Taitou: A Chinese Peasant Community


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Describes the economy and society of Taitou in pre-Communist and Communist Eras

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Taitou: A Chinese Peasant Community

  1. 1. Taitou A Chinese Peasant Village
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Taitou is (or was) a village of independent peasants </li></ul><ul><li>It was part of a region of 20 communities dominated by a market town </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike Mesoamerica, there was no leveling device such as obligatory service entailing financial expenditures </li></ul><ul><li>Though stratified, wealthy families might break down into smaller, less wealthy families </li></ul><ul><li>All families were highly entrepreneurial </li></ul>
  3. 3. Location of Taitou <ul><li>Taitou is located in Shantung (now Shandong) province in northeastern China </li></ul><ul><li>Though dense, Taitou comprised independent peasants </li></ul>
  4. 4. Land Tenure and Distribution <ul><li>All land was privately owned </li></ul><ul><li>Each family had land in different ecological zones </li></ul><ul><li>Lighter, terraced, sandy plots on hillsides supported peanuts and sweet potatoes </li></ul><ul><li>Moist bottom soils supported rice cultivation </li></ul><ul><li>Flatlands yielded millet and wheat </li></ul><ul><li>Most families enjoyed both diversified and secure crop yields </li></ul>
  5. 5. Intensive Cultivation Techniques <ul><li>With ample labor and small plots, every plot involved multiple cropping with some fallowing </li></ul><ul><li>Fertilizer was required for all crops and had to be acquired from all sources possible: animal and human waste, ashes from fires, all put into compost </li></ul><ul><li>All families owned a few animals, also intensely used for plowing and harrowing </li></ul>
  6. 6. Wealth Distinctions <ul><li>Land ownership: a few with 20 acres, a smaller number with 10, and the majority with 2. </li></ul><ul><li>All families has the same diet, but the better off enjoyed fish and bread </li></ul><ul><li>Stratification was deemphasized </li></ul><ul><li>However, the wealthier did display their wealth in the form of multi-roomed houses, fine clothing, and fat oxen </li></ul><ul><li>These differences provoked envy, but unlike Mesoamerica, these differences were not hidden </li></ul>
  7. 7. Family Structure <ul><li>Taitou is based mostly on nuclear families </li></ul><ul><li>Family may be extended to include one married son—a stem family </li></ul><ul><li>Other sons leave to form their own family </li></ul><ul><li>Gender division of labor: women handling domestic chores, men doing agriculture or engaged in commercial trade and politics </li></ul><ul><li>All members contribute to household by performing different jobs </li></ul>
  8. 8. Village Division of Labor <ul><li>All households produce for the market: pigs, peanuts, soy beans </li></ul><ul><li>Women bought cotton and spun it for themselves, but they hired dyers and weavers </li></ul><ul><li>Specialists made and repaired tools </li></ul><ul><li>Other specialists: soy oil pressers, carpenter, masons, schoolteacher, public officials </li></ul>
  9. 9. Markets and Market Town <ul><li>Taitou was one of 20 towns within the sphere of a market town, Hsinanchen </li></ul><ul><li>This town was larger than the other villages and contained shops, from bakeries to bookstores </li></ul><ul><li>A large market place opened upon regular market days </li></ul><ul><li>Market days were coordinated with those in other market towns in the region so itinerant traders could trade in all of them </li></ul>
  10. 10. Functions of Market Towns <ul><li>Traders, all men, bought and sold </li></ul><ul><li>They also met in tea or wine shops to exchange information about the regional economic conditions and opportunities </li></ul><ul><li>Men obtained credit from shops essential to maintaining their own production </li></ul><ul><li>Even if men had nothing to buy or sell, they went to town with empty baskets to exchange information and maintain their credit </li></ul>
  11. 11. Regional Markets and Economic Elites <ul><li>Market towns were part of a wider network </li></ul><ul><li>Elites formed part of this network </li></ul><ul><li>Central places formed even wider hierarchies </li></ul><ul><li>No patron-client relationship existed </li></ul><ul><li>The elite were economic rather than political, although there were administrative centers </li></ul>
  12. 12. Marriage and Family Relations <ul><li>All marriages were arranged, and the couple might not see each other until the wedding </li></ul><ul><li>Marriage set strategic alliances between families </li></ul><ul><li>Bride labor was common: before marriage, the betrothed male worked for the wife’s family, turning all earnings over to the bride-to-be’s father </li></ul><ul><li>Residence was patrilocal, and the son continued to turn all his income over to his father </li></ul><ul><li>Daughter-in-law was under the control of their mother-in-law </li></ul>
