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The Tax Collection System, Property Ownership and Local Society on Lakes in the Qing Dynasty: A Study Using the Hejing Lake Tax Registers of Daye County, Hubei Province

Bin XU (Wuhan University)
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Through an analysis of several tax registers for lakes and rivers, this paper combines institutional and social history in exploring the role of the state in the emergence and development of lake-side society, as well as how lake- dwellers and fishermen understood and used state institutions to construct their own world. On the one hand, the state sought to use familiar methods of controlling land to impose control on lake waters and the mobile people living on the lakes. This led to the creation of a relatively immobile stratum with ownership rights over the lakes. These owners settled on the shores of the lakes and became responsible for the payment of taxes, facilitating state management. When the state tried to extend its control over the peoples on the lakes indirectly through this stratum, the results were not a success, so it had no choice but to strengthen the local security system, relying on force to maintain order. On the other hand, through their payment of taxes, the fishermen registered with the Fishing Tax Office became the actual proprietors of the lakes. Under pressure from agricultural development, the notion of "lake ownership" developed further. Thus although the initial intention for this paper was to tell a "waterborne history", it nonetheless cannot but recount a different version of the more familiar "land history".

Journal of History and Anthropology