Catalogue


Women and property in China : 960-1949 /
Kathryn Bernhardt.
imprint
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c1999.
description
viii, 236 p.
ISBN
0804735263 (cloth : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, c1999.
isbn
0804735263 (cloth : alk. paper)
catalogue key
3394465
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Kathryn Bernhardt is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Excerpts
Flap Copy
Previous scholarship has presented a static picture of property inheritance in China, mainly because it has focused primarily on men, whose rights changed little throughout the Imperial and Republican periods. However, when our focus shifts to women, a very different and dynamic picture emerges. Drawing on newly available archival case records, this book demonstrates that women's rights to property changed substantially from the Song through the Qing dynasties, and even more dramatically under the Republican Civil Code of 1929-30. The consolidation in law of patrilineal succession in the Ming and Qing dynasties curtailed women's claims, but the adoption of the Civil Code and the gradual dismantling of patrilineal succession in the twentieth century greatly strengthened women's rights to inherit property. Through an examination of the changes in women's claims, the author argues that we can discern larger changes in property rights in general. Previous scholarship assumed that patrilineal succession and household division were but different sides of the same coin--sons divided their father's property equally as his patrilineal heirs. The focus on women, however, reveals that patrilineal succession and household division were, in fact, two separate processual and conceptual complexes with their own distinct histories. While household division changed little, patrilineal succession changed greatly. Imperial and Republican laws of inheritance, finally, were based on two radically different property logics, the full implications of which cannot be truly appreciated unless the two are examined in tandem.
Flap Copy
Previous scholarship has presented a static picture of property inheritance in China, mainly because it has focused primarily on men, whose rights changed little throughout the Imperial and Republican periods. However, when our focus shifts to women, a very different and dynamic picture emerges. Drawing on newly available archival case records, this book demonstrates that women's rights to property changed substantially from the Song through the Qing dynasties, and even more dramatically under the Republican Civil Code of 1929-30. The consolidation in law of patrilineal succession in the Ming and Qing dynasties curtailed women's claims, but the adoption of the Civil Code and the gradual dismantling of patrilineal succession in the twentieth century greatly strengthened women's rights to inherit property. Through an examination of the changes in women's claims, the author argues that we can discern larger changes in property rights in general. Previous scholarship assumed that patrilineal succession and household division were but different sides of the same coinsons divided their father's property equally as his patrilineal heirs. The focus on women, however, reveals that patrilineal succession and household division were, in fact, two separate processual and conceptual complexes with their own distinct histories. While household division changed little, patrilineal succession changed greatly. Imperial and Republican laws of inheritance, finally, were based on two radically different property logics, the full implications of which cannot be truly appreciated unless the two are examined in tandem.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-09-01:
Bernhardt's impressive study explores 1,000 years of Chinese inheritance law and practice. After evaluating existing scholarship on the Song dynasty (960-1279), Bernhardt discusses key turning points for women's status within the legal system, based on hundreds of cases. She argues that division of household property among direct male heirs was relatively routine in imperial times, while determination of patrilineal succession when a man died without an heir often produced disputes. In the early Ming (1368-1644), the state designated an heir without considering the widow's wishes, but the cult of widow chastity of the late Ming and Qing (1644-1911) led to legal change that allowed widows more latitude to choose heirs. Western-inspired legal reform of the 20th century, committed as it was to gender equality, could actually restrict the rights of widows and daughters. This fascinating and well-written study also examines the property rights of daughters-in-law and concubines, and is particularly sensitive to the relationship between family law and state finances. It will greatly facilitate comparative study of the concepts of family and property and takes research on legal reform in modern China to a new level. Upper-division undergraduates and above. K. E. Stapleton; University of Kentucky
Reviews
Review Quotes
"Using research from 430 actual cases during the period covered . . . Bernhardt emphasizes how the laws were applied in practice rather than what those laws actually mandated. . . . As such, the book is a valuable addition to scholarship on Chinese history, and more specifically the complex history of Chinese women."-- History: Reviews of New Books
"Bernhardt's impressives study . . . will greatly facilitate comparative study of the concepts of family and property and takes research on legal reform in modern China to a new level."--Choice
"Using research from 430 actual cases during the period covered . . . Bernhardt emphasizes how the laws were applied in practice rather than what those laws actually mandated. . . . As such, the book is a valuable addition to scholarship on Chinese history, and more specifically the complex history of Chinese women."History: Reviews of New Books
"Using research from 430 actual cases during the period covered . . . Bernhardt emphasizes how the laws were applied in practice rather than what those laws actually mandated. . . . As such, the book is a valuable addition to scholarship on Chinese history, and more specifically the complex history of Chinese women."--History: Reviews of New Books
