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Family and Property in Sung China

Family and Property in Sung China: Yuan Ts'ai's Precepts for Social Life

  • Book Info
    Family and Property in Sung China
    Book Description:

    Providing the best surviving evidence of the everyday thinking of the Sung upper class, Yuan Ts'ai's twelfth-century manual is the advice of a typical educated man on the concerns of managing a family, from rearing children and arranging their marriages, to avoiding social conflict, training servants, and managing property and preserving it for the next generation.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5390-8
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  2. Part One Class, Culture, Family, and Property

    • CHAPTER I Introduction
      (pp. 3-29)

      In late imperial China (Sung through Ch’ing dynasties, A.D. 960–1911), the major social distinction routinely evoked was betweenshih-ta-fu(literati and officials) and everyone else. In social life, all the gradations of rank, wealth, and refinement that distinguishedshih-ta-fuas individuals tended to be blurred. High officials could have brothers who were scholars, artists, estate managers, or lazy dilettantes. Men from these families, whatever their own choice of occupation, freely interacted, visiting each other and marrying each other’s sisters.

      The empirical evidence that officials, intellectuals, and other men of significance came from a single stratum has been provided by...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Family in the Classical Tradition
      (pp. 30-60)

      The meaning of any literary work can be fully uncovered only by comparing it with other works on similar or related subjects written by the author’s predecessors or contemporaries. Did the author echo or subtly refute the ideas in earlier works? Did he write in an established genre? If so, did he push it in any new directions? If not, what were the ideas or sensibilities that he felt could be adequately expressed only in a new mode? These questions are highly relevant to a full understanding of thePrecepts for Social Lifebecause in his mode of presentation and...

    • CHAPTER 3 Social Life and Ultimate Values
      (pp. 61-80)

      Before comparing Yüan Ts’ai’s ideas and assumptions about the family and its property with those of the classicists and philosophers just described, it is necessary to examine Yüan Ts’ai’s larger set of values. Yüan Ts’ai was not, by inclination, an abstract, speculative, or systematic thinker; he did not try to decide which of men’s many goals was most important in an ultimate scheme of values. Yet, running through his text are assumptions about what it means to be a good person, about human nature and human proclivities, and about the moral rationality of the universe. As will be seen below,...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Harmony of Co-Residents
      (pp. 81-100)

      Yüan T’sai saw around him many families whose home life was unpleasant. Among co-residents(t’ung-chu chih-jen),he found frequent “loss of affection”(shih-huan),his term for what we would call dislike or ill will. With loss of affection people became irascible and argumentative; sometimes their every action irritated other members of their families. According to Yüan Ts’ai, some brothers would treat each other like enemies, some uncles and nephews would “fight with each other with more bitterness than strangers ever could” (1.28), and some parents would take arbitrary dislike to certain sons or grandsons. Yüan Ts’ai, like all those before...

    • CHAPTER 5 The Transmission of Property
      (pp. 101-120)

      The transmission of property or other assets from one generation in a family to the next is essential if there is to be any stability in the membership of a social class.Shih-ta-fuin the Sung gave considerable attention to the issue of transmitting property, but they did not look on it as in any way related to the existence of their social stratum. Rather, what was at stake to them was the preservation of thechia.

      In Sung statutes and judicial decisions the basic principles for transmission of family property are clearly stated. Yüan Ts’ai seldom referred to these...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Business of Managing a Family
      (pp. 121-155)

      Because thechiawas a unit of political economy, not simply a group of relatives, its existence could be ended by the dispersal of its property. Consequently, to Yüan Ts’ai and to most classicists, managing the property of achiawas not a matter of petty details but a primary duty of the family head. Both the “Patterns for Domestic Life” in theLi chiand Ssu-ma Kuang’s “Family Forms” recognized the need for sound management. As mentioned in Chapter 2, Ssu-ma Kuang stated that a family head had to see that each of the servants had assigned duties and...

    • CHAPTER 7 Conclusions
      (pp. 156-172)

      Yüan Ts’ai assumptions, perceptions, opinions, and strategies have been analyzed in the four chapters above. Sometimes it may have seemed as though his thoughts were analyzed too closely, considering that he was not an especially profound thinker. But that was on purpose. My goal has been to look at the preoccupations of a relatively normal upper class man with the attention to conceptual distinctions usually reserved for the treatises of major thinkers or the statements of illiterate informants. In this last chapter I will try to probe further what Yüan Ts’ai’s ways of thinking had to do with the culture...

  3. Part Two Precepts for Social Life

    • Abbreviations Used to Indicate Sources Quoting the Precepts
      (pp. 174-174)
      Yüan Ts’ai
      (pp. 175-176)
      Yüan Ts’ai

      Thinking about how to be good and how to bring others to become good are what the superior man concentrates on.

      Mr. Yüan Chün-tsai of San-ch’u¹ is a person of integrity whose conduct is refined. He is widely learned and has written extensively. With the talent of a thoughtful official, he has promoted morality and love in his service as magistrate. The music and singing in Wu-ch’eng² did not go beyond this.

      One day, Mr. Yüan brought by the three-chapter book that resulted from his efforts. As he showed it to me, he said, “This book can promote cordiality in...

      (pp. 177-180)
      Yüan Ts’ai

      In recent generations, old teachers and experienced scholars have often collected their sayings into “Recorded Quotations,” to be passed on to their students.¹ Their goal has been to share with the world what wisdom they have acquired. But their points are involved and abstruse, beyond the reach of students, who do not become enlightened even if they diligently recite and ponder the text. Imagine how difficult these must be for ordinary or inferior people! Popular works such as short tales or anecdotes about poets, however valuable they may be in themselves, are of no use in moral instruction on social...

    • CHAPTER 1 Getting Along with Relatives
      (pp. 181-230)
      Yüan Ts’ai

      The personal relations between fathers and sons and between older and younger brothers are the closest there are, and yet sometimes they are not harmonious. With fathers and sons, discord often is due to the father’s high demands.² With brothers it is often the result of disputes over property. In cases where neither of these is involved, outsiders who observe the disharmony may be able to see who is right and who is wrong on particular issues but still be puzzled about why the parties are at odds.

      I think such inexplicable disagreements are the result of personality differences. Some...

    • CHAPTER 2 Improving Personal Conduct
      (pp. 231-277)
      Yüan Ts’ai

      Human intelligence certainly varies; indeed there is a great gap between the highest and the lowest in mental capacity. A person with high intelligence sees everything when he looks on someone with lower intelligence, just as one who climbs a high spot can see far into the distance. But when those with inferior intelligence gaze at those with high, they might as well be standing outside a wall trying to get a peek inside.

      Two people with only a minor difference in intelligence can still talk with each other; when the difference is extremely large, interaction is not advisable, since...

    • CHAPTER 3 Managing Family Affairs
      (pp. 278-321)
      Yüan Ts’ai

      In managing a family, you should see to it that the fence walls around your house are high and sturdy, the hedges dense, and the windows, walls, doors, and gates secure. Repair any damage promptly. If there are drainage outlets for water, put grates over them. Keep them new and strong and do not neglect them. Even though clever thieves will be able to find ways to enter in a moment by boring holes in fence walls, cutting through hedges, knocking holes in house walls, and breaking open doors, you will at least not be inviting them in as you...

  4. APPENDIX A Editions of the Precepts for Social Life and Their Transmission
    (pp. 322-330)
    (pp. 341-358)