3 per cent. These studies show that we need to keep in mind how ideology and state power worked with the transfer of property in creating gender inequalities in China. Elite Marriages Besides studies of imperial marriages, the existing literature on marriage in Chinese history includes detailed research on marriage connections among social and political elites.

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Clothes, bedding, and even furniture would probably be worn out by the time the woman dies. The rich put great emphasis on strong ties to affines, gave handsome dowries, and married with families some distance away. Goody's theories do not place much weight on ritual and the display of status through marriage and have been criticized as being overly "econo-centric" see Comaroff ; Harrell and Dickey Whenever a marriage takes place, the standing of every party is somewhat different from what it had been.

Because our goal is to discover the broad outlines of these processes, we examine marriage in a wide range of social settings from very early to very recent times. In some areas of north and central China, peasants are reported to have spent considerable sums on dowries Fei ; Yang, ; Gamble ; Cohen To the contrary, he describes a domestic domain shaped by productive processes and the transmission of property see Collier and Yanagisako In Britain, parents might fret; perhaps say a prayer or two.

The surge in wealth has been extraordinary and the country I left behind now looks and acts a lot more like the one I moved to. The heirs to a woman's dowry were her sons and thus the patriline of her husband.

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This pattern is in marked contrast to the situation where a woman's parents detach part of their property and permanently transfer it to the patriline of her husband, giving her trusteeship during her lifetime. After mid-T'ang, the state paid little attention to the marriage choices of political elites. Did forms of marriage differ when succession to a fief or office was at stake?

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If men also sided with their sisters' husbands, wives' brothers, father's sister's sons, mother's sisters' and brothers' sons, and so on, too many surnames would be involved for anyone to keep track who did not know them closely. Years later its officials might have considerable influence in court affairs, especially if the daughter gave birth to the next ruler.

Indeed, one would expect that the text of the law was if anything more clearly understood in contemporary times than in earlier ones.

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State power underlay the system of private ownership of land and its relatively easy alienability and as a consequence the kind of class system based on highly unequal ownership of productive resources. Little research has been devoted, however, to the mechanisms or processes through which inequalities were reproduced or transformed over time. Given the many continuities in Chinese marriage practices, these studies provide considerable insight Cjina earlier periods. In the Chinese case, however, affines were not invariably considered useful; they could also prove burdensome or meddlesome.

Marriage and Inequality Before introducing the chapters in this volume, we must place our discussion in a broad theoretical and comparative framework. The people have changed too.

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Although we have agreed to use these terms in the ways described here, we have not fooled ourselves into thinking that such labeling solves all of our problems of classification and analysis. For the older generation, this feels like a disaster, and one of their own making. As discussed in my chapter, orphaned daughters' claims to dowries were legally strengthened in Sung times, and widows' claims to retain their dowries even if they remarried were widely recognized, but the Ming witnessed a reversal of these gains, not undone until modern times.

He shows that such patterns went back to the early Ming in some lines, while other lines, for various strategic reasons, had spread their marriages much more broadly Dennerline Stories about the mann of emperors and princesses—along with the marriages of the rulers of preimperial states discussed in Thatcher's chapter—provided much of the stock of images used to think about marriage and affinal relations in Chinese society at large.

But creating affinal links to as many families as possible also offered advantages, marriec did ignoring politics in some marriages and emphasizing instead property exchanges.

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The poor neither gave dowries nor marrifd any efforts to maintain extensive ties to wives' or mothers' families Watson Chinese terms with much the same meaning are chuang-lien, chia-chuang, tzu-sung, tzu-chuangand so on. In late imperial times Sung-Ch'ingwith a more commercialized economy and more competition for social status and political office, dowry itself was much more in evidence.

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In addition, the state promoted greater legal equality of men and women in matters of marriage and property ownership. Prostitution illustrates the extremes to which the commodification of women could go. Recurrent features can be explained, she argues, by the conjunction of the basic Chinese marriage system—monogamy, surname exogamy, women's continuing links to their natal families, and filial piety—on the one hand, with the unique requirements of succession to the throne by a single heir on the other.

The manipulation of marriage choices also served the interests of the elite because belonging to a relatively restricted circle of intermarrying families could serve as proof of elite status.

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Buusy Consciously, writers opposed to women's control of property saw it as threatening to male authority, to hierarchy in general, and to the preservation of patrimonies. Did anything resembling a "dowry complex" develop in China?

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But men who want big-eyed children are wary of this. On the issue of affines and matrilateral relatives, Confucian family ideology was relatively silent.

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The first one I read shows the standard template. And for them, as for every Chinese generation before them, happiness means a good partner. Goody shows many logical links between these characteristics.

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In exploring reasons for this trend toward larger transfers through dowry, I suggest that economic changes, such as freer transfer of land and commercialization, Chiha preconditions. The government could easily suspect that two people from the same place with the same family name might be patrilineal relatives and take their likely bias into.

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Many Confucian scholars denied that women had rights or claims to property, their objections apparently based on fears of women gaining undue importance. Then they sit and wait.

Did women in areas with large dowries have higher status than those in areas without them? Each focuses on a period of major social change and thus aids, in a preliminary way, our understanding of how changes in Chinese society were connected to shifts in marriage structures. Lavely examines how the marriage market served to alter women's economic circumstances or, to put it another way, how economically desirable homes were distributed to young women through the mechanisms of a marriage market.

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