  13. 13. Family Formation <ul><li>Gradually, the son’s loyalty to family eroded and he sought to obtain land for his own farm </li></ul><ul><li>The father was authoritarian, and the son sought to escape this arrangement </li></ul><ul><li>The daughter-in-law also encouraged the split, being that the mother-in-law was very strict toward her </li></ul><ul><li>Daughters and daughters in law had their own financial sources from odd jobs that were theirs to keep </li></ul><ul><li>That eliminated the father’s absolute domination over the couple </li></ul>
  14. 14. Advantages of Extended Families <ul><li>Enforced frugality to increase savings and assets </li></ul><ul><li>Division of labor into specialized economic activities </li></ul><ul><li>One example: one son would work the land; other sons took up commerce, trade, farm workers for others, crafts and the arts </li></ul><ul><li>Ability to obtain more land </li></ul>
  15. 15. Expansion into Clans <ul><li>Related nuclear families evolved into clans </li></ul><ul><li>Functions: to provide mutual aid and care for the less well-off members (widows, orphans, elderly, the sick) </li></ul><ul><li>Dyadic contracts with unrelated neighbors, such as interest-free loans </li></ul><ul><li>Clan design follows: </li></ul>
  16. 16. Village Level Functions <ul><li>Village was united for common purpose </li></ul><ul><li>In 1945, the village was united to defend against bandits </li></ul><ul><li>United because of weakness of national government </li></ul><ul><li>(There was a civil war going on between Nationalists and Communist) </li></ul><ul><li>Set up barricades and night patrols </li></ul><ul><li>Developed alliances with neighboring villages </li></ul><ul><li>Hired full-time crop watchers to defend crops against pests and thieves </li></ul>
  17. 17. Leadership and Social Control <ul><li>Social control maintained by gossip, “loss of face” (public shame), and ostracism </li></ul><ul><li>Legal proceedings and appeals to public officials were rare </li></ul><ul><li>Disputes were resolved by village elders honored for their wealth and proper behavior rather than government officials </li></ul><ul><li>Governmental officials were ranked lowest in the village hierarchy. </li></ul><ul><li>Patron client relations existed between the wealthy and the poor, kin or not. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Changes under Communist Government <ul><li>Initially, Taitou was left alone </li></ul><ul><li>Then villages were organized as communes under the leadership of centrally appointed cadres </li></ul><ul><li>Each village was assigned a specialized crop: Taitou provided wheat, barley, and sweet potatoes </li></ul><ul><li>Peanuts, soybeans, millet, and fruits and vegetables were not allowed </li></ul><ul><li>Householders could no longer own small plots of land or raised pigs and other animals </li></ul><ul><li>Here, members of a similar commune go to work in Longang Farming Commune, Lionang Province </li></ul>
  19. 19. Communist Policies: Impacts <ul><li>Soy oil pressers forced to close as the result of prohibition of soybean production </li></ul><ul><li>During the 1966 Cultural Revolution, carpentry shops were closed as “capitalist roaders.” </li></ul><ul><li>By the 1980s, the village enjoyed moderate prosperity from its grain production </li></ul><ul><li>Opening of a nearby factory provided added employment (but no investment technology) </li></ul><ul><li>Taitou was passed over for the status of a “model village.” in favor of a nearby impoverished village </li></ul>
  20. 20. Communist Policies: Liberalization <ul><li>In 1980 and after, Taitou was allowed greater autonomy </li></ul><ul><li>Private plots were allowed, and “sideline” production increased in livestock, poultry, and crops </li></ul><ul><li>Small shops appeared, and some men were hired for construction projects outside the village </li></ul><ul><li>Liberalization had an important impact on village income </li></ul>
  21. 21. Liberalization: Results <ul><li>Householders felt themselves to be more in control of their economy—”a rice bowl of their own” replaced the “iron rice bowl” of official policy </li></ul><ul><li>Women had greater economic independence </li></ul><ul><li>Cadre influence declined in favor of household autonomous management </li></ul><ul><li>Redistribution is again being replaced by reciprocity and exchange </li></ul><ul><li>Television and other media are providing households with alternative sources of information and entertainment </li></ul>
  22. 22. Conclusion <ul><li>Despite a Communist hiatus, the household remains the basic social economic unit of Taitou </li></ul><ul><li>Although envy is evident, there are no leveling mechanisms that characterized Mesoamerican peasant </li></ul><ul><li>There is a strong emphasis on entrepreneurship </li></ul><ul><li>Wealth distinctions remain predominant </li></ul>