Tenancy, Property Rights, and Social Transformation in Northeast China, 1840s-1910s

Shuang Chen, University of Iowa

In this paper, I examine the relations between land tenure and the concept of property rights in the nineteenth century Manchuria to show how the interaction of the two brought about social changes to agrarian communities in China. During the settlement stage in northern Manchuria, the state’s claim of the ultimate ownership of the land created a special type of tenancy. As the state only granted land entitlement to those being registered on the government household registers—most of whom were government-organized settlers—a large number of free settlers could not register the land they cleared. In order to secure the use rights of their land, these free settlers had to register the land under an officially registered resident, turning themselves into tenants. At the same time, however, both state and customary laws recognized and protected settler‘s rights over the land they cleared. In the early twentieth century, when the state started to privatize the land in Manchuria, these tenants finally registered their land under their own name, paying some monetary compensation to their landlords. By analyzing a large number of legal cases on disputes over the ownership of this type of land and a land dataset transcribed from government land registers, I explore the implication of this type of tenancy to the pattern of land distribution and the subsequent social hierarchy in northern Manchuria.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 71. Rationalizing Land Use I (1600-1918)