Property Rights, Land, and Law in Imperial China

Edited by Mio Kishimoto

in Law and Long-Term Economic Change

Published by Stanford University Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780804772730
Published online June 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780804777612 | DOI:
Property Rights, Land, and Law in Imperial China

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This chapter describes the evolution of the concept of ownership and property rights in land in traditional China, drawing to a large extent on the works of generations of Japanese scholarship in this field. There are evident differences with legal traditions from the West when considering the “owner” who owned the land: such a person was not considered an autonomous individual but was regarded as a link in a hierarchy of human relationships. This ownership pattern as structured in human networks, such as a family, lineage, or state, served to limit the power of individuals. While the state allowed people to transact freely in land, the “property rights” they transacted were not absolute.

Keywords: traditional China; land ownership; property rights; land transactions

Chapter.  10012 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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