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Law and Long-Term Economic ChangeA Eurasian Perspective$
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Debin Ma and Jan Luiten van Zanden

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780804772730

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804772730.001.0001

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Property Rights, Land, and Law in Imperial China

Property Rights, Land, and Law in Imperial China

Chapter:
(p.68) Chapter Four Property Rights, Land, and Law in Imperial China
Source:
Law and Long-Term Economic Change
Author(s):
Mio Kishimoto
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804772730.003.0004

This chapter describes the evolution of the concept of ownership and property rights in land in traditional China, drawing to a large extent on the works of generations of Japanese scholarship in this field. There are evident differences with legal traditions from the West when considering the “owner” who owned the land: such a person was not considered an autonomous individual but was regarded as a link in a hierarchy of human relationships. This ownership pattern as structured in human networks, such as a family, lineage, or state, served to limit the power of individuals. While the state allowed people to transact freely in land, the “property rights” they transacted were not absolute.

Keywords:   traditional China, land ownership, property rights, land transactions

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