Hankow: Conflict and Community in a Chinese City, 1796-1895 0804715416, 9780804715416

This second volume of a two-volume social history of Hankow focuses on the people of Hankow, in all their ethnic diversi

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Hankow: Conflict and Community in a Chinese City, 1796-1895
 0804715416, 9780804715416

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Hankow: Conflict and Community in a Chinese City, 1796-1895

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Stanford University Press, Stanford, California © 1989 by the Board o f Trustees o f the Leland Stanford Junior University Printed in the United States o f America Published with the assistance o f the National Endowment for the Humanities

Library o f Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Rowe, W illiam T. Hankow: conflict and community in a Chinese city, 1796-1895 / W illiam T. Rowe, p. cm. Bibliography: p. Includes index. i s b n 0-8047-1541-6 (alk. paper): 1. Han-k, ou (China)— Social conditions. 2, Com m unity organization— China— Han-k*ou. 3. Social conflict— China— Han-k’ou— History— 19th century. 4. Labor and laboring classes— China— Han-k’ou— History一 19th century. I. Title. HN740.H3 6R69

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Lis book offers the second half of a comprehensive social history of nineteenth-century Hankow,which began with my Hankow: Com­ merce and Society in a Chinese City, ijg6-i88g (Stanford, 1984). Under­ taking such a multivolume project entails a number of special prob­ lems, not least o f which is that of repetition. As a general rule I have sought throughout the present work to avoid reiterating the descrip­ tions and arguments made in my earlier study— both books are quite long enough without wholesale repetition. Most students o f Chinese history will in any case already be familiar with our city and its pecu­ liarities. One o f my hopes in writing this book, however, is to begin a dialogue with historians o f urbanism and society in the early modern West. For this audience, in particular, it is probably best to summarize briefly the findings o f my earlier work. Hankow is a Yangtze River port located nearly at the geographic cen­ ter o f China proper, and at the nodal point of all but a few of the em­ pire^ major long-distance transport routes. It was thus the single most important entrepot for C h’ing China's domestic interregional trade— a trade which I have argued was far larger than usually recognized— and it was this function which above all shaped the city’s society. Hankows population, for much o f the nineteenth century in excess o f one million persons, was extraordinarily heterogeneous in subethnic terms, with the overwhelming majority drawn from “foreign” and often quite distant native places. This population was organized into more than a hundred corporate guilds, each constituted along some combination of the principles of local origin and common trade. Administratively, Hankow claimed no position whatsoever in the C h’ing hierarchy of provincial, prefectural, and county capitals. It was formally governed as a market town within Hanyang county, whose modest-sized county seat was located on the other side of the formidable Han River. Partly as a result o f this bureaucratic neglect, and despite the mobility, ethnic



diversity, and native-place particularisms of its population, Hankow in the nineteenth century was able to evolve a substantial degree o f de facto urban autonomy, which found its institutional expression in an increasingly formalized citywide amalgamation o f the major commer­ cial guilds. The present volume is much less concerned than its predecessor with the trade o f Hankow and the mechanisms of its management. It fur­ thermore accepts as given the crucial sociopolitical functions o f the guilds, looking beyond them to other formal and informal vehicles of local social activism. More importantly, this book broadens the focus o f the earlier one beyond the world o f the commercial elite, to look in detail at the concerns and behavior of the city’s working classes. Above all, it seeks to understand the structures and processes of social conflict, and the way these related to the maintenance of the city as a viable and cohesive social unit. Another concern when producing a multivolume study involves consistency. The discovery of new primary materials and broader read­ ing in the scholarly literature between the time o f writing of the two books inevitably lead to subtle or not-so-subtle shifts in one’s perspec­ tive. Nevertheless, although the foci and the emphases here are rather different from those in my earlier book, I think that in only two respects have my opinions about the city changed to any important degree. First, as in the earlier work I have sought to end the period of study with the onset of significant local industrialization, but I would now place that not at the arrival o f Chang Chih-tung and the beginnings of “self-strengthening” in 1889-90, but instead in the wake o f the Treaty o f Shimonoseki in 1895. This may seem like a minor difference in pe­ riodization, but in practice it allows us to treat in this volume a number o f important events in Hankow's social history that occurred in the early i 890, s as essentially continuous with the trends o f the preceding decades rather than as by-products of the industrialization process. Second, I would now argue less strongly than before for the low level o f embeddedness of Hankow in its subregional context. In fact, much o f the present volume is concerned with discussion of the rather close social and economic relationship of the city with its immediate hinter­ land. Nevertheless, this is a difference o f degree, not of kind. I would still maintain that Hankow’s ties with the local countryside were no­ ticeably weaker than was true for most Chinese cities (a function of its primary orientation to trade on an empirewide scale), that this rela­ tionship was stronger in the second half of the nineteenth century than in the first, and that at no time in that century was it as close as it was to become following industrialization, when the city began systemat­

ically to extract industrial raw materials, factory workers, and profes­ sional elites from its hinterland. This book incorporates material from two previously published ar­ ticles, although in both cases major revisions have been made on the basis o f newly acquired evidence. The section on pao-chia in Chapter Eight is a rewriting of the essay I contributed to Perspectives on a Chang­ ing, China (Boulder, Colo., 1979), the festschrift for Prof. C. Martin Wilbur edited by Joshua A. Fogel and myself. I am grateful to Westview Press for permission to reuse that material here. Chapter Nine o f this book is a substantial reworking o f my article “Rebellion and Its Ene­ mies in a Late C h, ing City: The Hankow Plot of 1883’” which appeared in the University of Chicago’s Select Papersfrom the Centerfor Far Eastern Studies 4 (1979-80), edited by Tkng Tsou. As before, I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities and to the University of Chicago for sponsoring the Modern China Project under whose aus­ pices my work on the 1883 incident was originally done. I will not repeat here the long list of personal acknowledgments that appeared in my earlier book on Hankow, although inasmuch as the two books derive from the same initial research project, those acknowledg­ ments still apply. I must, however, express once again special thanks to several friends, teachers, and colleagues of long standing~Andy Na­ than, Joshua Fogel, Su Yun-feng, Shiba Yoshinobu,Hsiao Chih-chih, and G. W illia m Skinner— and to one person whose name I unfortu­ nately failed to mention in my first book, Helen Tartar o f Stanford U ni­ versity Press. The basic research here as before was aided by generous grants from the American Council o f Learned Societies—Social Science Research Council and the Committee on Scholarly Communication with the People’s Republic o f China. In specific regard to the present volume I wish to thank the numerous scholars who allowed me to make use of their (at the time) unpublished research. All are identified by name in the notes to this book; here I want especially to thank Mary Backus Rankin and David Strand, whose in­ fluence on my thinking should be evident to every reader who is fa­ miliar with their important work. At Johns Hopkins, I deeply appre­ ciate the support given me by three successive History Department chairmen, Mack Walker, Orest Ranum, and John Russell-Wood, as well as by Betty Whildin and her excellent staff. The following persons read all or part of this manuscript and offered invaluable comments: Joseph Esherick, Richard Goldthwaite, Harold Kahn, Lynn Hollen Lees, Susan Naquin, Mary Backus Rankin, David Strand, and Mack Walker. Needless to say, I did not always observe even the best o f this advice.



Finally, as in my previous volume, my deepest debt of thanks goes to my wife, Jill A. Friedman, for her professional assistance and con­ stant personal encouragement and support. The inspiration for the countless hours o f labor involved in this book’s preparation came from her and from our two beautiful children, to whom the book is dedi­ cated. W. T. R.


Introduction: The Early Modern Chinese City PART I



1 City People


2 Urban Space




3 Popular Welfare 4 Public Goods and Public Services PART I I I

91 135


5 Structures o f Conflict


6 Dangerous Classes and Laboring Classes


7 True Believers




8 Forces o f Order


9 Crisis and Response






Selected Bibliography


Character List

4l 7



Tables, Maps, and Figures


i. Occupational Analysis of 4,000 Patients Treated at Hankow’s London Missionary Dispensary, 1873-74 Hankow’s Occupational Structure,ca. 1860-95

30 31

3. Industrial and Construction Workers in Hankow, 1912


4. Household pao-chia Enrollment for Hankow, by Ward


5. Fire Brigades of Hankow, by Ward


6. Benevolent Halls Founded at Hankow Before ca. 1895


7. Endowment Holdings o f the Tzu-hsin t^ang, 1884


8. Annual Taxes Assessed on Tzu-hsin t, ang Rice Land, 1884


9. Martyrs in Hanyang County, 1852-56


10. Local Origins o f Male Civilians Killed in Hanyang County, 1855



1. Counties of South-central Hupeh Province in the Nineteenth Century


2. The Wuhan Cities, ca. 1890


3. Distribution of Hankow Benevolent Halls, ca. 1890


4. Plan o f the Proposed 1873 Harbor Clearance Project


x iv

Tables, Maps, and Figures


1. A Chinese Urban Shopping Street, ca. 1890


2. Boat-dwellings in Hankow Harbor


3. A View of Hankow Shophouses, 1981


4. An American-made Fire Engine Used in China


Hankow: Conflict and Community in a Chinese City, 1796-1895

Introduction: The Early Modern Chinese City

I n early may o f 1883 an event occurred which shattered the surface calm of Hankow, the most important inland commercial city of the C h’ing empire. A band o f rebels lying in hiding in the city,fired by a radically nihilistic vision, prepared to launch an attack designed not only to overthrow the reigning dynasty but to redraw the rules of so­ ciety. These men and women were Buddhist millenarians. O n the eve of their intended rising their plot was discovered, resulting in a lengthy government inquisition and a significant reshuffling of power within the urban society. Already, however, a series of warnings and rumors of the intended carnage had caused much of the population of this vital, prosperous port to pack up and flee. Hankow was suddenly and con­ spicuously revealed as a focal point o f credible antiestablishment forces, and o f serious social tensions. This was a city o f teahouses and poetry clubs; of Dragon Boat races and violent street brawls; of evening lantern markets and streetcorner swordplay drills; of sedan chairs and “water dragons” (hand-drawn fire engines);'of renegade soldiers and the nightwatchman’s gong; of salt merchants, nightsoil-carriers, streetsingers, and rural refugees. Serene it was not. Hankow was a city o f jarring contrasts and of frenetic in­ tensity, where day-to-day passions ran high and routine violence was a fact of life. But this violence was almost all of a personalis tic nature, individual conflicts contained with relative ease within their immediate contexts. Throughout the nineteenth century, Hankow had been re­ markably free from open, large-scale group confrontations and pro­ tests; until 1883 the most serious threats of social disruption had all come from outside. Within the city itself, the prevailing impression was that recorded by the visiting Abbe Hue, o f “order and tranquility amidst huge crowds.’’1Hankow to most contemporaries appeared the very model o f a workable social unit. Yet the events o f 1883 contain the implication that something may



have been fundamentally wrong. We are reminded o f the cautionary words of the historian of early modern Paris, Louis Chevalier: Can it be said that in such periods the city was prosperous and quiet, preoc­ cupied with work and thrift, eagerly pursuing self-enrichment (and succeeding tolerably well) . . . ,enamored o f order in all things, in its affairs, its habits, its laws and regulations? Certainly it can, but only if we look no further than the level o f political and economic history. The city which emerges at a far deeper level— the level o f the street, the work shop, the scatter o f petty dayto-day happenings derived from the administrative files, the daily police re­ ports, and even more clearly from small items in the newspapers— is a very different place. . . . [This was] a city sick to such a degree that its social struc­ tures and relationships were perpetually confronted by issues of life or death.2

To what extent was it equally true o f Hankow that the surface calm and prosperity masked a pathological social disquiet? To what degree did the consensual attitudes championed by the government and the urban elite hide a sense of popular alienation, or even resistance? What were the effective limits o f community? When and under what circum­ stances did social conflict threaten to destroy the urban social unit, or even (as in 1883) the fabric o f late imperial society as a whole? These are the basic questions addressed in this study. M y citation o f Louis Chevalier above is not merely coincidental, but reveals a set of assumptions that underlie this book. Despite the giant steps forward taken by G. William Skinner and his colleagues in the monumental The City in Late Imperial China, the historiography of Chinese urbanism remains relatively undeveloped, and so my search for fruitful lines o f inquiry inevitably led me to works on Western cit­ ies. Here I found not only the brilliant and highly elaborated historical vision I needed (in the work of E. A. Wrigley,E. P. Thompson, George Rude, Jan de Vries, Chevalier, and many others), but also something I had not sought. I was continually surprised to recognize in certain Eu­ ropean cities o f the century or so before industrialization many ele­ ments that seemed familiar from my own research on nineteenthcentury Hankow. I am all too acutely aware o f the hazards and histor­ ical injustices involved in seeking an overly facile identification of Chinese society of a given era with Western European society at an­ other (usually earlier) time. O n the other hand, I am even more basi­ cally convinced that a belief in the “exceptional” character o f China’s path o f historical development is not a particularly profitable approach to the study o f that history. I hope the reader, after having reviewed the evidence offered in the present work, will share my conviction that an examination o f the similarities and differences between nineteenthcentury Hankow and Western metropolises of roughly a century earlier



is a fruitful means o f understanding late imperial Chinese society, and that the areas of commonality were significant enough to make the ap­ proach a valid one. If it is true, as I contend, that the cities in these periods had arrived at a comparable phase o f development, how may this phase best be characterized? Recognition of the fundamental changes undergone by many Western cities— not only those of Europe but those of the larger Western world— in the centuries prior to the industrial revolution has gradually discredited the unhistorical notion o f a common type of “preindustrial city.”3The basic stimulus to these changes was the quan­ tum increase in long-distance trade of items of daily mass consump­ tion一 notably staple foodstuffs, fibers, and textiles. In the West this process began in the later Middle Ages and became more pronounced with overseas expansion in the sixteenth century. In China, too, a sim­ ilar process got under way around the eleventh century, under the Sung, and gathered greater momentum after the sixteenth century, in the late M ing and early Ch’ing? A number of scholars, convinced that in Europe changes in production accompanying the later phase o f com­ mercial intensification were direct antecedents of the industrial revo­ lution, have recently taken to describing this era and the distinctive ur­ ban societies it produced as “protoindustria].”4 Readers familiar with the protoindustrialization argument will notice a number of basic sim­ ilarities between the conditions it describes and my own depiction of Hankow. Nevertheless, because of my lack o f conviction regarding a causal connection between these conditions and later technological breakthroughs (at least in China), I have chosen instead to refer to the period using a less controversial but roughly equivalent term, "early modern.”5 What did Hankow have in common with early modern European cities, and in what did their “modernity” lie? The most basic common feature, as suggested above,was a central role in the management of long-distance trade. More specifically, the emergence of this new type o f city was related to basic changes in the economic structure o f the civilizations of which they were a part. The expanded scale of long­ distance commerce in both Europe and China led a number o f regions to specialize in production o f certain goods to meet the demands of distant markets— the handicraft textile industries of the Low Countries and o f Kiangnan being the most celebrated, but hardly the only, ex^In China as in Europe the accelerated pace o f economic change in the sixteenth cen­ tury was related to the stimulus o f imports o f American silver. See C h’iian Han-sheng, Chung-kuo chittg-chi shift lun-ts^ng (Essays on Chinese economic history; Hong Kong, 1972), pp. 435-50, 475-508; and William Atwell, “International Bullion Flows and the Chinese Economy, circa 1530-1650,** Past and Present, 95 (May 1982), pp. 68-90.



amples. Whereas much of this new, regionalized, export-oriented pro­ duction actually took place in rural or suburban settings, such functions as transport coordination, capitalization, and in many cases final pro­ cessing took place in major cities.6This transformed both the nature of urban-rural relations and the internal structure o f the cities themselves. With the significant appearance o f urban-concentrated, large-scale, mechanized factory industry (in England beginning ca. 1780 and in China ca. 1895), these conditions were again basically transformed, and the “early modern” era may be said to have ended. Although many types and levels, of central places were affected by the early modern expansion of production and long-distance trade, the demographic consequences were most pronounced in political and commercial metropolises, that is, capital cities and higher-level ports.7 Such urban centers— among them London and Paris in Europe and Hankow in China~witnessed a population growth less wrenching than that which would accompany industrialization, to be sure, but nevertheless unprecedentedly rapid and visible. The resulting urb这 n populations were more heterogeneous both ethnically and occupationally, increasingly composed of new arrivals and transients (giving the city what Richard Sennett calls a population of “ strangers”),in general younger and less settled, and, in unprecedentedly large percentages, poor.8 These new demographic realities yielded a class structure in early modern metropolises which was both more complex and more fluid than that which characterized cities o f earlier and later periods. Clearly, major transformations in the relationships of production and the or­ ganization o f work were under way. Strictly monetary relations were coming to govern not only the marketplace but the workplace as well. To a different extent from city to city, but to some extent in all, a system o f household-scale production was being gradually supplanted by large-scale enterprises utilizing propertyless wage labor— in other words, a preindustrial urban proletariat.^ Still, the degree of classconsciousness was generally 】 ower in this era than it would become un­ der industrial capitalism (or, indeed, had been under feudalism); ver­ tical ties o f occupation and ethnicity remained more compelling than ♦In the eyes o f some scholars, the progress o f this “ transition to capitalism” in many early modern cities was sufficient to characterize them as “ capitalist cities” per se. A l­ though merchant capitalism as a system o f economic organization was widely practiced in nineteenth-century Hankow, and although we will examine its effects on various as­ pects o f the city’s social life, I feel that the ambiguities and complications inherent in the term "capitalist** are too great to allow characterizing our city thus. For a sober and con­ cise reflection on the limits o f applicability o f this term, see Hilton, “ C a p ita lis m W h a t s in a Name?”



