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Ancestral Memory and Ming-Qing Lineage Households: An Analysis of Wenxi County, Shanxi

Special Issue
Shaoxin WANG (Beijing Normal University)
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Accounts of the origins of different kinds of ancestors in the popularly-compiled genealogies of the Ming-Qing period share a broadly similar narrative structure. The starting point of lineage history is typically in the late Yuan or early Ming, and the accounts of the founding ancestor often have a connection to early Ming registration into population records. Among the genealogies compiled in Ming and Qing by lineages in Wenxi county, Shanxi, the development of this narrative structure is closely connected to the local expressions of lineage in the period. The lineages that existed in Wenxi in Ming and Qing were for the most part “household lineages" (huzu) that formed out of the lijia corvee labor system, and their basic character was therefore that of a tax and corvee collective in local society. The lineages of the county typically trace the history of their lineage only back to the early Ming, when their ancestors were registered as "household lineages". They share a common narrative structure wherein the tracing of the line of descent is interrupted in the Yuan-Ming transition. This common narrative structure in Ming-Qing genealogies helps us better understand the forms of lineage expression in Ming-Qing, and furthermore creates new sources for our understanding of social change after the mid-Ming.

Journal of History and Anthropology