Polyandry and Wife-Selling in Qing Dynasty China: Survival by Matthew H. Sommer

By Matthew H. Sommer

This booklet is a examine of polyandry, wife-selling, and various similar practices in China through the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). via interpreting over 1200 criminal situations from neighborhood and vital court docket data, Matthew Sommer explores the capabilities performed by way of marriage, intercourse, and replica within the survival concepts of the agricultural bad less than stipulations of overpopulation, worsening intercourse ratios, and shrinking farm sizes. Polyandry and wife-selling represented contrary ends of a spectrum of suggestions. At one finish, polyandry used to be a method to maintain the kinfolk jointly by way of increasing it. a girl might herald a moment husband in trade for his support helping her kinfolk. by contrast, spouse sale used to be a method to outlive through breaking apart a kinfolk: a husband might safe an emergency infusion of money whereas his spouse might get away poverty and safe a clean commence with one other man.

Even even though Qing legislation prohibited either practices lower than the rubric "illicit sexual relations," Sommer exhibits how magistrates charged with propagating and imposing a fundamentalist Confucian imaginative and prescient of woman chastity attempted to deal with their social fact within the face of daunting poverty. This contradiction illuminates either the pragmatism of regimen adjudication and the more and more dysfunctional nature of the dynastic kingdom within the face of mounting social drawback. via casting a focus at the rural negative and the reviews of either women and men, Sommer presents a substitute for the traditional paradigms of women’s background that experience lengthy ruled scholarship on gender and sexuality in overdue imperial China.

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