those of economic class. Ethnic-occupational groupings were still the major perceived divisions within the urban population, and corpora­ tive social organizations based on these principles— guilds, local-origin clubs, labor gangs— remained the city’s most important structural 'cojnponents.9 If these demographic and economic features may be taken as the defining characteristics of early modern cities, a number of secondary but related features were also shared by Hankow and European cities at a comparable stage o f development. For example, in spatial terms, these cities accommodated their growing populations primarily by involut­ ing— growing in upon themselves— rather than expanding into new Suburban districts (as many would do following industrialization). Neighborhood structures were strong, but neighborhoods were not yet ghettoized in terms of extreme internal homogeneity or o f subcommunal antagonisms directed against the wider urban society. For many people residence and workplace were still combined, for example in a “shophouse” type of arrangement, though along with changes in work organization this was beginning to show signs o f breaking down. The public life o f the city was very active; it was richly endowed with marketplaces (much o f the city’s commerce was still conducted out-ofdoors) and with recreational sites that brought together diverse ele­ ments o f the population. Well-organized festivals at the levels o f the trade, the neighborhood, and the municipality were open to all and at­ tracted large crowds. Functional literacy was fairly widespread and on the rise, with oral and printed media (including the beginnings o f the modern press) playing a large and growing role in shaping public con­ sciousness. The city as a whole was essentially free from feudal controls, an­ swerable only to itself and to the bureaucratic agents of the central state administration. This central state, whose presence both in China and Western Europe was still relatively lightly felt, adopted a modestly pa­ ternalistic attitude toward the city’s social problems, rather than either complete indifference or the more actively interventionist policies that often followed in the wake of industrialization. O n the other hand, this era was marked by the steady development o f organized, corporatestyle civic action and the proliferation o f a wide range o f philanthropic and public-service institutions, designed to meet the unprecedented and specifically urban social problems faced by cities in the early mod­ ern period. But if Hankow shared each o f these basic economic and social char­ acteristics with cities o f the early modern West, its social history never­



theless diverged from theirs in at least one very striking way. European cities o f the early modern era have been widely portrayed as centers of riotous protest, with historians such as Richard Cobb, Natalie Zemon Davis, Eric Hobsbawm, Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, George Rude, E. P. Thompson, and Charles Tilly (to name but a few of the most prominent) variously filling in the details of an overall picture o f rou­ tine mob violence and popular rebellion,Whether such a depiction is accurate, or reflects simply an historiographic fashion, is beyond my competence to determine. In any case, however, such a portrayal would hardly be apt for nineteenth-century Hankow. Waves of urban popular resistance such as London’s Wilkes and Gordon Riots or the storming o f the Bastille really had no counterpart, and lesser but still broadly based disorders such as food or tax riots were notably less in evidence in Hankow than in Western cities. Even without comparison with the West, Hankow experienced a lower incidence of protest than the con­ ditions o f its own violent and contentious society and the wrenching social changes of the early modern era might lead one to expect. Why was this so? I will argue here that a basic reason— a reason that runs counter to the assumptions of much sinological literature— was the compelling strength o f the Chinese urban community. In interpreting the dynamics o f social relations in nineteenth-century Hankow, I draw upon notions o f community and conflict somewhat at variance with those conventionally advanced. Despite the continued appeal o f the Henri Pirenne^-Max Weber thesis that it was precisely the communal impulses o f medieval urbanites which ignited the transfor­ mation to “rational” capitalist society in the West (a thesis discussed in this volumes predecessor),10the major thrust of Western social thought at least since the time of Tonnies has been that the ^osf-medieval city was basically destructive o f “community sentiment.”11 Writing in the 1890’s,Durkheim posited what has been called a “size-density model” o f human group formation, which saw the strength of interpersonal ties as inversely proportional to the population density of a settlement.12 One o f the founders of the American sociology curriculum, Robert Maclver, wrote emphatically that, ‘‘There seems little doubt that com­ munity sentiment in the great urban centers has been replaced to a fairly large extent by attachment to other and less inclusive groups.”13 And * M y limited reading suggests that, despite the different political system in which they were embedded, large American cities just before the industrial era were no less riotous than their Western European counterparts. See, for example, Michael Feldberg, The Tur­ bulent Era: Riot and Disorder in Jacksonian America (New York, 1980); and Paul Gilje, The Road to Mobocracy (Chapel Hill, N .C ., 1987).



several generations o f urban theorists associated with the influential “ Chicago school”~Louis Wirth, Robert Redfield, Philip Hauser— popularized the view that modern urbanism has been at once liberating and depersonalizing, productive of rational interest-identifications and destructive o f moral consensus.14 For the Chicago school, the intense competitiveness and mutual exploitation which derived from the ab­ sence o f community sentiment in big cities could only be regulated by new, formalistic controls: dramatically expanded legal institutions, bureaucratic-style social management, and above all a greater presence o f the state in the day-to-day lives o f urban residents.15 A related line o f argument, favored by leftist scholars ever since Marx but increasingly popular in recent years due to the work o f E. P. Thompson, has held that it was specifically the “ transition to capitalism” (again, prior to industrialization) that once and for all spelled the breakdown of the territorial community, in urban as well as rural areas. In this view, the material relationships between members of a local population, transformed by new modes o f work organization and less effectively ameliorated by bonds of common culture, were no longer conducive in capitalist society to the continued maintenance o f local community solidarity.16 Both o f these lines of argument, it seems to me, are built upon a def­ inition o f ‘‘community, ,and an assumption about the antithetical na­ ture o f community and conflict that are not shared in the present study. In much of Western social thought, and by extension in social science and historical literature, the dominant notion o f community has been that advanced most famously by Tonnies in the 1880s and extensively elaborated by Max Weber and others in the twentieth century. This view portrayed a local community as essentially a dosed system* and em­ phasized the homogeneity of community members— the emotional bond and almost perfect harmony of interests among them.17N ot sur­ prisingly, few scholars found this highly idealized situation in the world around them, and thus most were tempted to confine its existence to contemporary primitive societies and to their own culture s nostalgi­ cally conceived past. More recently, noting the clumsy way in which this notion o f a totally encompassing community has been applied in empirical studies, a number o f social scientists and historians have been led to wonder aloud whether “local community” is a useful conception in the first place.18 The notions o f community and conflict employed in the present work, however, derive instead from those put forward initially by ^Maclver, for example, argued that “The basic criterion o f community is that all o f one’s social relationships may be found within it.” Maclver and Page, Society, p. 9.



Georg Simmel in the first decade of this century.19Simmel defined com­ munity in terms o f what he called “the web o f group-affiliations, in other words, as an open-ended network of densely intermeshed personal relationships. In contrast to Tonnies1 depiction o f a perfect homoge­ neity o f interests, Simmel stressed that what held the community to­ gether was not commonality so much as interdependence. O n this basis, he was able to observe that in real-life social units regularized internal conflict might be as important a bonding agent as harmony or mutual identification. Simmel did, to be sure, differentiate between those sorts o f conflict that aided community and those that were destructive o f it, and this distinction will prove an important one in this study. Adopting Simmers conception of community as based on hetero­ geneity and interdependence, it becomes unnecessary to deny the ap­ peal o f strong subcommunal ties in positing the existence of a citywide community; in fact, as we shall see, these ties may even contribute to nurturing the larger community. Moreover, armed with Simmels no­ tion o f the potentially integrative functions of social conflict, it be­ comes possible to understand how a large city such as Hankow could function well as a social unit without an overwhelming state presence. Stanford Lym an has shown how S im m d’s model may be used to ana­ lyze the functioning of San Francisco's Chinatown, a large, internally segmented urban community effectively independent o f close govern­ ment control o f any sort; and students of China’s own cities during the warlord era have repeatedly been struck by how well those commu­ nities continued to function in an anarchic and predatory national po­ litical context, even with few formal governmental structures of their own.20In the nineteenth century, too, Chinese cities lacked the sort of heavy and efficient state presence deemed essential by the Chicago school; instead we see a style of community self-management that re­ lied on a degree o f moral consensus, to be sure, but even more strongly on the interplay o f subcommunal competition and cooperation, con­ flict and mediation. The evidence from nineteenth-century Hankow suggests that, in some Chinese cities at least, the strength o f urban community ties was actually growing over the course of the early modern period. There is no question that an escalation o f the most divisive kinds of social con­ flict did take place in the decades after 1895, as various social groups mobilized to confront the realities of rapid industrialization and an ex­ panding modern state. It is possible also to trace the antecedents o f this as early as the 1870’s. Nevertheless, the question remains o f why the process o f urban community disaggregation occurred relatively later in China than in Europe一 in China essentially awaiting rather than pre­ ceding industrialization. A variety o f more general explanations might



be offered for this, including the nature o f the national political system, the different pace o f the industrialization process, and ultimately per­ haps differences o f cultural tradition. In the present study we shall con­ centrate on more immediate and readily observable causes, that is, ac­ tual behavior on the part of community members, the urban elite, and the state. How do our conclusions here relate to current thinking on Chinese cities and on the broader processes o f late imperial Chinese history? Much o f this study will be concerned with documenting the growing strength o f the urban community on the evidence of a concerted pro­ cess o f institution-building. It was o f course largely on assumptions of the failed development o f urban institutions that Max Weber, Fei -Hsiao-t^ng, and others based their still-influential argument that ef­ fective urban communities never emerged in China.21 It is also, how­ ever, on institutional evidence that two preeminent observers of Chinese society— rooted in very different ideological perspectives, but both steeped in the work of Weber— have convincingly sought to turn this argument on its head. The Japanese Marxist Imahori Seiji, following a model laid out by the historian o f German urbanism Georg Ludwig von Maurer (17901872), has argued that the sentiments and institutional apparatus of community (kydddtai) were deliberately re-created from rural experi­ ence in urban settings. The primary vehicle for this was the local-origin guild, which assumed quasi-governmental powers over its members, and gradually federated with other guilds o f the city to become the agent o f elite-dominated communal self-nurturance in the city as a whole. Imahori is by no means persuaded that such an urban com­ munity was a desirable development, but he finds its widespread ex­ istence beyond question.22A related line o f argument has been advanced by the functional anthropologist C. K. Yang. Yang begins with the We­ berian recognition that in China “the decentralized pattern o f a city’s ecological structure, the spatial pattern of trade segregation, [and] the high degree o f self-containment in the ‘institutional complement’ of the local areas” led to the presence of strong urban subcommunities. Unlike Weber, however, Yang goes on to stress the capabilities o f urban residents for organized purposive action. At the subcommunity level, the agents o f this action were the deliberately created “neighborhood association" and the elite-sponsored “benevolent hall” (shan-t'ang). He then proceeds to depict the way in which these decentralized neigh­ borhood structures could build up a machinery of community activism at the municipal level.23 In my previous book on Hankow I,too, attempted to refute the view



that Chinese cities lacked a communal character. There, like Imahori, I sought to do so on the evidence of the behavior of commercial guilds. In the present study we shall see how similar trends were at work in­ volving the agents o f community emphasized by Yang, neighborhood groups and benevolent halls. The number, functional range, and systemic linkages of all these types o f community institutions grew remarkably over the course of the nineteenth century. This seems to me closely related to two larger trends in Chinese history, one cyclical and the other unique to the late C h ’ing,which have recently been pointed out by a number o f scholars. O n the one hand, the final hundred years o f Manchu rule appear to have replicated the late M ing in witnessing a growing interest by local elites in responding to practical social problems, an interest that took as its explicit focal point the local community. Behind such activist move­ ments, in both periods, lay a perception of failure on the part of the imperial administration, a growing loss o f confidence in both the abil­ ities and the motives of the bureaucratic state.24 O n the other hand, as Mary Backus Rankin has shown, the post-Taiping generations saw an unprecedented expansion o f an articulated “public sphere” (kung), most notably in the cities.25If both o f these arguments o f recent schol­ arship are valid— and I am inclined to find them so— they raise a num ­ ber o f further questions for examination in the present work. For ex­ ample, what precisely was the role o f the C h’ing bureaucracy in the rise o f urban community activism in the nineteenth century? To what ex­ tent did contemporaries conceive o f an expanding “ civic” or “public” sphere outside that of formal government? And what in the nineteenth century was truly new to Chinese cities, as opposed to the patterned response of elites and local communities to a dynasty in decline? The plan o f this book is simple. Part One will examine the basic hu­ man and spatial characteristics of the city, with particular attention to comparisons with cities of early modern Europe. Part Two will survey the evolution of the institutional framework, beginning especially in the 1820s, that gave objective form to the emerging urban community. Part Three will examine the spectrum o f social conflict endemic to the city, as well as several specific social irritants that became more pressing as the century wore on, and that contributed simultaneously to the more frenetic pace of community institution-building and to the un­ dermining of that very process. Part Four will look at a particular type o f communal institution— the public-security apparatus— the elabo­ ration o f which in the 1870’s and 1880s revealed growing tensions in local society, and will examine in detail the incident mentioned at the



outset, the millenarian uprising attempt o f 1883, to see how this affair revealed both the strengths and the limits of the urban community. In the conclusion we shall address the problem of what sorts o f attitudinal and behavioral changes in our period threatened the preservation o f Hankow’s urban community, at the very point when that community seemed to have been so effectively forged.




City People

O n e of the liv elie r debates in the historiography of late imperial China has concerned the degree to which an “urban culture” existed in Ming and C h , ing cities. F. W. Mote, for example, has argued with great vigor that the sort o f distinctive urbanism we usually see in the postmedieval West had no Chinese counterpart: That sharp division into distinct urban and rural civilizations disappeared early in China, although it remained characteristic o f much o f the rest o f the world until recent times and produced distinct urban attitudes in other civilizations. The conditions allowing such attitudes in China seem to have vanished by the beginning o f the imperial era, so long ago that a sense of that kind o f urban superiority has not remained.1

Somewhat more cautiously, Evelyn Rawski has recently concluded that, in cultural terms, the separation o f urban and rural was probably much less pronounced in C h, ing China than in, say, early modern France.2 Other Western scholars, however, have portrayed what appears to have been a dynamic urban culture as early as the Sung dynasty, while historians in the People’s Republic have argued at length for the emer­ gence in the late Ming o f a category o f “ city people” (shih-min) that transcended economic class in its sense o f common liberation from the agrarian order and in its resistance to the demands of the “ feudal” state.3 Most recently, David Johnson has formulated an emphatic counterar­ gument to that of Mote, concluding that, from the T ’ang period on­ wards As the social and economic life o f the cities became more and more complex, a genuine urban culture emerged. . . . People began to grow accustomed to the distinction between city and country; the idea o f the city (as opposed to the long-familiar notion o f the imperial . . . capital) was added to the common conceptual vocabulary. . . . In the cities themselves the idea of the city as a place set apart from the old familiar world o f villages and hamlets first took

16 '

The City ,along with the closely associated and equally important notion that city_ers were different from peasants.4

The debate on this matter is far from closed, and indeed a question as basic and sweeping as this is bound to have something o f a half empty / half full character. But based on the evidence o f Hankow—~a city o f nearly unparalleled ethnic and occupational complexity— the conclusion seems inescapable that, in at least some Chinese urban places, there did exist a strong consciousness of a shared identity as “city people, , ’ and a distinctive urban mentality. One task of the pres­ ent chapter is to explore the content of that mentality. A shared identity as urbanites of course by no means invalidated the key importance of narrower identities and solidarities based on native place, religion, or trade. More problematic is the importance of social class. Here, adopting a view of class that is historicist and contextual, we will attempt to assess the realities o f class-consciousness and class solidarity for the people o f nineteenth-century Hankow. In general, class identities seem to have been weak, though not wholly absent, and a number o f factors in our period— such as changes in the organization o f work and the growth through rapid urbanization of a new kind of urban poor— prepared the way for the burgeoning class solidarities that would accompany industrialization. Finally, we will direct our attention to the urban elite, looking at the life-styles, attitudes, and tastes of Hankow’s most prosperous mer­ chants in relation to those of the population as a whole and to those of more traditional status-elites. As confirmed urbanites who were at the same time committed to Confucian ideals of gentlemanly conduct, so­ cial harmony, and paternalistic public service, this group conceived an attachment to the fostering of an urban community for which, later chapters will show,many among them contributed their money and efforts to provide institutional form. Urban M entality and Culture Despite the fact that Hankow was a melange of the most diverse types o f individuals, residents and visitors throughout our period felt comfortable in recording their views o f what might be called the “Hankow personality,” and to a remarkable degree their opinions prove con­ sistent. The first characteristic that struck observers was an exuberant worldliness, typically manifesting itself in lavish extravagance and the competitive display o f material success.5As one would expect, this rou­ tinely invited condemnation by literati observers, who noted the jar­ ring contrast o f the Hankow life-style with Confucian prescriptions for

City People


frugality and simplicity. For example, the author o f the 1747 Hanyang prefectural gazetteer lamented: The treasures o f land and water are squandered rather than husbanded at Han­ kow. Whenever someone throws a feast, he spends every last cent o f what may have been a comfortabje fortune. N ot only do sojourning officials and wealthy merchants behave in this fashion, but households o f moderate means likewise feel compelled to imitate these practices. They indulge in expensivejewelry and culinary delicacies, so much that many find themselves compelled to pawn , their spring clothing.6

A similar complaint was voiced in 1822 by the Hui-chou visitor Fan K, ai, who certainly appreciated living well, but still professed horror at the lavish excesses he found at Hankow in dress, housing, and feast­ ing, especially in the “profligate slaughter o f beasts.”7 Like the 1747 writer, Fan emphasized that these habits were not limited to the elite but were routinely imitated by those of middling means (chung-jen)^ Again, in the late nineteenth century a local writer decried the pervasive Hankow spirit o f “extravagance,ostentation, and covetousness of ma­ terial possessions.”8 This sort o f life-style was seen by contemporaries as distinctively ur­ ban, ^though not necessarily characteristic o f most Chinese cities. For example, in the “Local Customs” chapter of the 1867 Hanyang County gazetteer, the compiler presents a stereotypical picture o f an ideal Confucian family—•husband farming, fishing, or engaging in local trade, and wife practicing cottage handicrafts— and argues that, despite the temptations offered by the natural abundance the county has long en­ joyed, this is how most Hanyang people actually live, not only country folk but also those in the county seat. The sole deviation appears in Hankow, where wasteful luxury is the norm, due to the deleterious so­ cial influences o f long-distance trade.9 These recurring comments represent more than simply a physiocratic antiurban bias on the part of Confucian status-elites (though that certainly played some role). For one thing, almost identical lan­ guage was offered by early Western observers o f Hankow life, such as the missionary Robert Wilson in 1862: “Together with the return of material prosperity to the people [following the Taiping devastations], their habits o f frivolity, worldliness, and vice are becoming more ev­ ident on the surface o f society. They may be said to be too covetous, or too much given to pleasure."10 For another, the comments of ♦One is struck by the parallel to Wrigley’s observation regarding eighteenth-century London that the widespread pattern o f “ aping one’s betters'1in conspicuous consumption helped fuel the economic takeoff o f the industrial revolution by providing a new mass market for such consumables as tea, tobacco, and sugar. Wrigley, “A Simple M odel o f London’s Importance , ’ ,p. 50.


