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The development of military households and their lineage construction in Ming and Qing Sichuan

Sheng LONG (Shandong University)

This paper uses a case study of the Hu family of Hujiapu, Mianing, Sichuan to illustrate how military households in Ming and Qing Sichuan developed and formed lineages. The Hu were originally from Rugao; they were conscripted and registered as a military household in early Ming. Thereafter they followed their commander, also from Rugao, to military assignment at Ningfan Guard. In the mid Ming, due to their patrol duties and reclamation of military colony lands they moved to Bailuchong to the south of the Guard. There they established Hujiapu (Hu family fortress), the base for their subsequent development. In the late sixteenth century, some descendants of the Hu family became literati and established a family scholarly tradition. Meanwhile, their status as colony soldiers allowed the Hu to accumulate considerable lands. In the early Qing, the Hu used their existing economic and cultural foundation and power network to further cultivate talent and develop their lineage organization. By the early Qing, they had become a powerful local lineage. But ambiguous ownership rights and the fact that much of their land was unregistered created considerable difficulties for the Hu in their efforts to endow and maintain corporate property. When in the eighteenth century the Guard was converted to a civilian county, the reregistration of lands, prohibition on exchanges between Han and non-Han, and the intensification of internal tensions within the Hu led to the disintegration of their corporate properties, leading in tum to the dissolution of the bases for lineage activity. All that remained was an ancestral hall, a genealogy and other symbolic expressions of the lineage. In the early nineteenth century, the Hu repeatedly compiled a genealogy and built other symbols of a lineage, but with no outstanding talents they were no longer distinguishable from other ordinary lineages. The Hu case illustrates that despite the early Qing destruction of Sichuan, some local elites were able to endure, using their prior economic resources to enjoy rapid development. The Hu's control of land and resistance to tax allocation were important factors explaining the fiscal difficulties of Ningfan in the early Qing. This case is thus profoundly revealing of the continuities in Sichuan society from Ming to Qing.

Journal of History and Anthropology