English

2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

 

Country and Clan Construction of Jiangyou Scholars of the Wang Yangming School: A Case Study of Liu-keng Village

Hong-sheng Liang

Department of History, Jiang Xi Normal University

Past research on community governance by the Wang Yang-ming School after the mid-Ming period, has mainly focused on such official institutions as “country contracts” and “ten-family registers”. Not much research has been done, however, on the rural construction of equally important, though smaller, social units at the clan or village level. Addressing this research topic, this paper is a case study of Liu-keng Village, Le-an County, in Jiangxi Province, as an illustration of the social foundation upon which the system of “country contracts” was implemented.

In the Five Dynasties period, Liu-keng Village was a single surname village. Geographically, the village was bordered by mountains, while a river flowed nearby: conditions thus were favorable to the development of bamboo and timber trade. During the mid-Ming period, commercial activity -mainly timber trade- not only brought prosperity to the village, but also changed the consumption habits of the clan, eventually leading to a succession of conflicts. Thanks to members of the gentry elite such as Dong Sui, who joined literary societies and gave lectures, attention of the Jiangyou scholars was drawn towards Liu-keng Village. Programs implemented by elite members of the Dong clan to strengthen clan structure, included the introduction of a new juan-yin-ru-zhu system, that revolved around the Zhang-i Hall; the perfectioning of the theoretical grounds of clan estate, which was based on geomancy of the ancestral grave; the establishment of the tsung-tzu system, which ensured that a designated heir would serve a regular basis as Master of Ceremonies ; the forming of a group of members of the local gentry who were to take turns managing clan affairs; the construction of carefully designed and well-defended neighborhood watch-towers; and the holding of clan meetings with the literate members and headmen of the village.

After the mid-Ming period, the central government became impatient to maintain and reconstruct order in the countryside. Authority over local communities was entrusted to the major clans of the hinterland of Ji-an and Fu-zhou, who had an ancient clan history and were quite numerous. The “country contracts”, originally a means to “strike the rebel forces in the mountains” in southern Jiangxi, were now also used for control of local societies by the major clans from the hinterland. The delegation of authority over the lower levels of the social structure, was in this case a natural and smooth process.

 

Key Words: Scholars of the Wang Yangming School, Dong Sui, Country and Clan Construction, Major Clan