The City

Chinese observers themselves were not always, or even typically, con­ demnatory. The literary chapters of the 1914 B rief Gazetteer o f Hankow are replete with poems and belles lettres written over the course of the C h ’ing,glorying in the unparalleled excitement and abundant sensory stimuli provided by the wealthy, acquisitive, and fast-paced life o f the metropolis*11 , Apart from personal extravagance, the distinctive mentality of the commercial entrepot was manifested in the conduct of business. As Mote points out, the image of “the crafty city dweller . . • who takes advantage o f the simple countryman”12was as much a cliche in China as the West, and appears to have had special force, if not special justi­ fication, in Hankow. Regional literati and officials continually deplored Hankow merchants,“ curming” (chiao-hua) and narrow-minded *£profiteering” (shih-li), while foreign commercial experts reported encoun­ tering a competitive drive far beyond what they had been led to expect by earlier experiences in China.13 To be sure, commentators both Chinese and foreign never failed to remark approvingly of the striking industry and perseverance o f local businessmen o f all levels. The seventeenth-century poet Cha Shen-hsing, describing the consuming work ethic of Hankow’s merchant community, summed it up best: A hundred thousand househoJds o f one determination— H ow else can one run a business?14

Yet more genteel observers, even those favorably disposed toward commerce, in each generation managed nostalgically to recall better days when the conduct of trade had not been so transparently merce­ nary. Fan K'ai wrote in 1822 that, “The customs of the Hankow mar­ ketplace have gradually degenerated; calculation of getting ahead has displaced the tranquillity o f the past.’, 15 Three decades later, the Che­ kiang visitor Yeh Tiao-yuan lamented that “nowadays” the market was increasingly dominated by young, upwardly mobile lads whose sole asset, known locally as “polish” (kua-ch,i), was a smooth, well-oiled superficiality. There was no longer any need to have a good head for figures or a shrewd business sense, provided one simply was hand­ some, refined, and capable of buttering up one’s superiors in the firm严 An analysis o f Hankow merchants’ approach to risk-taking would belong more appropriately to a study of business history, which this is not. It is clear, however, from the rapidity with which local business­ men entered new and promising lines of trade, their eagerness to open new markets, their aggressive response to the new possibilities for for­ eign trade, and above all their reckless willingness to speculate on credit, that the business mentality was the very opposite of the footdragging conservatism for which it has often been castigated by West­

City People


ern scholars. To be sure, this could at times be tempered. Customs Su­ perintendent Francis White reported for example in 1879 that, “Amongst well-informed, wealthy Natives there is [currently] . . . a strong feeling o f distrust in the future, and an avowed unwillingness to embark capital in any enterprise the success of which is in any way de­ pendent upon foreign demand."17 This finely tuned sensitivity to the prospects o f the market should not be confused, however, with a more general avoidance of risk. Other personality traits regularly attributed to members of the Han­ kow population were stoicism and pragmatism. Closely related to the inclination to commercial risk-taking was a rather placid acceptance of misfortune, o f hazards to life and personal property. For instance, the missionary Griffith John reported of a devastating flood in the summer of 1869: “It is wonderful . . . how patiently and good-humouredly the Chinaman endures it all. There he is in a state o f half nudity, laughing, punning, gambling, smoking, sipping tea, and merry making as if nothing strange had happened to him. In England a calamity o f this nature would elicit a universal wail o f distress. Here it creates but a slight sensation.,,1SJohn*s Methodist colleague, William Scarborough, wrote o f refugees at Hankow from that same 1869 flood: “Yet these crowds, put to the utmost inconvenience, their houses washed down, their employment cut off, and huddled together gipsy fashion, in im ­ minent danger o f pestilence, and on the threshold o f famine, have as yet evinced a peaceable, quiet, and even tolerantly contented state of mind., ’19Unquestionably, this attitude o f acceptance played an impor­ tant role in the relative lack of major social upheaval which character­ ized nineteenth-century Hankow. At the same time, two further points need to be stressed. First, while this pattern of stoic behavior has often been identified by Western ob­ servers with a resigned passivity imbued in the Confucian-Taoist tra­ dition, in fact, at Hankow at least, it was nothing of the sort. Fatalism, perhaps. But what we see here is very far from a commitment to in­ action in the face o f a hostile natural environment; on the contrary, it reflected a determination to proceed in whatever way the individual damn well pleased, coupled with a willingness to suffer the sometimes inevitable consequences. The best example of this, and one noted by virtually every foreigner who visited Hankow, was the behavior o f the indigent population living in houses on stilts along the riverbank, whose livelihoods were connected in one way or another with the har­ bor. Year after year these houses were swept away by late summer floods, often with loss of life to the inhabitants; yet year after year the survivors would rebuild on the same spot and await the next years flood.20 Second, this acceptance of the inevitability of death and mis­


The City

fortune did not deter the citizens from taking positive measures to min­ imize hazards and alleviate suffering not only for themselves, but for the larger urban community. Foreigners at Hankow indeed found “strange in the extreme” the juxtaposition of what they took to be a Chinese “indifference about death” with an equally evident activism about its prevention.21 Hankow presented an extraordinarily high-risk environment for hu­ man habitation. The perils o f flood, fire, and epidemic were unusually severe, even by contemporary Chinese standards, and the general am­ bience o f death was compounded by the ever-present threat o f business failure and market reversal, which led in alarming numbers o f cases to suicide.22Under such circumstances one might well expect a fervent re­ ligiosity to have taken hold; in fact, the opposite seems to have been the case. I f we may believe the reports o f early Protestant missionaries in the city, piety played almost no role in the local consciousness. The Methodist Porter Smith, for example, after cataloguing for his London superiors several amusing instances o f the local citizenry’s pragmatic approach to life (such as street hawkers* quickly discovering a market for bogus tickets of admission to Smith’s mission hospital), described his intended converts as “ these exceedingly terrestrial ‘celestials.’ ”23 His colleague from the Anglican mission, Robert Wilson, added that local people could “not by any means” be accused of being “too de­ vout— — except perhaps on the first and fifteenth o f every month and on occasional feast days,when enormous quantities o f gunpowder and pa­ per are consumed in crackers and mock money.”24 Hankow people enthusiastically observed the basic elements o f Chinese ritual practice. They quite fastidiously adhered to the proper norms of care and burial for the dead. They placed considerable faith in geomancy and divination.25Occupational groups offered annual sac­ rifices to their traded patron deity prior to the start of each year’s trad­ ing season. And the local festival calendar was a rich one. Most fever」 ishly observed, unsurprisingly, was the lunar New Year— a shopkeep­ er's festival devoted to welcoming the God o f Wealth (Ts'ai-shen) and a time o f mad dashing about to clear accounts o f old debts and loans.26 The city hosted scores o f temples, as we shall see, but to whom were these dedicated? Significantly, Buddhist temples made up only a very small fraction, grew fewer over the course of time, and were patronized primarily by wealthy merchant wives.27 Most Hankow temples were dedicated to far more practical patrons such as the God of Wealth, gods o f flood prevention (Shui-fu,Lung-wang, Yii-kung) and fire preven­ tion (Huo-shen), and patrons o f mariners’ safety (T’ien-hou). By far the most frequent objects o f worship were Kuan Yii, the Three King­

City People


doms hero who had metamorphosed into the guarantor of commercial fiduciary trust, and Lei Tzu,the thunder god and patron of frugal busi­ ness practices* The deities that appealed to Hankow people, in other words, were useful ones— ones who cemented functional group soli­ darities (along occupational or subethnic lines) or who offered protec­ tion in the mundane concerns of business and of urban life. Attach­ ments to these patrons were genuine, to be sure, but this was backed up by concrete human action to achieve the desired ends. A Salvationist etjiic did appear as an undercurrent to Hankow life, especially, as we shall see, with the growing presence of sectarianism in the 1870 s and i88o, s; it was never part of the mainstream. The rise o f a sectarian counterculture, along with related phenomena such as the vogue of vegetarianism, were one set of responses to what may t e seen as the vague cultural malaise from which the city suffered in the" post-Taiping decades. In my previous book on Hankow, I de­ scribed this as a sort o f “anomie, ” noting that local society~elites and lower classes alike— responded in part by a surge of organizationbuilding and more encompassing group self-regulation.28Some among the Hanyang literati were inclined to attribute this malaise to social cor­ ruption brought about by foreign influences, but most Hankow people recognized its origins in the displacement o f older social leaders and the new and unsettling openness o f Hankow commerce and society in the post-Taiping years.29 Most directly, this phenomenon could be, and was,-traced to the impact of the great rebellion itself. Nostalgic remi­ niscences about the past were, as we have seen, common in all eras, yet the expression “before the Hsien-feng reign” (Hsien-feng i_ch,ien)— that is, before 1851— assumed something o f a formulaic quality in postTaiping Hankow, as in reference to a lost golden age. This cultural anomie was accompanied by something o f a crisis of faith among the already rather worldly urban population. One Han­ kow artisan baptized by William Scarborough in 1866 explained as his reason for conversion the fact that “when he saw this city, about eight years ago, devastated by the rebels, the temples sharing the same fate, and the priests scattered, he was led to consider the impotence o f all its idols, and his faith in them was completely shattered."30Another mis­ sionary recorded in 1863 that: The Rebels have swept this whole region clear o f idols. O ur observation in

Hankow goes to the effect that they have shaken the faith of masses of people in the power o f idols. The question that perplexes them is, if they possessed *In his role as patron o f rainfall and, hence, the harvest, Lei Tzu dispensed rewards and punishments to grain merchants according to the amount o f wastage they allowed in the conduct o f their transactions.


The City

such power, why should they have permitted their ruthless foes to commit such ravages and desecrations? The old superstitions still obtain and the priesthood are actually restoring their practices. Still it seems to me as if a hidden mine had been sprung and a breach effected which we ought to be prepared promptly and vigorously to enter.31

Undoubtedly there was a healthy dose of wishful thinking involved in these missionary musings, but the general evidence seems to confirm the perception of some erosion o f established values— religious and secular~which proved troubling to much o f the local population. At the same time, we must be wary of reading too much into thi? wave o f skepticism, or of seeing here a mass “ pathology” o f “ social deterioration” o f the sort Chevalier postulates for Paris earlier in the century.32Hankow social managers at all levels were quick to translate their fears of disorder— commercial, criminal, moral— into new or re­ vived systems o f social organization and control. And, all the evidence suggests, the commercial vigor and the heady sensory vitality of the city made its prevailing social climate consistently upbeat, in the years after the mid-century rebellions as well as in those before. M edia and Political L ife This vital urban culture was fueled by a wide and expanding range o f media, both oral and written. Among the former were the town’s many varieties o f popular entertainers, performing in open-air mar­ ketplaces or in wineshops and teashops: streetsingers, female imper­ sonators (luan-t'ung), actors, verse-chanters (yin-fu), storytellers, public lecturers, and performers of the "clapper music” for which Hankow was nationally famous. A type apparently peculiar to Hankow was the “singing old woman” {ch'ang po-tzu), professional folksingers who dressed in black, whitened their faces, and carried bamboo baskets in the manner o f itinerant seamstresses.33 Oral media not only served as vehicles for popular culture and for transmitting news of current events,they could also be used more deliberately for the propagation o f values and information, as when some elements o f the local elite in the i860 s launched an anti-opium campaign by commissioning songs describing the evils o f the drug, and distributing printed copies o f these to the city’s most popular balladeers.34The varieties of urban street thea­ ter also included hawkers, with their countless specialized rattles, drums, and calls, as well as temple processions and the noisy and awe­ inspiring passage of great officials— which country folk might view once in a lifetime but city people came to accept as routined Operatic * ‘‘More than once when the preacher has been earnestly proclaiming the glad tidings o f the Gospel to a full and attentive audience, has the beat o f the gong and the hideous

City People


performances mounted by the town’s great guilds and temples were fre­ quent and well attended. Neighborhoods, too, sought to demonstrate their prosperity and, customarily, their gratitude for being spared in a major fire by staging an opera in the open street or a local teahouse. A Chinese tourist from Kiangnan was moved to remark at how knowl­ edgeable and sophisticated opera audiences were at Hankow, undoubt­ edly owing in part to the regularity of their exposure to the classical theatrical repertoire, and to its many and diverse local variants.35 A more participatory form of media was the festival. In addition to the annual feast days o f local patron deities, some dozen major holidays were celebrated on a citywide basis. For at least the most prominent of these— New Years, C h’ing-ming,Tuan-wu, and the Mid-Autumn Festival— employees were customarily granted several days’ vacation and the whole town took part in displays o f fireworks,lanterns, and shop decorations, in races of various kinds, and in dancing and amateur theatrical competitions (kao-ch^ao-shih) ,36 Turning to written media, we are confronted with the immensely complicated question of popular literacy. Evelyn Rawski has recently Herfionstrated what many scholars had suspected for some time, that functional literacy in the C h’ing period ran far above the minuscule per­ centages that were once conventionally assumed. But just how high was the literacy rate, and to what extent did literacy in a major urban center such as Hankow exceed the empirewide norm? Rawski estimates that in the nineteenth century "basic literacy” (defined as the ability to recognize approximately 2,000 characters) may have been as high as 45 percent for adult males and 10 percent for women, but that in major cities the rate for males could sometimes reach 80 percent.37 This last figure seems rather high; we find in Hankow many references to illit­ erate persons, including even some shopkeepers.38Yet these references themselves may indicate the unusual nature o f the persons to whom they referred. Recall that even the beggarlike streetsingers enlisted in the i860 s anti-opium campaign were capable of reading the printed lyrics they were given. Tradesmen used basic literacy skills to keep accounts, to interpret their posted guild regulatory code, to draw up the many varieties of business contracts (property deeds, rental agreements, bills of sale, bills o f lading, promissory notes) whose use was routine, and to prepare calling cards.39Beyond this, life presented the urbanite with a constant barrage o f written forms. Walter Medhurst, fresh from several years as British Consul at Hankow, wrote this sensitive passage in 1871: howl o f the yamen runners announced the near approach o f the Viceroy and his retinue, and the whole congregation has gone out to witness the procession pass by.” Nightingale, letter o f 6 Apr. 1878,M M S Box 491.