"The book demonstrates the difficulties involved in changing norms embedded in a society over a long period of time. It also gives us insights into the problems when foreign concepts are introduced, as well as going into the importance of changes in inheritance rules for family relations, status, the economic situation, etc. Those who deal with issues involved in the introduction of ownership of property by women and rights of inheritance on the part of women in societies in which these concepts are still unknown should definitely read this book."--Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture
"This is an original and wholly new analysis of changes in women's inheritance rights in China. . . . With her mastery of the legal code and the language of casebooks, as well as her access to unique archival collections, Bernhardt's findings rest on an irreproachable mass of data; the book is a classic example of careful scholarship."--Susan Mann, University of California, Davis
"This is an original and wholly new analysis of changes in women's inheritance rights in China. . . . With her mastery of the legal code and the language of casebooks, as well as her access to unique archival collections, Bernhardt's findings rest on an irreproachable mass of data; the book is a classic example of careful scholarship."Susan Mann, University of California, Davis
"Bernhardt's impressives study . . . will greatly facilitate comparative study of the concepts of family and property and takes research on legal reform in modern China to a new level."-- Choice
"The book demonstrates the difficulties involved in changing norms embedded in a society over a long period of time. It also gives us insights into the problems when foreign concepts are introduced, as well as going into the importance of changes in inheritance rules for family relations, status, the economic situation, etc. Those who deal with issues involved in the introduction of ownership of property by women and rights of inheritance on the part of women in societies in which these concepts are still unknown should definitely read this book."-- Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture
"A particularly impressive contribution of this book is its sketch of long-term trends in Chinese inheritance law from the Song through Qing periods. . . . Bernhardt's findings here are important and raise many questions for social and cultural historians to tackle, both concerning the cultural environment that led to these legal innovations and the impact of them on the choices families mad as they maneuvered around the law. . . . Bernhardt has immersedherself in Chinese legal writings and excels at explicating judges' decisions."Journal of Asian Studies
"A particularly impressive contribution of this book is its sketch of long-term trends in Chinese inheritance law from the Song through Qing periods. . . . Bernhardt's findings here are important and raise many questions for social and cultural historians to tackle, both concerning the cultural environment that led to these legal innovations and the impact of them on the choices families mad as they maneuvered around the law. . . . Bernhardt has immersedherself in Chinese legal writings and excels at explicating judges' decisions."--Journal of Asian Studies
"A particularly impressive contribution of this book is its sketch of long-term trends in Chinese inheritance law from the Song through Qing periods. . . . Bernhardt's findings here are important and raise many questions for social and cultural historians to tackle, both concerning the cultural environment that led to these legal innovations and the impact of them on the choices families mad as they maneuvered around the law. . . . Bernhardt has immersedherself in Chinese legal writings and excels at explicating judges' decisions."-- Journal of Asian Studies
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, September 2000
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Unpaid Annotation
A study that challenges the view that property inheritance in China in the Imperial and Republican periods remained relatively static. Focusing on women's claims on inheritance rights, Bernhardt (history, U. of California) argues that while the consolidation in law of patrilineal succession in the Ming and Qing dynasties curtailed women's claims, the coming of the 20th century greatly strengthened women's rights to inherit property. She argues that this information reveals household division and patrilineal succession as separate historical processes each with their own dynamics.
Back Cover Copy
"This is an original and wholly new analysis of changes in women's inheritance rights in China. . . . With her mastery of the legal code and the language of casebooks, as well as her access to unique archival collections, Bernhardt's findings rest on an irreproachable mass of data; the book is a classic example of careful scholarship."Susan Mann, University of California, Davis "Using research from 430 actual cases during the period covered . . . Bernhardt emphasizes how the laws were applied in practice rather than what those laws actually mandated. . . . As such, the book is a valuable addition to scholarship on Chinese history, and more specifically the complex history of Chinese women."History: Reviews of New Books
Back Cover Copy
"This is an original and wholly new analysis of changes in women's inheritance rights in China. . . . With her mastery of the legal code and the language of casebooks, as well as her access to unique archival collections, Bernhardt's findings rest on an irreproachable mass of data; the book is a classic example of careful scholarship."--Susan Mann, University of California, Davis "Using research from 430 actual cases during the period covered . . . Bernhardt emphasizes how the laws were applied in practice rather than what those laws actually mandated. . . . As such, the book is a valuable addition to scholarship on Chinese history, and more specifically the complex history of Chinese women."--History: Reviews of New Books
Table of Contents
Introductionp. 1
The Inheritance Rights of Daughters from the Song Through the Qingp. 9
The Inheritance Rights of Widows from the Song Through the Qingp. 47
Widows and Patrilineal Succession in the Early Republican Periodp. 73
Property Inheritance Under the Republican Civil Codep. 101
Widows' Inheritance Rights Under the Republican Codep. 117
Daughters' Inheritance Rights Under the Republican Codep. 133
The Property Rights of Concubines in the Imperial and Republican Periodsp. 161
Conclusionp. 196
Referencesp. 201
Character Listp. 215
Indexp. 225
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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