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The Contradiction of Territory in Chaozhou District from the Late Ming to the Early Qing

Xianbo CHEN (Sun Yat-sen University)
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Responding to political and social disturbances in eastern Guangdong in the mid to late Ming, the imperial state made a series of adjustments to the local administrative structure, creating new counties in order to strengthen political authority. Previous research has explored this process from the perspectives of political control and regional development, but this has often meant reading the evidence through an oversimplistic logic of pacification and development, neglecting the complexity of local society, and in particular the role of changes to the taxation system. This paper is a case study of conflicts concerning the sub-county administrative structure of two counties in Chaozhou in late Ming and early Qing, demonstrating the complexities in local society that underlay these political changes, the contradictions that arose between imperial efforts to strengthen control and local interests, and the way disputes over control of tax resources ultimately generated local conflict. Through a detailed account of the process of administrative restructuring, the paper identifies the systemic causes of local conflict, specifically the internal flexibility of the Ming lijia corvee system and the “structural split” between population and land registrations, in order to illustrate the close connections between institutional contradictions and political change.

Journal of History and Anthropology