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Every observant person who walks down the streets o f a Chinese town must be struck with the universal use which is made o f the Chinese written char­ acter. . . . It is employed not only, as with us, in shopsigns and advertisements, but it is to be noticed everywhere and on everything, embellishing buildings, boats, furniture, implements, clothing, and a host o f articles too numerous to mention. So extensively does this practice prevail that it has been remarked, and with truth, that a reputable acquaintance with the [written] language may be attained simply by studying that portion of it which may be seen whilst walking the public streets. China in fact possesses what may be fairly termed a “street literature.’’40

At Hankow, the plentiful manifestations o f this street literature in­ cluded the shopsigns mentioned by Medhurst (see Figure i), indicating by color and shape the nature o f the trade, but also conveying detailed and often long-winded summaries o f the nature, quality, and prices of goods available at that shop.41 Posters put up throughout the town ad­ vertised and announced results for the very popular weekly lottery.42 Officials regularly posted proclamations, fully expecting them to be read, announcing such things as the first arrival o f the foreigners, gov­ ernment policy regarding treatment o f missionaries, bank holidays in the wake o f short-term credit crises, and so on. As we shall see, placards were also posted by nongovernmental agitators of one stripe or an­ other.43 But the written medium which had the most long-lasting effect,and which transformed the urban culture of the latter decades of the century from that o f the pre-Taiping years, was the newspaper. According to Ko Kung-chen, the first Chinese-language paper founded by a Chinese in all o f China was the Chao-wen hsin-pao, which appeared at Hankow in 1873 and was described by the British Consul as “an enterprise o f purely native and unofficial source.” The Chao-wen hsin-pao carried lo­ cal news, market quotations, and advertisements, as well as transcrip­ tions from the Peking Gazette (Ching-pao). Obviously aimed at an au­ dience o f businessmen, the paper failed to catch on; it was cut back from daily to semiweekly publication after a few months, and disap­ peared altogether within the year. Two later attempts to establish a Chinese-language paper at Hankow, undertaken by foreigners in 1874 and 1880, met a similar fate.44 The first lasting newspaper at Hankow was the Han-pao, published by the Hankow Tea Guild, which enjoyed a successful circulation from its inception in 1893 until its suppression by Chang Chih-tung in 1900 on suspicion of complicity in T ’ang Ts’aich, ang, s ill-fated Hankow uprising o f that year.45 The failure of these early journalistic attempts at Hankow, however, by no means signified the absence of a reading public. There was indeed such an audience, and evidently a wide one, but that market since 1872

Pigure 1. A Chinese urban shopping street, ca. 1890. From Bishop, The

yangtze Valley and Beyond, p. 109. Although Bishop identifies the location as Hankow, a slightly different photograph of the same street appears in Skinner, ed.,The City in Late Imperial China, p. 534, where the site is given as Canton. Whichever is correct, the picture conforms to contemporary descriptions o f such streets in either city.


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had been effectively captured by the remarkable Shanghai newspaper, Shen-pao.46From the very outset Shen-pao carried occasional news from Hankow, which by the late 1870’s had become a feature of nearly every issue, and when in 1881 the paper adopted telegraphic reporting this Hankow news became very up-to-the-minute. Though there is no way o f establishing what percentage of the Hankow population read the pa­ per on a regular basis, the routine quality of its reporting of fires, crimes, and human interest stories from the city suggests clearly that the paper intended to serve a significant local audience there. Although founded by an Englishman, Ernest Majors, Shen-pao al­ ways had a Chinese editor and represented a Chinese point o f view. It did usually champion foreign trade and applaud adoption of many for­ eign practices, but at least as early as the Sino-Russian hostilities of the late 1870 s and the Sino-French War of 1883 it had begun to assume the nationalist posture for which it eventually became famous. Shen-pao was not restrictively a treaty-port newspaper but, despite Majors’ initial hopes, it did remain almost exclusively an urban one. The heavy pre­ ponderance o f commercial news makes it clear that the readership was largely composed o f businessmen. Shen-pao in its first decades did not hew to a single articulated editorial position. It was deliberately de­ signed as a commercial venture, and its sometimes rather sensationalist reporting certainly contributed to its success along these lines. Much o f the reporting (at least from Hankow) came from volunteer corre­ spondents, a fact that guaranteed a certain diversity o f opinion. Never­ theless, the paper did offer a front-page editorial (lun-shuo) in every is­ sue, on such topics o f timely interest as pao-chia organization, urban crime, grain circulation, and foreign policy. Most importantly, Shenpao offered discussions of models and strategies for local societal activ­ ism that were studied and frequently imitated in localities beyond those in which they were pioneered. As early as the late 1870s the paper had thus become the forum, in the cities o f the Yangtze valley and coastal China, for the antecedents o f what Esherick has termed the “urban re­ formist elite.”47 The impact o f the new forms of written media was considerable. There is no need to accept the inflated claims o f “modernization” or “development” theory in order to recognize the basic truth o f its as­ sertion o f an association between urbanism, rising literacy, the growth o f media, and increased political participation.48Looking at this another way, Perry Link has drawn a convincing parallel between the vibrant and volatile society o f early industrial Chinese cities, eagerly devouring newspapers and serialized popular fiction, and the similarly ever-moreliterate societies o f Dickens’ London and Verne’s Paris.49Evidence from

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late-nineteenth-century Hankow suggests that this parallel might be extended to the slightly earlier protoindustrial era as well, when new literary forms were just beginning to find an audience and make a social impact. The unusual intensity of their exposure to media contributed to an­ other trait frequently ascribed to Hankow people by Western reporters, namely “ cosmopolitanism.” Throughout its history, of course, Han­ kow hosted the most diverse possible population in terms of Chinese subethnic types. Indeed, the cliched Chinese expression used by visitors to describe Hankow people was wu-fang tsa-ch’u (“from all and varied origins”) .5。The routine mix of local speeches, customs, and subcul­ tures, as well as the extraordinary degree o f mobility into and out of the city, helped produce an unusually high level of cultural tolerance on the part o f the urban population. (This in no way, of course, precluded interethnic conflicts, especially in matters o f concrete group interest.) It was this unusual cultural tolerance that facilitated the acceptance of Europeans in the first decades o f the treaty port. This receptivity could extend also to Western cultural practices. Although Chinese cultural self-satisfaction at Hankow as elsewhere made unlikely a wholesale conversion to Western social models, specific and obviously superior elements o f Western material culture were accepted with remarkable rapidity. The introduction o f Western medicine provides a case in point. In the very first year o f operation o f the London Missionary Hospital, 1864, the missionary doctor, Porter Smith, treated more than 20,000 patients, “a very large number” o f whom had applied for med­ ical care before the hospital ever opened. When Smith’s Methodist counterpart, John Fordham, set up a competing clinic at the port in 1879,he saw more than 2,000 patients in the first four months. Smith reported that, “The patients have been o f every grade in life, and from every province. . . . Provincial grandees, Tartar officers, civil man­ darins, literary graduates, merchants, citizens, villagers, braves, and beggars have all, alike, tried the virtues o f foreign drugs.1,51 Cultural tolerance and catholicity of tastes (stimulated of course by the ready availability at the commercial entrepot of virtually all the con­ sumer goods known to Chinese civilization)52 was accompanied by a broad-ranging intellectual curiosity and an attachment to the exotic. The earliest Western visitors always encountered throngs o f polite but intensely inquisitive onlookers, and missionaries routinely reported large, “eager, , ,and “attentive” crowds at their sermons, which the wiser among them knew to have been drawn less by hopes of spiritual salvation than by mere novelty. Still, the normally dour Griffith John was moved in 1861 to note that “The questions asked by [sermon au­


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diences], and the answers elicited by questions put to them, are indic­ ative o f a state o f mind far more inquisitive than that of any part of China that I have been to.”53 An intriguing consequence of this receptivity to foreigners came in connection with Western diplomatic efforts to secure an interview with the T, ung-chih emperor in 1872. As the North-China Daily News's Han­ kow correspondent reported in September: “The Audience question is talked o f among the natives here. . . . The mandarins are said to be violently opposed to allowing foreigners to see the "Son o f Heaven,” but the people are wiser and truer to the custom o f the ancients; they think the Emperor should receive the foreign ambassadors., ’54 Clearly implicit in this are hints o f the politicization o f at least some segments o f the Hankow population. In spite o f the fact that, as Griffith John noted, the general population had “been taught to think that their su­ periors alone have a right to think on public matters, ” Hankow people probably always maintained their own opinions, and certainly did so even more in the post-Taiping era. Merchants operating on a national and international scale obviously had a strong interest in what today would be called the “political risk” in their investments, an interest re­ flected in the intensity with which merchant-oriented journals such as Shen-pao followed political developments. But politicization extended deeper into urban society than the commercial elite; indeed, Shen-pao itself picked up much o f its information on regional and local issues from the active Hankow rumor mill and its vigorous “street debates” (chieh-t'an hsiang-i) .55 At what point did interest in larger political developments translate into a sense that some more active form o f political participation might have a direct bearing on local material conditions? As we shall see, par­ ticipation in local-level politics through such instruments as lawsuits and petitions to local administrators was routine, even on the part o f humble water-carriers and nightsoil-bearers. Elite merchants were in­ creasingly politicized by their growing desire, as commercial taxes pro­ liferated, to participate in the formation o f fiscal policy at both the local and the regional level. Yet overall, the Hankow experience offers sup­ port for Mary Rankin's observation (drawn from study o f the lower Yangtze) that the key events in stimulating political activism beyond the local level were the imperially sponsored campaign to provide relief for the North China famine and the broad popular mobilization to counter perceived foreign threats in the early years of the Kuang-hsu reign. Hankow people organized under local community leadership to send relief to Shansi in 1878; they queued up to enlist for the anticipated war with Russia in 1880; and they expressed open resentment at China's

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poor showing in the 1883 war with France.56 By 1900,when Chang Chih-tung felt obliged to shut down Hankow’s leading Chinese news­ paper for its alleged revolutionary sympathies, the lid was fully off. Occupational Structure What were the bases o f livelihood o f Hankow's nineteenth-century work force, and how was this work force distributed across the occu­ pational spectrum? N o single source provides us an adequate answer to these two, obviously key questions. The first attempt at a modern cen­ sus for the city,carried out in 1912, broke down nearly 100,000 house­ holds by occupation, and a few years later the Hankow Chamber o f Commerce surveyed the number o f shops engaged in each of 171 major trades o f the city.57Both o f these analyses are useful, but their utility is limited both by the obviously incomplete range o f their subjects and by their late date— subsequent to Hankow’s industrial revolution o f ca. 1895-1911. More contemporary evidence is provided by an occupa­ tional survey by the missionary doctor A. G. Reid o f 4,000 Chinese pa­ tients treated by his clinic in the years 1873-74 (Table 1). Reid's cate­ gories, however, are not very precise. Therefore, guided in part by these three statistical sources but relying more broadly upon scores of fragmentary narrative accounts, I have arrived at the breakdown of Hankow’s occupational structure presented in Table 2. Obviously, this is dnly a rough guess, and moreover ignores the very real shifts in com­ position o f the work force over time. Nevertheless, I feel that this is as good an estimate o f Hankow*s occupational structure as we are ever likely to get. Let us look at each o f the major occupational categories in turn. .1. Prpfessionals. Aside from the dozen or so civil and military officials serving in Hankow at any time (item I. A. 1 in Table 2),the city hosted a handful o f retired officials, either native sons like Yeh T’ung-ch’ing who had returned from service elsewhere in the empire, or former Hankow officials like Huang C h’eng-ch’i who remained in the city af­ ter leaving public life.58 Somewhat more numerous were the profes­ sional but extrabureaucratic administrators (I.A.2), gentrymen by examination or purchase who assisted regular bureaucrats as private secretaries (mu-yu), functionally specialized deputies (wei-yuan), or ex­ ecutives o f quasi-official bureaus (chii) involved in tax collection, har­ bor management, maintenance of internal security, and so on. Subbureaucratic functionaries (I. A .3) were o f lower social station, but far more,numerous. Nearly a thousand such men were found at Hankow by the 1912 census. As we shall see, the number of professional security


The City TABLE

Occupational Analysis of 4,000 Patients Treated at Hankow's London Missionary Dispensary, 1873-74


5 9

Boatmen Teachers/scholars Peddlers/stallkeepers Soldiers Other

5 0 1 3

781 751 57f 50f 40!

2 4

Shopkeepers Farmers/field laborers Coolies Tradesmen Servants

N o. 2 2

O ccupation

4 9

N o.


O ccupation

s o u r c e : “ D r. A , G . R eid ’s R epo rt on the Health o f H ank ow fo r the h alf year ended 30th Septem ber 18 74 ,” Customs Gazette, A p r.-S e p t. 1874, p. 44. n o t e : T h e percentage o f farm ers and field laborers is disproportionately high, based on all other available evidence, and m ust reflect patients draw n fro m the nearby countryside.

personnel (I.A .4)— soldiers of the Green Standard Army, regional “braves” (hsiang-yung), and pao-chia headmen— multiplied continu­ ously over the century, so that the 3 percent of the work force suggested by Dr. Reid’s sample was probably no exaggeration. Moving away from the governmental sector, we find that despite its preponderance o f commercial activities Hankow did support a fairly large number o f careerist literati (I.B. 5). Many were teachers. Though some, like Hu Kuei-sheng, Chiang K ’ai-wei, and H u Shou-t’ing,were widely revered, teachers were not usually well off financially. (Yeh Tiao-yuan commented wryly that hanging out the shingle “school” over one’s door had the doubly beneficial effect of attracting students and keeping away beggars, who would know the occupant to be im ­ poverished.)59 A larger number of Hankow’s professional literati were students. Those from wealthy families or on official stipends might re­ main such for most o f their lives, as with Lo Chen-huang, who spent more than forty years at Hankow ostensibly in preparation for the pro­ vincial examination. Beyond education itself, a variety of somewhat precarious livelihoods could be extracted at Hankow by men with lit­ erary skills: C h’eng Keng-yin,a chu-jen, was a professional composer o f commemorative inscriptions; Tuan Chia-mei, a sheng-yuan, was a reciter of verse; Wu Shih-ch, ao apparently subsisted on the sales o f his poetry and scholarly compilations.60 In some cases overlapping with the professional literati were the gentry-managers (shen-tung) (I.B.6). A distinctly early modern occu­ pational type emerging first in sixteenth-century Kiangnan as water­ works supervisors, this group over time carved out for themselves sal­ aried “white-collar” jobs in a growing variety o f public-service activ­ ities, such as civil construction, firefighting, and public relief projects, and assumed secretarial duties for guilds, benevolent halls, and lineage


Hankow's Occupational Structure, ca. i86o-g5 I. Professional (estimated 5% o f total work force) A. Official sector 1. Officials 2. Extrabureaucratic gentry administrators 3. Subbureaucratic yamen functionaries 4. Professional security personnel B. Societal sector 5. Professional literati (teachers, students, artists, writers) 6. Gentry-managers

7. Doctors, priests, monks, diviners II. Commercial (30%) A. Self-employed wholesale 1. Commodities brokers, factors, warehousers 2. Bankers 3. Wholesale merchants, resident 4. Wholesale merchants, traveling

5. Commission, agents and compradores B. Self-employed retail 6. Retail shopkeepers, retail moneylenders, purveyors 7 . S t a llk e e p e r s

8. Itinerant peddlers C. Hired

9. Shopclerks and commercial apprentices 10. Commercial laborers III. Transport (30%) 1. Transport brokers 2. Boatmen and sailors 3♦ Long-distance overland carriers 4. Local transport laborers IV. Manufacturing (10%) 1. Artisans 2. Industrial apprentices and laborers V. Construction (10%) 1. Mechanics

2. Construction apprentices and laborers VI. Agricultural (5%)

1. Cultivators, animal husbandmen, fishermen V II. Marginal (10%) 1. Menial security personnel 2. Custodians, domestic servants, slaves 3. Entertainers (actors, streetsingers, fortune-tellers, prostitutes) 4- Beggars 5. Criminals and local toughs 6. Unemployed


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organizations. A final group of professionals in the city included prac­ titioners o f spiritual or healing arts (I.B.7). Yeh Tiao-yuan on the eve o f the Taiping occupation discovered more than a thousand herbal doc­ tors (i-shih) at work at Hankow, and the 1912 census turned up 177 professional geomancers (ti^Ii-kua) and 47 conjurers (shu-shih),as well as more than 400 Taoist and Buddhist priests.61 The World o f Commerce. Wholesale and retail merchants o f various scales together made up easily a quarter o f Hankow’s permanent work force. In ReicTs sample of 4,000, precisely 25 percent fell under the combined headings “shopkeeper” and “peddler, ” and if one excludes the suspect category “ farmer” from his survey the percentage reaches nearly a third. The 1912 census found “the commercial sector” (shangchieh) to make up 31 percent o f the city’s households. There is no need here to elaborate upon the various types of careers in the great wholesale trade that constituted Hankow’s lifeblood (II.A.i~5),since these have been treated in detail in this volume’s pre­ decessor. We need note merely that these functional roles were more often overlapping in a single individuals career than discrete, and that the categories encompass a very wide range o f economic levels, be­ tween the princely salt merchants (yun-skang)} on the one hand, and the petty itinerant traders (mao-chlen-che),on the other, who made daily runs out to suburban market towns to bring in cloth for finishing in the city.62 Retail merchants numbered in the thousands. These included inn­ keepers, restaurateurs, and teashop proprietors (together accounting for more than 2,000 households by the early twentieth century), as well as butchers, greengrocers, beansprouts dealers, millers, shoemakers, barbers, beancurd sellers, bakers, fruitsellers, tailors, hatters, tobac­ conists, and dealers in piece goods, chopsticks, and the various other material needs o f the urban household.63 Though there could be wide variations in the scale o f these permanent retail shops (some o f which did wholesale business as well), shopkeepers as a group (II.B.6) clearly constituted a stratum o f society superior to other retailers who sold their goods from temporary street stalls (pai-t'an) (II.B .7) or who car­ ried their goods with them on routes through the city streets (II.B .8). By 1912 these latter two groups together made up a tenth o f the city s work force. The stallkeepers (t'an-min) dealt most often in perishable foodstuffs brought in from the countryside, and congregated in the city’s many daily or periodic markets; more than a hundred stallkeep­ ers, for example, were active in the major fruit market in front o f the Lung-wang Temple at the junction o f the two rivers.64 Others spread their wares on mats in any open space, until local property-holders sue-

