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Waseda Expert Xiong Yuanbao Discussed the Disputes and Order in Ancient Rural China

On September 16, 2019, Professor Xiong Yuanbao of Waseda University gave an academic lecture entitled "The disputes and order in the rural society of China in the 18th century -- Taking Wuyuan County of Huizhou as an example".

At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Xiong pointed out that rural order is the most basic aspect of understanding an agricultural society. He specially focused on society at or below the county level which he considers contain the basic elements and characteristics of traditional Chinese society. Professor Xiong also mentioned that disputes and resolutions are the best angles to get a picture of the structure of social order and social state. For this kind of research, the difficulty in the past lay in the lack of high-quality relevant literature. However, after the 1950s, many new documents were found, which provided the possibility for a more complete understanding of traditional Chinese society and the correction of defective knowledge and theories.

In the second part of his report, Professor Xiong took Qingyuan Village in Huizhou as an example to introduce the disputes and resolutions in the minimal social space. His research was based on the "Weizhai Diary" left by Zhan Yuanxiang, a villager of Qingyuan Village in the Qing Dynasty. The diary recorded very scarce information about the minimal social space. In addition, the "Genealogy of Zhan in Qingyuan" was used as auxiliary materials. There are 49 disputes recorded in Zhan Yuanxiang,s diary. After distinguishing and counting the disputes according to the areas where the disputes occurred, the frequency and types of disputes, the relationship between the parties and so on, Professor Xiong found that the frequent disputes in rural society were due to the complex property rights, business forms and unclear interests. Professor Xiong believed that the dispute settlement in Qingyuan Village has generally confirmed the so-called "litigiousness" phenomenon that existed in many places since the Ming and Qing dynasties. At the same time, kinship and geographical organizations do not manipulate the parties choices of dispute settlement systems. Instead, what affects their choices is reliability, convenience, cost and deterrence.

In the third part of his report, Professor Xiong took the "Xiguanba case" as an example in order to introduce the conflicts and lawsuits among social regions in the county. He introduced the relationship between the construction of Xiguanba and the water transport of Huizhou Mountains in the Qing Dynasty. Based on the analysis of the conflicts and lawsuits of the interested parties in the "Xiguanba case", Professor Xiong believed that the structural problem is a problem of "center and edge" in the county politics. The framework of public opinion in the traditional society is quite vague and lacks stability and institutionalization. In addition, the framework shows different characteristics due to the nature of events and problems.

After the Q&A session, You Chenjun, associate professor of Renmin University of China Law School, made a final summary of this lecture, and the forum ended successfully.

(Editor: WANG Qingyao, SHAN Wenjie, Chloe Shortall)

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