The Imperial Land Law

Patrick H. Hase

in Custom, Land and Livelihood in Rural South China

Published by Hong Kong University Press

Published in print March 2013 | ISBN: 9789888139088
Published online January 2014 | e-ISBN: 9789888180707 | DOI:
The Imperial Land Law

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Under Imperial Land Law in traditional China all land belonged to the Emperor. No person could occupy arable land without an imperial grant. The imperial authorities acknowledged the existence of an imperial grant by accepting land tax from the grantee. Only the land tax-payer or his short-term tenant had the right to till the ground and no intermediate lordship is allowed between the cultivator and the emperor. Grants of land could be revoked if the land had changed significantly in its usage. Sometimes permissions were given to grantees to open land. The land has to be surveyed periodically to ensure that all arable were registered. However by the late nineteenth century, the surveys were done only very occasionally: coupled with the freezing of the tax quota in 1711, this meant that many people were evading land tax and a good deal of the Imperial Land Law was unenforced.

Keywords: Chinese Imperial Land Law; Arable Land; Land Tax; Imperial Grant; Tax Quota; Hong Kong; New Territories; Customary Land Law

Chapter.  5556 words. 

Subjects: Asian History

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