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ceeded in chasing them elsewhere. Stallkeepers as a group still stood a notch above itinerant hawkers (hsing-fan), who peddled their goods— fish,cooking oil, nuts, cooking utensils— from carts or baskets slung sover their shoulder, each announcing his arrival by a characteristic call, bell, rattle, or gong. Some hawkers managed to secure a steady liveli­ hood, but many found themselves seasonally required to supplement their income with other activities such as fortune-telling or begging.65 Clearly distinguished from all o f these self-employed merchants, both wholesale and retail, sedentary or traveling, were employees of commercial firms who owned nothing but their own labor. These in­ dividuals in turn could be readily divided into two groups: on the one hand,salaried shopclerks (tien-huo, pang-huo) and indentured commer­ cial ^apprentices (t'u-ti), who, no matter how poor, enjoyed opportu­ nities for advancement; and, on the other hand, commercial wagelaborers such as stockboys and cooks (II.C.10). Both groups were very lar^e; in the 1912 census cooks alone numbered well over 3,000. Transport. I f one includes the large transient population of boatmen, carters, and long-distance animal-drivers, well over a quarter o f Han_ kow^ work force at any given time was employed in the transport sec­ tor. The upper stratum of this group consisted o f transport brokers or shipping agents (chJuan-hangt ch'e-hang, fu-hang), who contracted with groups o f long-distance or local carriers for commercial cargoes or travelers. As studied in detail by Yokoyama Suguru, such men drew up contracts and handled all financial arrangements for merchants, found work and sometimes provided vehicles, food, and housing for work­ er^, collected commissions, and paid a brokerage tax to the government.^6 Hankow appears to have hosted no less than several hundred such brokerage firms.67 The number o f boatmen (III.2) at the port was, not surprisingly, enormous. A typical report from 1877 estimated eight to ten thousand vessels moored in the harbor at any one time, and an 1891 Maritime Customs report estimated that some 165,000 sailors visited the port each year aboard junks (i.e., large long-distance craft) alone. Junks tra­ versed wide circuits, with Hankow usually serving as one terminus of their route; yet most stayed in port long enough to market their goods .(often aboard the junk itself), which for many meant affiliating with their respective local-origin guild in the city. The ship’s complement usually included a master (chJuan~hu)一 essentially a small entrepreneur who owned his boat, hired his own crew, and accepted virtually all the financial risk in the hauling o f freight— a skilled mate (chJuan-huo)t and between three and a dozen hired sailors {cWuan-fu, shui-shih).]ust as the junk-master moved freely between one type of freight and another,

Figure 2. Boat-dwellings in Hankow harbor, at the junction o f the Han and Yangtze rivers. From Hellier, Life of David H ill, facing p. 59.

usually contracting for individual hauls through a transport broker, so too did hired sailors sign on for a single run, drifting freely between ports, vessels, and masters, and often as well between sailing and other types o f semiskilled manual labor.68 Beyond the large junks Hankow also hosted a far greater number o f small, short-haul skiffs and punts (hua-tzu), whose owner-operator families (hua-hu) lived on board in the harbor and made themselves available for local transport.69 (See Figure 2.) In the last decades o f the nineteenth century these types o f boatmen were joined in increasing numbers by the crews o f river steamers. Most long-distance overland carriers at Hankow (III. 3) were drivers o f pack animals: horses, mules, and camels. These men were employed by large merchants and housed locally at dingy stables cum hostels (loma-tien) mostly clustered near the Ma-wang miao (Horse-king Temple) and described in 1822 as follows: “The apartments are dark and cav­ ernous, and who can say how many men are housed within? The rooms are crowded, and their occupants never see the sun.”70 Far more numerous were the thousands of local transport laborers (III.4), including relatively specialized groups such as carters (ch'e-fu,

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Industrial and Construction Workers in Hankow, igi2 O ccupation

No. 5 2 6 7 0 5 1 0 8 4 4 4 1 8 4 9 3 1 6 2 2 5 5 2 2 7

Petty artisans (hsiao-i) Woodworkers (mu-kung) Metalworkers (chin-kung) Masonry workers (t’u-ni-kung) Stoneworkers (shih-kung) Ceramic workers (yao-kung) Misc. workers (ko shih-yeh kung-jen) Hired laborers (yung-kung) Total s o u r c e : H an -k'ou ksiao-chih, “ H u-k o u c h ih , ” pp . 3-4.

n o t e : The last tw o categories undoubtedly include much o f the city’s new factory lab or force, m any m em bers o f w hich w ou ld have been em ployed in handicraft trades during the nineteenth century. T hese figures do not include laborers in the com m ercial and transport sectors.

t,ui-ch,e), sedan-chair bearers (chiao-fu), water-carriers (shui-fu), long­ shoremen (ma-^ou-fu), and less specialized porters {tyiao-juy kang-fu, chiao-pan). As with sailors, these men were both geographically and oc­ cupationally mobile, but they tended to be drawn more restrictively from certain portions of Hankow s own immediate hinterland. All transport laborers were engaged in a daily struggle for subsistence; local reports are full o f comments such as “Although they work extremely hard, they barely receive enough to support themselves.”71 Manufacturing and Construction. Notwithstanding allegations o f their basic “parasitic” or “consumer” character, most late imperial cities were significantly engaged in production or processing of finished goods for external markets. This was true even of Hankow, a city that concentrated the great bulk of its energies on simple transshipment. In absolute if not relative terms, the city’s work force included very large numbers o f mechanics, artisans, and laborers engaged in construction and manufacturing— by 1 9 1 2 , according to census reports, nearly 24,000 urban households (see Table 3). Not surprisingly, the greatest concentration of manufacturing activ­ ity at Hankow lay in areas directly related to commerce and shipping. As a major river port it hosted several large shipyards (pan-ch,ang)i clus­ tered around the Shen-chia Temple, and several smaller repair facilities scattered along the riverfront.72 Far more significant was the container industry. A portion o f the wood passing through the city’s great timber market was withdrawn locally as material for the manufacture of wooden chests (mu-hsiang) used in the bulk shipment of tea and other goods. Factories engaged in wooden chest production, like the boat­


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yards, were concentrated around the Shen-chia Temple, and engaged in the manufacture o f coffins as a sideline.73 Also widespread was the production o f bamboo crates, wicker baskets, and hempen sacks, used in the transport o f rice, salt, and medicinal herbs, and fabricated in workshops in the neighborhood of the Rice Market (Mi-ch’ang).74 Likewise dependent upon the city’s central role in the interregional trade were its many and varied processing industries. Throughout most o f the C h ’ing period, Hankow was extensively involved in the milling o f rice and other grains that passed through its port, and the pressing of tung and other vegetable oils.75 The proximity o f coal de­ posits in central Hupeh and in Hunan, as well as iron deposits in eastern Hupeh, had spawned a fairly significant local smelting industry at least a century prior to Chang Chih-tung’s founding o f the Hanyang Iron and Steel Company in the 1890、.76Perhaps most important in terms of numbers o f employees were processing plants for cotton and ramie tex­ tiles. More than a dozen local-specialty cotton cloths were brought to the city from the surrounding counties o f Hanyang and Wuchang pre­ fectures, polished at Hankow’s large calendering workshops (ch'uaishih-fang, yci-pu-fang), given each their distinctive color by the town’s many dyeshops (jan-fang), then exported to specially targeted market areas throughout China. This business was already “ going on briskly” when Lord Elgin visited the port in 1858,by which time these shops had already begun to process British cloth imported via Canton.77An­ other kind o f textile processing involved bringing in large bolts of doth from rural producers, having Hankow “scissors-wielders” (tachien-tzu) cut them into smaller swaths, then reselling these to either local retailers or wholesale merchants for reexport.78 Beyond processing of goods in transit, Hankow artisans and laborers also engaged in a wide variety of manufacturing activities. Weaving o f cotton and silk were practiced by urban households.79Velvet, felt, and ribbon were turned out “ on a notable scale” by small workshops (tsofang), as were paper, leather, hempen rope, and bamboo cable— in a British consul’s words, “the usual Chinese manufactures.*180 Unusual was the scale o f Hankows metalworking trades (iron,silver, and above all copper and bronze), which produced massive quantities o f jewelry, smoking pipes, mirrors, gongs, scissors, knives, washtubs, and kitchen utensils; unusual also was the output o f firecrackers, for which Hankow was known throughout the empire.81 Agriculture. Hankow was one o f the most densely built-upon spots o f ground in China. In the nineteenth century it had few suburbs or satellite villages, and drew the vast bulk o f its food supply from in­ terregional trade rather than local sources. For these reasons, even as

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compared to other major Chinese cities, very few members o f its pop­ ulation were employed in agriculture, even part-time. According to the 1912 census, less than 1 percent of the town’s population claimed farm­ ing as their chief source of livelihood. Nevertheless, after the building o f the Hankow wall in 1864 a stretch o f “green belt” was incorporated into the de facto city limits, and an 1877 map identifies a number o f additional small vegetable-gardening oases within the built-up city it­ self.82 In addition, a somewhat larger number of urban households made their living from animal husbandry and fishing, in both cases to feed the local population.83 Marginal Occupations. A large and growing segment of the Hankow pppulation was either unemployed or engaged in what were considered peripheral occupations. Some within this group— actors, certain pros­ titutes, a few beggars— practiced a calling which had the prestige o f a career. All, however, were relatively insecure in their livelihood and inhabited the margins of social respectability. This broad category of pdople was largely, though o f course not exclusively, a product o f the urbanization process that continued to affect Hankow over the course of»>■ the century. J 屮 The subgroup within this category which I term in Table 2 “ menial security personnel” (VII. 1) was made up of men who lacked the professional status o f government soldiers or pao-chia headmen, yet participated in the maintenance o f local law and order. They included urban militiamen (fuan-yung), watchmen (keng-fu), gatekeepers (cha/«), fire fighters, and private warehouse guards (usually called simply jen-fu, or what we might term “warm bodies"). Many of these men were hired on a seasonal or temporary basis, and were drawn from the large labor force seasonally unemployed from other sectors o f the econ­ omy; this kind o f work served as a kind o f life raft for those habitually close to the line of subsistence. Akin to this group, though a bit more secujre in their livelihoods, were the custodial and maintenance staffs of the city’s government offices, guildhalls, and temples, as well as ser­ vants (both free and unfree) in wealthy merchant households (VII. 2) ®4 Tlie category “entertainers” ( VII. 3) included a diverse group o f op­ eratic performers (yu-p^i), musicians, streetsingers, courtesans, street­ walkers, fortune-tellers, marketplace acrobats, and so on.85 It also in­ cluded professional funeral mourners (who doubled as wedding cele­ brants), a group that dwelled communally in a dormitory known, appropriately enough, as the Hall o f Lamentation and Joy (Pei-let’ang).86 It is not easy to draw a clear line between these various street people and beggars pure and simple. Large numbers o f the latter (ch’ikai, ch'i-erh) were a feature o f the Hankow scene at least as early as the


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beginning o f the nineteenth century, and at mid-century a visiting poet could write: Beggars fill the streets— many on their last legs In the morning they may be alive, and dead at nightfall. One can't but pity their empty bellies and hunched-over frames As they mournfully cry out for small coins.87

The problem only became worse in the post-Taiping decades. Dr. Reid wrote in 1872 that “ colonies” o f beggars were then scattered through­ out the city, and by the late 1880 s even the British Concession had come to host “increasing numbers” of mendicants.88 Beggars were clearly distinguishable as being of two sorts: a fairly small number who were permanent Hankow residents and had become semiprofessionalized, in their calling (V II.4), and a much larger but variable number who sea­ sonally or periodically found recourse in begging to tide them over dif­ ficult times. This second group was made up largely o f rural refugees from flood, famine, or warfare; it also, however, reflected Hankow’s own swelling urban underclass. By 1912, the Hankow census could report a permanent population o f some 5,000 households that were “unemployed” (wu-yeh), and it is safe to assume that this figure represents something o f an underesti­ mate. As early as the 1870 s the local Chinese press was reporting in­ creasing numbers o f Hankow residents who were chronically without work.89 One local source from the x88os in fact dated the problem of rising unemployment from the 1820's.90The core group o f permanently unemployed, of course, was regularly augmented by seasonally or chronically underemployed, and by newly arrived job-seekers from sur­ rounding areas. The best sense o f the magnitude o f this problem can perhaps be gained from figures for military recruiting, which in Han­ kow as in European cities lured the out-of-work with promises o f sol­ diers pay. When a rumor of war with Russia hit the town in 1880, re­ cruiting agents rounded up more than 20,000 volunteers at Hankow with a rapidity that astounded foreign observers.91 By that time it was alarmingly easy to find large numbers of mobile,able-bodied men in the streets o f Hankow, with no compelling reason to stay. T h e O rganization o f Work In recent years a large body of scholarship on Western socioeconomic history has come to focus on the transition between the predominance o f the so-called “household economy” and that of “merchant capitalism” in the organization of production. This transition was not caused by industrialization, but rather paved the way for it,having been com­

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pleted in most localities several generations or even centuries before the industrial revolution took hold. The household economy, in this por­ trayal, was characterized by a minute scale of production, with a single master supervising perhaps one to three apprentices, who became es­ sentially members o f the master’s household, living and working under his paternalistic control. The transition to merchant capitalism oc­ curred when control o f production passed from the master to a larger merchant, often one who had previously served as distributor for sev­ eral masters. It was characterized by concentration on production of ‘‘off-the-rack’,rather than custom-made goods, an expanded scale of production (e.g., large workshops), a somewhat greater division o f la­ bor, the decline o f the apprenticeship system, supplanting o f the family by the individual as the unit o f labor, the introduction of purer forms o f wage employment, and a greater mobility of the labor force; in short, by the beginnings o f what is often termed *4proletarianization. ** In E. P. Thompsons analysis, merchant capitalism thus represented a “halfway house” between the direct controls over labor associated with the apprentice system and those of the factory system.92 Chinese historians have observed a comparable transformation in cities of the lower Yangtze and elsewhere, a development they refer to as the “sprouts o f capitalism” (tzu-pen-chu-i mertg-ya).93 Most scholars now agree in dating the beginning o f this transition to the sixteenth century, but the pace o f its advance during the C h, ing,its geographic spread, and the percent of production and o f the work force affected by this process at any time and place remain anyone’s guess. In Hankow during the nineteenth century there can be no question that some sort of transition was still under way, and that older and newer forms of work organization existed side by side. In this volume’s predecessor I tentatively discussed the structure of capitalization and management in Hankow firms, noting that more complex forms of partnership and investment seemed to be gaining prominence alongside more tradi­ tional forms of family business. Here, let us look more directly at labor relations within the firm. By far the numerical majority o f businesses at Hankow, as through­ out China during late imperial times,remained near perfect examples of the “household economy.” Though it could not be said that the bu­ reaucratic administration mandated the continued dominance o f the family firm, the way certain municipal governments did in early mod­ ern Europe,94 Ch^ng administrators certainly considered the family firm the desirable norm. This was symbolized in the pao-chia placard (men-pfai) that shops were legally required to post over their door. A typical placard contained the following information:


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Shop name_____________ , chia number_____________ ,p'ai number_____________ , household number_____ Proprietor's name_____ ,age_____ ,native place---Proprietor’s grandparents_____ ,parents_____ ,uncles-----, siblings_____ ,w ife_____ ,sons and daughters_____ , 1 daughters-in-law_____ , grandchildren----Business partners______ , shop assistants______,apprentices______ 95

At Hankow the standard phrase hsiao-hu tien-p’u (small family shop) de­ scribed the retail or small wholesale firm made up o f the family mem­ bers, perhaps a hired shopclerk (tien-huo) or salesman (pang-mao), and one or more apprentices (^u-ti).96 A similar model also applied to the small artisanal workshop {tso-fang), with its master (shih), journeymen (yu), and apprentices. Even the most exalted o f Hankow firms, the brokerage warehouses (hang) for tea and other commodities, owned by phenomenally rich commercial middlemen, were often family busi­ nesses employing directly only the broker himself, an accountant, a salesman, an apprentice, and a few stockboys.97Another common vari­ ant on the household firm was the native boat, owned and run by independent boatmen families (ch'uan-hu) with the aid o f a few hired sailors.98 Even without direct government or guild legislation, the household economy showed a remarkable resiliency and adaptability at Hankow, which allowed it to survive even as the total volume o f commerce mul­ tiplied manyfold. A Wang family from Hui-chou, for example, had by the middle of the century been operating their famous Wang-yu-hsia Foodstuffs Store at the port for some nine generations, since the late 1690’s. Through reinvestment o f profits over the years the Wangs’ for­ tune had grown enormously, but rather than greatly increasing the scale o f their initial business the Wangs had responded by establishing off­ spring enterprises, both in foodstuffs and in dry goods and other com­ modities, so that by around 1800 their descendants owned some 136 shops at Hankow and throughout the Yangtze valley, each managed es­ sentially as a separate household-scale firm." Many other examples are recorded o f nineteenth-century Hankow shopkeepers setting up sub­ sidiary businesses throughout the town, with similar or varied lines of merchandise, entrusting the offspring enterprise either to a kinsman or to a longtime employee.100The history o f the Wangs also reveals how the factor most often identified as destructive of the household econ­ omy in the West, the entry o f merchant capital into the production pro­ cess, might yield a different result in China. When the Wang-yii-hsia Store felt the need for a steady and reliable supply o f certain foodstuffs, it predictably spun off separate workshops for their manufacture; yet these enterprises differed little in scale or management from any other

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artisanal workshop then operating in the town. In this way urban com­ mercial enterprises replicated the prevailing pattern observed in late imperial agriculture, with capital expansion accompanied not by a growth in scale o f the managerial unit, but rather by the acquisition of new property, which was then characteristically parceled out for man­ agement by similar household-scale economic units* Within the household economy, paternalistic control over employees was idealized in Confucian terms, and much evidence can be found to suggest that reality lay fairly close to this ideal, at least through most o f the nineteenth century. Employees usually lived on the premises, where ‘‘the salesrooms of stores and the workrooms o f craft shops dou­ bled as dining rooms and sleeping rooms for the largely male employees_”101A native-place tie often (though by no means always) served as the vehicle for employee recruitment, and the master or proprietor typ­ ically accepted personal responsibility for the employee’s conduct and well-being from the latter’s family. In one recorded case, when an em­ ployee was fired for poor performance, his back wages were handed over directly by the master to the employee’s elder brother and guard­ ian.102The extent o f personal responsibility accepted by the employer is clearly dramatized in a case from 1876, where nine live-in shopclerks o f the Keng-hsing Drygoods Store were killed in an overnight blaze and the proprietor, apparently without legal prompting, paid the rather large sum o f 200 taels apiece to the families o f the victims as an “in­ demnity” (hsi-ch^en)?05 Though paternalistic controls of this sort were applied to nearly all full-time employees, they most rigidly governed those formally des­ ignated as apprentices hsueh-t'u). In China as in the West, the ap­ prentice system remained the cornerstone of the household economy, and the chief instrument of that systems maintenance was the com­ mercial or artisanal guild.104 A controlled apprentice system was em­ ployed in many, though not all, lines o f work at Hankow, being par­ ticularly favored in highly skilled artisanal trades and in commercial trades requiring a high degree o f technical expertise, such as marketing precious stones or medicinal herbs.10S Apprentices entered a master’s household at around 14 years o f age, and through forms o f address, ^David Faure has recently proposed that the typical pattern in commerce was for a lineage estate to serve as source o f credit for its component households, which owned and managed shops independently. Ying-hwa Chang, moreover, has shown that own­ ership and management o f such shops was often itself split between separate households, so that the “ family firm ” might have long survived the rise o f hired agency and profes­ sional commercial managers. Faure, “The Lineage as Business Company,” paper pre­ sented to the Second Conference on Modern Chinese Economic History, Taipei, 1989. Chang “The Internal Structure o f Chinese C itie s, ” pp. 351-52.


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familial rituals o f worship, and various obligations of personal service assumed the role o f filial son. This kinship relation was consciously fictive, since the apprentice was actually under contract for a fixed term, usually three to four years. Although in a position o f extreme depen­ dency, the apprentice did have legally enforceable rights, including the right to leave and set up his own shop after his term expired, or to sue for breach of contract if his education in the trade was neglected by the master. Two surviving guild regulatory codes from nineteenth-century Hankow, those of the Scalemakers’ Guild and the Kiangsi Provincial Guild, contain provisions designed to ensure proper conformity to the aims o f the apprenticeship system. The number of apprentices per mas­ ter was controlled, either by indirect means (charging high fees payable to the guild for each apprentice employed) or by directly specifying the number allowed (one per master in the case o f the scalemakers). Spec­ ified terms o f apprenticeship were enforced, unduly long terms or terms viewed as too short to ensure proper training in the craft being equally proscribed. The basic fear was erosion o f the quality control that established guild members as legitimate professionals, kept up prices commanded by their goods, and protected them in some mea­ sure from encroachment by less qualified but cheaper competitors.106 The chronic problem o f apprenticeship systems in all cultures has been the threat o f debasement into simply a mode of indentured ser­ vitude. In seventeenth-century London, for example, the rise of a free labor market “led to the over-crowding of certain industries, at least, with young workers, taken on nominally as apprentices but in reality to provide cheap labour, with no guarantee of employment when their years o f apprenticeship were over.” 107The recent research of Gail Hershatter on earJy-twentieth-century Tientsin demonstrates that in that city (and no doubt in Hankow as well by that time) a similar degen­ eration o f the apprenticeship system had reached an advanced stage.108 It was this sort o f debasement that the guild regulatory codes cited above were in large part designed to prevent. In the nineteenth century how successful were they? The lack o f mention of this problem in the Chinese press o f the pe­ riod, as contrasted with the repeated muckraking on the subject by early-twentieth-century journalists, suggests that the apprenticeship system in the earlier period functioned at least relatively better than it did subsequent to industrialization. Several scholars, however, have noticed at Hankow and elsewhere an increasingly frenetic pace of proc­ lamation o f guild statutes in defense o f the apprenticeship system over the course of the post-Taiping decades. (The language o f the guild codes does not necessarily change; there are simply more of them.)

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P’eng Tse-i and Imahori Seiji have independently argued on the basis of this evidence that general changes in the structure o f commerce and o f work organization were under way that threatened a debasement of the entire household economy.109 Though there are other possible ex­ planations for this spate of regulation (organization-building and statute-promulgation were in fact very general responses to the per­ ceived moral vacuum o f the postrebellion years), demographic evi­ dence suggests that P, eng and Imahori are not far from the mark. The basic threat to the stability of the household economy came as a result o f the emergence throughout the empire o f a large, unattached, and remarkably mobile labor force. Recent literature suggests that this group made its first significant appearance as a consequence of the com­ mercial revolution o f the late Ming, and that it continued to grow in the early C h ’ing as a result o f further commercialization, coupled with imperial policies favoring freely contracted labor and geographic mo­ bility.110 Such free laborers appeared in Hankow under various guises, for example as sailors who had signed on for a single run o f freight to the port, or as bands of migrant workers coming from rural Hupeh, Hunan, or Szechwan.111The presence o f these persons increased stead­ ily throughout the nineteenth century, and very rapidly in the centurys latter half. Wuhan local historians have sought to trace this last phase of development to displacements in the domestic economy caused by .competition from foreign goods and steamer transport, but I do not find this line of argument particularly convincing.112Rather, I am more inclined to find the causes in continuing commercialization, population pressure, and especially the dislocations resulting from the mid-century rebellions. The presence of this freely available and cheap labor force allowed the expansion o f work units in a number of directions. One direction was toward fairly large labor gangs {pang), employed through the agency of contractors (pao-t'ou) or labor brokers (fu-hang). As will be discussed in more detail in Chapter Six, these gangs increasingly found work in a wide variety o f jobs in the transport, construction, and in­ dustrial sectors, at times displacing artisan households.113A second di­ rection was the expansion o f some family firms far beyond the house­ hold scale. It is not easy to determine where these overgrown family businesses leave off and more distinctly ‘‘modern’’ enterprises begin; by the last quarter of the nineteenth century, for instance, we hear of wholesale warehouses with 150 stockboys, banks with 36 clerks, and retail stores employing up to 100 or 200 workers— many o f w hom still lodged on the business premises and were subject to (obviously much attenuated) household-style paternalistic controls.114 In the industrial


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sector, the advent o f Western-owned, mechanized factories, very ten­ tatively from the 1860’s on but on a significant scale only after 1895, certainly inaugurated a revolutionary style o f labor relations. Yet de­ spite the continued predominance of household-scale production in the handicraft workshops o f Hankow through the end o f the century, there were an increasing number o f exceptions to this pattern, the most im ­ portant being probably the large iron-smelting furnaces and cotton cloth dyeworks.115 The new, larger scale of enterprises was accomplished by the em­ ployment of wage laborers, who by the time of the 1912 census num­ bered close to 10,000 in the manufacturing sector alone. Clearly dif­ ferentiated from skilled masters or journeymen (often lumped together under the term “craftsmen,” chiang),these hired hands performed semiskilled or unskilled tasks.116Even more devastating for the house­ hold economy was the increased use in the post-Taiping period of short-term laborers (tuan-kung) and on-call casual laborers (sui~ku kungjen) y drawn from the city’s expanding pool of unemployed or chroni­ cally underemployed. The economic and social consequences of this changing style of work organization were varied. It seems undeniable that, in Hankow as in many European cities, this initial process of “proletarianization” greatly facilitated the transition to factory industry, which the city underwent with great rapidity and success after 1895. The hopeful Brit­ ish Consul Chaloner Alabaster could already write in 1874 that: “ For the future of Hankow I look still more [than to the foreign trade] to the signs it affords o f becoming a large manufacturing centre. • . . There is an abundance o f cheap, skilled labour, . . . and all that is needful is enterprise, which is but dormant in the foreign residents, and capital, which with a little confidence will be forthcoming.”117 And again in 1879: “Regarding the views I expressed when in charge of this port five years ago that Hankow was destined to become a large manufacturing centre . . . I see no reason to depart from the views I then expressed. . . . Skilled labour can easily be obtained, local industries having trained the population for factory life.’’118 But what was an industrial developer’s dream was a'social manager, s nightmare. This new, mobile, and relatively rootless labour force pre­ sented an infinite range o f problems o f control and of social welfare provision, not only for the newer proletarianized workers, but for those in the older household economy who found their careers imper­ iled as a result of structural change. It was problems created by these new social realities that the nineteenth-century spate of innovation in


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social services at the neighborhood and municipal levels, the subject of Part Two o f this study, was designed to meet. U rbanization Intimately related both to changes in the organization o f work and to problems o f social disorder and public welfare was the city’s expe­ rience o f rapid urbanization.* Hankow in the nineteenth century under­ went two phases o f rapid and steady population growth, punctuated by the severe depopulation o f the Taiping era. M y own estimate, de­ rived from narrative rather than statistical sources, is that the popula­ tion grew from about one million in 1800 to a million and a half at mid­ century, falling to perhaps 600,000 in the late i8$o,s, and regaining the million mark around 1890.119In both phases, however, the actual num­ ber o f new arrivals was far greater than this simple rate o f growth would suggest, both because of continuing emigration (for example, returns home on the part o f sojourners), and because o f high natural decrease on the part of the existing urban population. The principle that urbanites in early modern Europe did not repro­ duce quickly enough to sustain even constant levels of population with­ out massive immigration, though under some attack in recent years, remains generally accepted.120 Almost certainly high natural decrease also operated in Hankow, the result primarily o f high mortality and low nuptiality. Here, as invariably in demographic matters, we have no reliable quantitative evidence with which to work. Indirect evidence abounds, however, to suggest a very high death rate. Western medical missionaries wrote repeatedly o f grossly inadequate public hygiene, of the prevalence o f dozens of fatal diseases, and o f the epidemics o f ty­ phoid and cholera that followed the annual spring floods. "Several thousand” died o f cholera in the summer o f 1888 alone.121 Low nup­ tiality is suggested by the imbalanced sex ratio122and by the large bach­ elor population at the lower end of the social scale. Thus, the steady growth o f the city’s population both before and after 1850 could only have been the result o f a very rapid influx of new residents from out­ side. In the second half o f the century, when we have hundreds of rou­ tine journalistic accounts to work with, we find repeated evidence of the crucial role o f new arrivals in Hankow society, and of the social dislocations resulting from the pace o f the urbanization process. A ^B y “ urbanization” I refer specifically to the drawing off by the city o f persons from its hinterland on a basis o f at least intended permanency. This distinguishes it from two other sorts o f urban relocation, sojourning and migration, both o f which also played a role in building the Hankow population. See Rowe, Hankow, pp. 214-23.


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North-China Herald correspondent was surely overstating, though not by much, when he wrote in 1883 that “The present inhabitants o f Han­ kow are almost entirely natives of the surrounding districts, the orig­ inal indigenes having been massacred by the Taipings on their second visit.”123 Two o f the most significant demographic changes in late-nineteenthcentury Hankow may be directly related to this process. The first was the growing percentage of the population that hailed from Hankow’s subregional and macroregional hinterlands. Throughout the nine­ teenth century, Hankow remained socially and economically domi­ nated by extraregional merchants. But the well-known displacement of older commercial elites from Shansi and Hui-chou by newer ones from Ningpo and Canton should not obscure the broader pattern of the growing number of Middle Yangtze people at all levels of the social hierarchy. This was doubtless due above all to the continuing devel­ opment o f interregional export agriculture in Hupeh (tea, cotton, ra­ mie, cereals, beans), a process that accelerated in the late nineteenth cen­ tury and continued into the twentieth. Though Hankow, as first and foremost a transshipment center, always had a rather low degree of embeddedness in its own regional economy, this isolation diminished perceptibly over time. The second related change was the percentage rise within the population of the urban poor. Though immigrants from Hankow’s immediate hinterland did include some persons of relatively exalted socioeconomic status,124they were disproportionately made up of artisans, laborers, peddlers, boatmen, and the chronically under­ employed. Such new arrivals were not drawn evenly from the city’s hinterland but, rather, came overwhelmingly from particular local systems within that hinterland having specific historical ties to the city. Proximity was not the sole criterion. Hanyang county, for instance, within which Hankow itself was situated, supplied only a very small percentage of new arrivals. N or was directness of transport routes the only key. The several counties o f the lower Han River, notably Mien-yang and T ’ienmen, were readily linked to Hankow by water, and this facilitated the enormous numbers o f refugees they sent in times of flood; but refugees and urbanization-type immigrants were not the same groups of people, and Mien-yang and T , ien-men sent relatively few o f the latter. Instead, these latter came overwhelmingly from Chiang-hsia and Hsien-ning counties o f Wu-ch'ang prefecture, from Huang-kang and Ma-ch, eng in Huang-chou prefecture, and above all from Hanyang prefecture’s Huang-p’i and Hsiao-kan (see Map 1). It was this area, to Hankow’s north, east, and south, which made up

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Map I . Counties o f South-central Hupeh in the Nineteenth Century. Adapted from Hu~pei ming-hsi ti-t’u (Detailed map of Hupeh), 1932.

the town’s “urbanization periphery•” Topographically the area formed a marshy plain rimmed with highlands. Though virtually all o f Hupeh was dangerously flood-prone, the ecology here was somewhat less fragile than that slightly up- or downriver. It was, in fact, Hupehs most productive farmland. In rice-deficit Hupeh this area consistently pro­ duced a surplus, with paddy fields accounting for well over half o f all cultivated acreage. Cotton and ramie were also important crops. Huang-p’i and Hsiao-kan produced sesame, medicinal herbs, and tal­ low; Huang-chou grew arrowroot and tobacco and practiced sericul­ ture; Hsien-ning became a major tea producer. Handicrafts in the area included several nationally known varieties of cotton cloth, as well as oil-pressing, noodle-making, and the manufacture of small boats. Men of Huang-p’i and Hsiao-kan were also known as skilled carters.125 One reason why this area sent so many o f its native sons to Hankow was the long-established pattern o f marketing local products via that port. Agriculture here was the most highly commercialized in Hupeh. The area was dotted with market towns and small commercial cities,


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most o f which were linked to Hankow and the river confluence by a network o f small navigable waterways.126 As the geographer Sun Ching-chih has pointed out, commodity flows from this region fol­ lowed an exaggeratedly dendritic pattern, with transport routs vir­ tually all oriented toward extraction and supply by means o f Hankow alone.127 The area had for centuries exchanged its rice surplus via the port for extraregional products such as salt. As local exports diversified to include cotton and tea during the nineteenth century, they too were collected at Hankow.128 Urban capital had long found its way into in­ vestments in this immediate hinterland: a rather small amount in land­ owner ship, perhaps slightly more in pawnshops and other credit insti­ tutions, and a great deal in advances to rural cultivators and collection agents by means o f the prepurchase (yii-mai) of commercial crops. Re­ ciprocally, small merchant and artisan households from this area had long established themselves at the great port to manage the marketing o f their local specialties and practice their particular handicraft trades, such as coppersmithing and leather-goods manufacture. The Hsienning Guild at Hankow dated from the eighteenth century, and by the mid-nineteenth Huang-p'i was represented by no fewer than four separate trade associations. One o f Hankow's busiest thoroughfares, Huang-p’i Street, was said in the early C h , ing to have been crowded with the shops o f retailers and craftsmen from that adjacent county.129 Urbanization from these areas in the second half o f the nineteenth century was o f a different nature, however, and owed as much to the “ push” of rural population pressure as to the ‘‘pull’’ of urban economic opportunity. By this period, at least, this subregion had by far the great­ est population density per unit of cultivated land o f any area of H u­ peh.130Huang-p’i and Hsiao-kan men who had long sold their services as carters in their home area, finding local demand now insufficient, increasingly moved to Hankow and became longshoremen and por­ ters. Hsien-ning natives who had been involved in tea refining at home brought their skills to the city and became the antecedents of Hankow, s modern factory work force.131 (It was no accident that the second great incremental rise in urbanization from these areas came with Hankow’s industrial revolution after 1895,and particularly with work on the Peking-Hankow Railroad in the early twentieth century.)132 While some new arrivals still managed to set themselves up as small-scale busi­ nessmen, as innkeepers or shopkeepers, the great majority now scram­ bled for employment as stockboys, street peddlers, itinerant barbers, and other low-status occupations. Many of these post-Taiping rural migrants came equipped with ties to fellow-villagers who had urbanized earlier, or linked up with com­

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patriots immediately upon arrival. These local origin ties brought new­ comers into apprenticeship and contract-labor systems’ or provided them with guarantors in finding work with natives o f other areas. As was true in early modern Europe, and elsewhere in the world in the twentieth century, new urbanizers also usually maintained ties to their native villages. If few took advantage o f the possibility of reentry into rural life (those whose prospects failed more often simply slid down the ladder o f urban employment), they did retain a rural place of refuge for flight in times o f danger. During the various panics at post-Taiping Hankow, caused by threats posed by rebel armies or sectarian uprising, “the last in were usually the first out.” 133 O n the other hand, late-nineteenth-century urbanizers themselves accounted for more than their share of urban disorder. Huang-p’i and Hsiao-kan in particular had long enjoyed wide notoriety for the violent disposition of their natives. During both the White Lotus and the Taiping rebellions these portions of Hankow’s hinterland spawned large armed bands that threatened the town, and as late as the 1940’s Huangp’i was known as one of the eight “ radical hotbed” counties in all China (it produced no less a revolutionary firebrand than Lin Piao).134As we shall see, immigrants from these areas very often came equipped with hair-raising millenarian ideologies. More generally, they were heavily involved in the escalating level of routine violence that plagued Han­ kow in the 1870’s and 1880 s.135 How were these newcomers viewed by their more established neigh­ bors in the city? They were, of course, easily distinguishable by pat­ terns o f speech. Each of the local systems in this part of central China has its own strongly flavored dialect, most of which in the C h’ing peridd were only barely mutually intelligible, and some, such as that of the mountainous Hsien-ning, were completely incomprehensible to nonnatives.136In some cases this linguistic distinctiveness served to iso­ late the individual immigrant, particularly those at the lower ends of the social scale; as a Western missionary remarked, the conglomerate Mandarin which served as lingua franca at the port was understood by most urbanites, but in many cases not by “ the lowest o f the labouring classes.”137 Yet by these same linguistic criteria, urbanization-type im ­ migrants could be set apart from the “vagabonds” (yu-miri) from Mienyang, T'ien-men, or farther afield, and this surely worked to their ad­ vantage. It was the latter group, as Chapter Six will show, who were most often completely without local patrons and thus viewed with most alarm by established Hankow residents. Hankow had no formal franchise or other legalistic means to differ­ entiate citizen from noncitizen, as did cities o f medieval and early mod­


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ern Europe. This does not mean, however, that no notion o f the dis­ tinction between townsman and outsider existed. Porters, for example, were popularly differentiated according to whether they were members o f the semipermanent local work force or nonlocals (wai-chiao) simply seeking temporary work. Criminals were divided by security person­ nel into local miscreants and “outside troublemakers” (w ai-laifei-tfu).lzs And, just as in European cities, elite attitudes toward public welfare dearly distinguished between what was due to permanent urban resi­ dents and what to refugees from outside. Part of the distinction between “Hankow people” and outsiders was ethnic. In part it hinged simply on tenure o f residence; one aim o f the residence controls associated with the pao-chia system was simply to distinguish those whose sojourn in the city seemed to be of comfortable permanence from suspicious new arrivals.139Much hinged on the sta­ bility o f one’s employment (heng-yeh) and one’s ability to produce a guarantor (pao-jen). In the last analysis, however, the distinction was behavioral. Accordingly, we must suspend discussion o f the problem o f outsiders until after our examination o f the types of locally perceived “ social deviance” in Part Three. The point to be made here is that, al­ though Hankow*s population growth in the later nineteenth century did pose serious problems and occasion radically new strategies in pub­ lic welfare and public security, there is little evidence o f the sort of blan­ ket antipathy to all new arrivals that seems to have characterized many European cities in the early modern era.140 C lass Having looked at the general cultural attitudes of Hankow people, the distribution o f occupations and organization o f work in the city, and the problem of new arrivals, we are at last in a position to address the difficult question o f the extent to which perceptions of social class informed local behavior, or provided lines along which conflict might develop广Western historiography largely agrees that in early modern ^Like many other historians these days, I am persuaded by E. P. Thompson’s work to view class not as an objective entity, but rather as one that is necessarily fluid and situa­ tional. “ Classes” exist only in concrete historical settings, are defined only as relation­ ships between individuals, and are products o f prevailing cultural as well as economic influences. In applying this analytic construct, then, the historian looks optimally for expressions o f acknowledgment on the part o f contemporary actors that they consciously identify w ith one another as members o f a class,and, failing this, for regularized patterns o f behavior that suggest an implicit group solidarity. Thompson, The Making of the En­ glish Working Class, pp. 9—10,and "Eighteenth-Century English Society,” pp. 147-50. See also Eric Hobsbawm, “From Social History to the History o f Society, ” Daedalus,

Winter 1971, pp. 36-37.

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cities classes were far less solidified than in either the medieval or the postindustrial city. The intense penetration of the money economy and the new forms o f enterprise that characterized the early modern period brought a new complexity and fluidity to urban social hierarchies, above all by placing greater weight on purely economic versus ascribed determinants o f social rank. George Rude, for example, follows Daniel Defoe in finding six ranked “classes” in early modern London, based simply on their level of economic well-being.141 Others emphasize the complication o f urban class structures due to the rise of a “ middle class.” Summing up the results o f recent scholarship, Hohenberg and Lees find early modern cities to be characterized by a widening eco­ nomic gap between the rich and the poor, and by the insertion o f "a substantial middle group,” but also by the continuing role of vertical ties (such as those o f trade and local origin) and o f a sense of territorial urban community in precluding the development o f antagonistic class identities.142 A similar view o f an increasingly complicated class structure and of the growing importance o f wealth as a determinant of social rank would probably find acceptance among most scholars o f late imperial Chinese cities. Many, too, would agree that this period saw the first vigorous emergence o f a self-conscious “urban class,” encompassing disparate strata o f the urban society. Beyond this, however, it is hard to find much agreement. One prominent Japanese historian (following Engels’ analysis o f northern European cities) has seen in the late M ing the rise of a tripartite patrician-burgher-commoner class division in Chinese cities.143 Chinese historians, following Mao Tse-tung, have sought to chart the emergence of “national-capitalists, ” “compradorecapitalists,” and the urban proletariat in the C h, ing period.144Though neither o f these analyses has much persuasive power, clearly somethin又 was happening to class relationships in cities during this era. New types o f distinctively urban elites were emerging, as was a new, specifically urban, working class. As we have seen, relationships o f production were being slowly redefined. And, as Chinese scholarship on the “sprouts o f capitalism” has convincingly demonstrated, new types of social conflict can be found in certain cities which suggest coalescing class identities.145 Nineteenth-century Hankow hosted as broad an income differentia­ tion as any locality in China had seen to that point, certainly far greater than anyplace in the countryside. At one extreme were the salt mer­ chants and brokers in the interregional trade, whose wealth could total hundreds of thousands o f taels, and at the other extreme were manual laborers, whose pay for a full years work might total only a fraction of


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one tael.146 Beginning perhaps in the 1820s, and increasingly in th^ post-Taiping years, the city saw the rise o f an underclass o f the truly “destitute” (tiao-pi), members o f which were all too often found dead in city streets o f exposure and starvation. Local Chinese sources by the close o f the century were regularly lamenting the face that “The gap between rich and poor is widening every day.’, 147 Contemporary European residents of Hankow had no difficulty in mentally aggregating this population into “the better classes” and the dirty, odoriferous, and disease-ridden lower classes, but did Chinese residents do the same? There were several surface criteria by means of which such a division might be drawn. As in Europe, it seems that one’s occupation frequently carried with it 2 connotation o f socia】class; nightsoil-carriers and water-carriers bore, for example, a definite social stigma as a function o f their vocation. Merchants were ranked not only according to their economic means but also by their relative centrality within the hierarchy o f commodity extraction and distribution; already by the late M ing popular usage had come to differentiate on this prin­ ciple between “upper” {shang)I “ middle” (chung)f and “lower” (hsia) merchants.148 At Hankow, inasmuch as Hui-chou men were nearly all wealthy merchants whereas Hupeh natives were preponderantly arti­ sans or laborers, men o f Hui-chou origin by this fact alone seemed to be o f higher social class. Moreover, as we have seen, one’s facility in spoken Mandarin was usually taken as a clear indication o f one’s class status.149 Writers on early modern London and Paris have often noted how class status was conspicuously, even deliberately, revealed in personal appearance. In E. P. Thompson’s view, this “theater o f the rich” was an attempt not merely to advertise one’s social standing but more ba­ sically to reinforce the claim of the elite as a group to social superior­ ity— we look good, therefore we are good, and deserving of obeisance. In Richard Sennett*s more sanguine interpretation, these unwritten sumptuary laws were welcomed by the entire urban population, which, in the loosened status system of the early modern city, eagerly sought a visual means “ to bring order to the mixture of strangers in the street,5* to sort out what degree o f deference was owed each chance ac­ quaintance.150 Similar impulses informed public behavior and the pre­ sentation of self in Hankow as well. The Ch'ing state, o f course, en­ forced its own dress code to differentiate gentry members from com­ moners, and the growing number o f Hankow merchants who purchased gentry degrees eagerly displayed the sumptuary symbols of their expensive and newly won status. They quickly learned to affect other marks o f gentrihood as well. As a missionary in the i88o, s re­

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marked: “These scholars are bound by such queer rules; for instance in walking they must go slowly with their eyes down, ‘a slight scholarly stoop, ,and must not be so common as to look on either side of them to see what is going on.”151 Nor were the scholarly pretensions o f the wealthier Hankow merchants necessarily empty ones, as we shall see below. Commercial elites at Hankow could and did display very real cultural achievements; as Fan K'ai noted in 1822,“Most of those who sojourn here are merchants o f great wealth, with extraordinarily ele­ gant literary skills and refined personal manners/*152 But unquestionably the most dramatic and compelling symbol o f elite status at Hankow had little to do with either imperially conferred merit or aesthetic sensibilities, and reflected simply wealth and power. This symbol was the sedan-chair. Favored by brokers, large wholesale merchants, and their wives, the passage of sedan-chairs through Han­ kow^ densely crowded shopping streets caused a commotion appro、 priate to the social rank o f the occupant, the brawling and boisterous bearers haughtily forcing pedestrians to scramble out o f their way.153At the height o f the trading season somewhat more than 3,000 sedanehairs were available for hire at the port,154 a figure that may offer the best index o f the true size of the Hankow upper elite at its peak, if we 七 assume perhaps 3-4 potential customers per available chair. If a critical line at the upper end of the social scale divided those who rputinely were carried from those who walked, at the opposite end the significant and visible distinction was probably marital status. In Con­ fucian society, urban as well as rural, the imperative to marry and re­ produce was immensely compelling to all those who could afford it, however marginally, and this internal motivation was reinforced by sotial pressure. True, the orthodox ideology found an honorable niche for bachelors o f exemplary virtue; local gazetteers continually reprinted the hagiography of one Li Yueh, an early-nineteenth-century fruit ped­ dler at Hankow who labored throughout his young manhood to sup­ port his aged mother and determined that expenses incurred on her be­ half would preclude his ever marrying.155 In practice, however, ^hun­ gry ghosts” (ku-kuei) who lived outside the approved domestic group were widely distrusted and accorded “not an ounce o f popular compassion.”156 Consequently, permanent Hankow residents even at very humble levels— petty artisans, peddlers, boatmen, porters, and even the unemployed— managed with surprising regularity to make what­ ever sacrifices were necessary to marry, if not to father children.157This of course made the large number who failed to settle into family life even more marginal within local society. The vocabulary o f class per se was not yet highly developed, though


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specific terms for specific economic strata abounded. At the pinnacle were the “merchant-princes” (kuei-shang), “ gentry-merchants” (shenshang), or simply 11great merchants15 (htmg-shang); these were followed by the somewhat less grand wealthy households” {fu-hu) and those of the “middling sort” (chung-jen). The backbone of society were the petty shopkeeper and artisan “small households” (hsiao-hu, hsiao-chia, hsimin), terms all connoting a salt-of-the-earth sort of approval. Still lower down the scale were the “paupers” (p^n-min), and below these the “ desperately poor” (ch】iung-k,u)• Rarely were even these terms ap­ plied with a lack o f sympathy, though more condescending terms for the lower classes such as uuncouth laborers” (ts}u-kung) and “ignorant masses” (yu-min) were hardly unknown. The really damaging term o f derision, “roodess one” (wu-lai), will be discussed at length in Chapter Six. In sum, even by comparison to cities of early modern Europe (where the legacy o f political feudalism was stronger and more recent), class identities in nineteenth-century Hankow were anything but rigid. So­ cial mobility, especially in the postrebellion era, was reasonably wide­ spread and often very rapid, stories o f fortunes gained or lost overnight making up a major part of the folklore o f the port.158Residential neigh­ borhoods were mixed, as we shal] see, and the city s most pervasive form o f social organization, the local-origin club (t'ung-hsiang-hui), was deliberately class-inclusive.159The low level of segregation by class was sufficient to startle contemporary Englishmen, who had long experi­ enced the social consequences o f industrialization. Doctors o f the Lon­ don Mission Hospital upon their arrival in the i86o, s instinctively set aside special days for treatment o f local notables, who, upon payment o f a slightly larger fee, would be spared the indignity of waiting in line with “commoners”;the policy was quickly discontinued, since, after it was explained to Hankow’s pragmatic elite, they immediately "pur­ chased the [cheaper] ordinary ticket and mingled with the heteroge­ neous crowd., , 160 O nly toward the end of the nineteenth century did a clear trend ap­ pear suggesting a more conscious interest-identifxcation by class, find­ ing expression in new types o f collective organization. Craft guilds at Hankow, unlike those of Europe (and, according to Imahori Seiji, those o f some lower Yangtze cities as early as the seventeenth century), were traditionally not divided according to relationships o f produc­ tion, but rather “ composed of masters and workmen, united as against society.”161 Shop investors (tung), proprietors (tien-hu), master crafts­ men (shih), journeymen (yu), apprentices and often even per­ manent unskilled laborers {kung) employed in the same trade were usu­

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ally members o f the same guild. Surviving evidence suggests that not a single artisanal guild founded at Hankow before the Taiping Rebellion defined itself in language limiting membership to one group within this hierarchy of production. In the late nineteenth century, however, a number of guilds appeared with newly restrictive membership criteria. For example, four guilds founded in 1858, 1862,1885, and ca. 1890 were restricted to shop pro­ prietors only, three (dating from i860, 1870,and 1884) to shop pro­ prietors, masters, and journeymen only, two (1867 and 1890) to mas­ ters and journeymen only, and one (1871) to masters, journeymen, and laborers only. The most interesting case is that of the bricklayers of Chii-jen ward. This trade had almost certainly possessed an informal governing association in the prerebellion years, but its first formal guild organization was that set up exclusively by masters and journeymen (shih-yu) in 1867. Some two decades later, in 1885,the proprietors of brickyards in which these skilled artisans worked felt the need to set up their own alternative organization. Here, perhaps, we see the first clear manifestation of what Chinese scholars note as the “contradictions” in­ herent in the class-inclusive nature of guild structures in the late im ­ perial period.162 Several points need to be emphasized about this case and the more general phenomenon it represents. First, the fragmentation into sepa­ rate organizations for employers and artisans at Hankow began to ap­ pear prior to significant industrialization in the city, and does not seem to have responded to any important changes in production techniques. Although we lack specific details, it seems most likely that the impetus to found class-specific guilds resulted from the increasing challenge to the old household economy by the new, capitalist style o f work orga­ nization, fueled by the increasing presence of a cheap, largely unskilled pool o f job-seekers. It seems not unlikely that this new presence con­ tributed significantly to a newfound awareness of the utility of class’ based ties. Second, however, there is no evidence that the formation of any o f these class-restrictive guilds at the port was accompanied by ma­ jor conflicts or work actions. Indeed, the fact that both the bricklayers' and the brickyard-owners’ guilds were dedicated to a common deity, the patron o f their trade (T*u-huang-kung) suggests that an overriding sense of trade solidarity survived the formation o f new-style guilds. Third, and most importantly, even into the early twentieth century class-restrictive guilds represented but a minor trend, accounting for less than 10 percent o f the total number o f legally registered guilds at the port. The great majority continued to be constituted along vertical lines o f trade or local origin. This, I think, is indicative of the more


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general role o f class in the city in the century preceding industrializa­ tion: it was slowly beginning to assume some importance in determin­ ing social identities and in restructuring lines of social conflict, but re­ mained decidedly secondary to other sorts o f solidarities and principles o f organization. T h e E lite and the Com m unity Ideal Throughout the C h’ing the urban notables of Hankow comprised a mix o f traditional status-elites and wealthy merchants. Recent schol­ arship has established the late nineteenth century as a time of the emer­ gence o f a new protobourgeois “gentry-merchant” stratum, brought about in part by the movement of traditional elites into commerce and the increasing acquisition of gentry or brevet official rank by wealthy businessmen.163In my earlier work on Hankow I tried to show that this process was particularly active there. These innovations o f the last years o f imperial China should not blind us, however, to the fact that at Han­ kow and undoubtedly in many other major urban centers as well the upper commercial elite had always had an extremely close relationship to many members o f the gentry and to literati culture, a relationship that was in fact much deeper than the final, formal amalgamation of gentry and merchant roles in the post-Taiping decades. Very few if any members o f the Hankow elite were simply absentee rural landlords, but the city was home to a few families of academic or bureaucratic gentry who had no direct active link with trade. The ear­ liest prominent example was the Hsiung, whose most famous member, Hsiung Po-lung, placed second in the revived chin-shih examination under the Manchus in 1649, and went on to a career as a high metro­ politan official and nationally known literatus. Po-lung, s two younger brothers, Chung-lung and Shu-lung, also won examination degrees and served in various lower administrative posts. By the nineteenth century the family had receded from national prominence, but it con­ tinued to live in Hankow and took an occasional role in the manage­ ment o f local public service projects.164 The most famous local literati family in the later C h’ing was un­ questionably the Hu. Though their ancestral home was the market town o f Huang-ling-chi, some sixty li south of Hanyang city, at least since the early eighteenth century, when Hu Chao-hsiung had taken his chu-jen degree and served as a county director of studies in Hunan, then retired to Hankow, this branch o f the family had continuously resided in the great port city. Generation after generation o f Hu offspring passed the prefectural examination and took up positions as stipended

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scholars of the Hanyang county school. Hu Kuei-sheng, a kung-sheng o f 1832, opened a small private school for the sons of wealthy Hankow merchants and won wide respect as the very model of upright gentry conduct. But it was Kuei-sheng s son, Hu Chao-ch, im,who came clos­ est to the ideal of the type. A literary prodigy who took his kung-sheng degree in 1825 (seven years earlier than his father!) and his chii-jen in 1835,Chao-ch'un was several times selected for appointment as a county magistrate but declined in order to assist his father as instructor in the latters Hankow school. A leader of local resistance to the Taipings, H u Chao-ch, un came to the attention o f Hu Lin-i (no relation) and served the Hupeh governor as confidant and administrative aide until the latters death in i860. Thereafter, he remained something o f a municipal elder statesman, turning out poems and essays o f which more than a thousand survive, and serving as the driving force behind a wide range of reconstruction projects, in line with his advocacy o f “practical studies” (yu-yung chih hsueh)_ His descendants at the port in­ cluded numerous literati of more modest accomplishments. Never ap­ parently very wealthy, the H u were nevertheless well connected offi­ cially, through their role as family tutors to the nationally prominent Yeh clan (see below), through their links with the Hsiang Army forged by H u Chao-ch’un,and eventually through the marriage of a Hu daughter to the Manchu Grand Councillor Jung-lu.165 A counterpoint in type to the H u was the Wang family, proprietors of the famous Wang-hii-hsia Foodstuffs Store in Hankow. N o Wang apparently ever sat successfully for a civil service examination, yet their prosperity endured for several centuries. The founder Wang Shih-lang was the son o f a declining landlord family in Hui-chou, Anhui, and migrated to Hankow in 1694 where he found work in a local dyeshop. Borrowing a small sum from a compatriot, he opened his own dyeshop, then moved into the tea and grocery business on which the family fortune was built. By the early nineteenth century much o f what they sold came from their own workshops, and in the later decades of the century they owned more than a hundred stores throughout the Yangtze valley. Wang men o f later generations purchased brevet official ranks and increasingly turned over operations o f the business to junior members o f the family or paid managers, investing in urban land and living a refined rentier life-style, both at Hankow and in their ancestral home in Hui-chou.166 "The “pure” literati H u and the “pure” merchant Wang represented extremes within the Hankow upper elite. Perhaps the single most fa­ mous Hankow lineage, the Yeh, though certainly unusual in the extent of its success on all fronts, was closer to the norm. Established initially


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in the early C h’ing on a commercial fortune, the family for nearly three centuries combined proprietorship of one of the most successful mer­ cantile empires in China— the Yeh-k’ai-t, ai Medicine Store and its in­ numerable spin-off enterprises— with a pattern of examination success and official service that included but was far from limited to the no­ torious scapegoat of the Arrow War, Yeh Ming-ch’en.167 Hankow’s most prosperous merchants, despite differing subethnic origins and so­ ciocultural perspectives, almost to a man cherished an inherited ideal o f scholarly attainment and Confucian social leadership epitomized by the Yeh. A remarkably large percentage of the wealthier merchants at the port— in the pre-Taiping years clearly the majority— had been recipi­ ents o f at least some classical education. Quite a few even held legiti­ mate examination degrees; Sun Han, for example, an eighteenthcentury salt merchant, actually held the chin-shih, as did Liu Hsuanch’ing, who in the 1890s cofounded the first Hankow Chamber of Commerce.168Sun and Liu were exceptional, but biographies of prom­ inent Hankow merchants appearing in county gazetteers and above all in Fan K , ai’s 1822 Hankow Compendium repeat over and over again such formulae as ‘‘as a youth, studied for the examinations, but later entered commerce, ” or ‘‘as a merchant, continued to engage in classical studies as an avocation.” The exemplar o f the type was Huang C h’eng-tseng, a Hui-chou salt merchant in the i8 io , s and 1820’s. Exceptionally hand­ some and sporting a magnificent beard, broadly traveled and skilled at verse composition, Huang with two of his merchant colleagues be­ came popularly known as the “Three Elders” (san-lao) of prerebellion Hankow.169 Recent work by Chinese and Japanese scholars confirms that this combination o f merchant and literati roles was far from simply a pose, and that a period o f time spent in classical study prior to assuming a commercial apprenticeship was quite common among major merchant families. Though applicable to other local-origin groups as well, this pattern was most highly institutionalized among the Hui-chou mer­ chants, who above all made up Hankow's commercial elite. Hui-chou, s own fifty private academies, most established in the early C h’ing on the profits o f the Liang-Huai salt trade, turned out both the nationally known scholars of the “Hui-chou school” and recruits for the prefec­ ture^ even better-known commercial diaspora. The maxim ^C om ­ merce for profit and scholarship for personal reputation” (ku wei lou-li, ju wei mittg-kao) was internalized by these men, who developed an elab­ orate business ethic based on the neo-Confucian principles o f ch'eng (sincerity) and hsin (good faith).170

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Such merchants did not abandon their literati pursuits while resident at Hankow, but rather helped create a distinctive urban elite culture that bridged the gaps between men of differing local origins and between sojourner merchant and indigenous literatus. This is not to deny that there were real conflicts between these commercial interlopers and cen­ tral Hupeh local gentry, conflicts which, as we shall see, often focused on the issue o f educational opportunity for offspring. Occasionally, too,one comes across evidence o f a more ingrained hostility. The story is told, for instance, of Hu Wen-jo, a late-eighteenth-century Hsiaokan literatus resident at Wuchang, who, when offered 300 taels by Han­ kow's Shao-hsing Guild for a sample of his celebrated calligraphy to adorn its new guildhall, scoffingly replied, “How can you expect me, the son o f an imperial censor, to allow myself to be hired for a few pieces of silver?11171 But by and large the upper tiers of the Hankow commercial establishment could be, and were, acknowledged by non­ merchant literati as sharing their own basic life-style and outlook. Cer­ tain Hankow families o f unimpeachable gentry credentials, such as the Hsiung, the Hu, and the Ts’ai,actively helped to broker this relation­ ship. There were many marks of literati lifestyle and traditions of connoisseurship that were assiduously cultivated by wealthy Hankow merchants. Fan Chih-wo was an accomplished classical musician; Yeh Tung-ting wrote commentaries on the classics; Wu Hui-keng practiced swordsmanship and the arts of traditional chivalry; Wu Mei-t’ang col­ lected precious inkstones. Many, such as Fang Yen-fu, were renowned for their extensive libraries.172But the preeminent badge of elite culture was, without question, poetry. The list o f Hankow merchants who wrote prolific if not felicitous verse is a long one. Prominent examples were the Hui-chou natives Wu Pang-chih, C h’ang Ching-yun, and the brothers Hsiang Ta-te and Tafu,the Kiangsi merchant Mao Shao-ts’ang,the Chekiangese Lung Fei, and Hupeh natives H u Hsiu-t, ing,Yeh Sung-t’ing,and P’eng Tungt, ang. Particularities o f local origin, however, meant little to kindred aesthetic spirits gathering to exchange verses over the scenic landscape at a Back Lake teahouse, in the C h’an Buddhist rock garden of the Chiu-o Temple, at the midtown Ssu-kuan Temple, or in the lavish pre­ cincts o f the salt merchants, guildhall. Between the late eighteenth and the early twentieth centuries a number of formal or informal poetry societies passed in and out o f existence at the port, bringing together merchants o f refinement from various home areas to exchange verses over cups o f tea or wine. The most famous o f these were the New Rain Recitation Society, founded by Huang C h, eng-tseng in the i 820,s,and


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the Back Lake Tea Society, founded by Wu K ’o-chai in the 1860W From time to time published compilations of the members' poems would appear, such as Huang’s Rambling Discourses on Hankow (Hank}ou man-shih), now unfortunately lost, and a surviving late example,, Huan Ying-ch, ing*s 1911 compilation Tales from the Banks o f the Han (Han-shang hsiao-wen chi).174 The latter contains contributions from no less than several hundred sojourner merchants, from all parts of China; each o f whom had spent some time at Hankow in the last few decades of the C h, ing and affiliated with a local poetry club. If Hankows mar­ ketplaces and larger teahouses were the sites o f what Richard Sennett calls “public talk,” freewheeling and non-class-restrictive discussions o f current news and events, the city, s poetry societies, like the exclusive men’s clubs that began to appear in early modern London and Paris, were the forums for ‘‘private talk” among preselected and like-minded members o f the urban elite.175 An appreciation for and facility at literature and art was not all that Hankow s “merchant princes” had absorbed from the classical elite cul­ ture. However profit-minded businessmen may have been, it cannot be denied that many,at least, had internalized the Confucian imperative to paternalistic public service. However distant their native place and wide-ranging the ambits of their commercial activities, most seem to have reached the conclusion that one proper locus o f this service was the local community— chat is, the urban neighborhood and the munic­ ipality of their immediate residence. Certainly, public-spirited activity was one way in which wealthy merchants legitimized their status in society; as with their counterparts in early modern Europe, there was considerable discomfort in having followed such an irregular path to social prominence.176 But the frequency with which successful mer­ chants in their middle years gradually withdrew from active commer­ cial management and moved into community service on a relatively full-time basis suggests that such a career pattern was routine and even anticipated. They aspired to join the ranks of a distinctive social type— the “philanthropist” (tz'u-shan-jen)— that had been emerging in urban China since the late Ming.177These men knew well what was expected o f them, and were comfortable in their roles as the natural leaders of urban society. It would be wonderful, of course, to have first-person testimony from Hankow merchants expressing their own rationale for public service, but almost nothing of this sort survives. Other than business correspondence and poetry (nearly all of which takes the form of ste­ reotypical reflections on the beauties o f nature), we have only very fragmentary comments gleaned from gazetteer biographies, all sub­

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stantially glamorized and written after the fact. Indeed, our best source on merchant attitudes is simply the record o f their behavior, which will be our major focus of concern in much of the rest of this study. In the documentation that does survive, the moral principles most often cited as lying behind elite activism are familiar: shan (virtue, benevolence), i (propriety or right conduct, shading in popular usage into meanings closer to “free” or “open to all”),and kung (public); and the activities they occasioned were referred to as tz^-shan (philanthropy), shan-chii (charitable work), or i-chii (public-spirited acts). In many ways the most interesting of these concepts is kung, a notion that has attracted a deal o f scholarly attention in recent years. In Chap­ ter Four I shall return to the significance o f this term in nineteenth-cen­ tury Hankow, where it was used in reference to an expanding sphere of collective but extragovernmental responsibility for civic action and proprietorship of communal goods. In the present context, we should note simply the increasing popularity of contemporary usages describ­ ing the goals o f elite activity as the “public interest” (kung-i),and de­ scriptions o f stimuli to individual or group activism as ‘‘responding to public needs, ’ (yin-kung) and “performing one’s public duty” (ts'ungkung).l7S In a recent and brilliant study, Mizoguchi Yuzo has traced the evolv­ ing connotations o f the word kung over several thousand years.179Two o f his conclusions are particularly relevant here. First, in a trend which Mizoguchi dates from the iconoclastic influence of the late Ming scholar Li Chih, the traditional dichotomy between private (ssu) and public (kung) came to be muted in the thought of many by a growing belief that private interest, if sufficiently enlightened, could simulta­ neously serve the overall interests of society. Clearly such a conception Izy behind the public behavior o f Hankow merchants and merchant groups; it finds resonance in the business principle proclaimed by the Hui-chou merchants to “consider righteous conduct as profitable” (ii~wei-li)t80~ a convenient reformulation o f the Mencian injunction to cherish righteousness at the expense o f profit. With this principle in mind, it is easy to see how a sojourner merchant at Hankow might be highly sensitive to the long-term business advantages of investment in local community causes. Second, Mizoguchi notes a broader trend for kung to be interpreted in the sense o f “collective” or “communal,” a meaning akin to that of its near homophone ^kung^ (Matthews, no. 3709). Though he finds this meaning rather ambiguously embedded in the word from very an­ cient times, Mizoguchi stresses its growing currency after the late Ming. Certainly, the increasingly common trend at Hankow and else­


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where in the post-Taiping years for merchant guilds to refer to their guildhalls and organizations as kung-so (places for the management of collective affairs) would bear this out. So too would the growing iden­ tification o f the proper locus for fewn^-inspired activism as the local ur­ ban community. We see this, for example, in the descriptions of activ­ ism as “locally directed good works” (ti-fang i-chii),“community spirit” (chung-chHng), and the phrase, used on several occasions to de­ note the intended recipients of activism at Hankow, “the community o f neighbors” (hsiang-tang) -181 Hankow merchant elites, whether or not they were themselves scholars, were hardly isolated from the important intellectual currents o f their day. As we shall see below (and as Mary Backus Rankin has pointed out about contemporaneous activities in the lower Yangtze), there are clear resonances of the nineteenth-century “statecraft” (chingshih) revival in the style of new social enterprises in the city: an inten­ sified preference for extragovernmental institution-building, the choice o f the “natural” residential community as the intended service area, and a specific antipathy to bureaucratism and clerical malfeasance. With the development of intelligence-sharing networks on the part o f urban elites themselves— above all through the medium o f Shen-pao and sim­ ilar merchant-oriented newspapers— these intellectual trends achieved a distinctly urban reformist cast and became the new elite orthodoxy o f the day.182 Conclusion Nineteenth-century Hankow society shared a number of striking features with that o f European cities of the early modern era, while also differing from the European experience in systematic ways. Both these areas o f similarity and o f difference played critical roles in determining the course of Hankow s social history. N o less than in the post-medieval West, a distinctive urban culture and mentality had come to characterize the largest cities of late imperial China. City-dwellers were quite aware of their distinctiveness, even though Chinese urban culture probably did share more elements with rural traditions than did its counterpart in Europe, and Confucian pas­ toral ideals worked to soften the sense o f self-conscious urban superi­ ority so evident in the West. In China as in Europe the greater intensity and diversity o f communications media helped differentiate urban from rural life, and in both civilizations the early modern proliferation of literacy and of written media, joining older oral and visual forms, was very largely an urban phenomenon.

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Like early modern Western cities, Hankow evolved an increasingly complicated and fluid class structure, with older status elites challenged and joined by newer economic elites. Articulated class-consciousness was lower than it had once been, and would soon be again. The vertical solidarities of ethnicity and trade remained predominant, though in Hankow as in Europe class identities did begin to manifest themselves more strongly toward the close o f the early modern period. This re­ sponded in large measure to transformations in the organization of work, undeniably real in Hankow, yet less rapid or jarringly evident there than in many Western cities. Hankow, also like these European cities, was experiencing a high and rising rate o f urbanization and the growth of a new kind of urban poor, though the response o f its more established citizenry was on balance more ecumenical and tolerant of new arrivals than seems to have been the case in Europe. Unlike early modern European cities, those o f China had not grown up in a context of political feudalism that accentuated their own closed corporate char­ acter. But if they were more receptive to new arrivals than many European ones, the cities o f early modern China were arguably even more co­ hesive. The unusually rich variety o f cultural influences experienced by Hankow people, combined with the densely textured pattern of com­ petition and cooperation between diverse ethnic, neighborhood, and trade-based subcommunities, gave rise to what G. William Skinner has called a “reintegrating cosmopolitanism.’”83 Beyond this, local inte­ gration was reinforced by a deliberate pattern of social action on the part o f the urban elite, which accorded with moral choices prescribed by the dominant Confucian culture, and more specifically by the “ statecraft” intellectual currents of the time. This moral system as­ signed great value to the assumption of paternalistic social leadership roles and, above all, to careful nurturance of the ties o f territorial com­ munity-~-urban quite as much as rural.


Urban Space

_Lhe p o p u latio n of nineteenth-century Hankow, like any other hu­ man unit, lived and worked within an environment that shaped or con­ ditioned social behavior in many ways. The city’s street plan dictated the flow o f traffic; focal points such as markets, temples, and teahouses suggested which sorts o f people would routinely come into contact with each other, in what numbers and under what circumstances; the distribution o f worksites and residences throughout the city and their clustering within individual neighborhoods affected consciousness of social class, helped define the composition o f subcommunal groups, and spawned units for collective action. The urban environment im ­ posed constraints on possible behavior and suggested patterns o f likely behavior. A human environment— and above all a large city— o f course com­ prises not merely natural features but even more importantly human artifacts. Yet over time these in turn become givens o f the landscape; as Clifford Geertz has pointed out, the igloo for the Eskimo and the rice terrace for the Javanese peasant are as much a part o f the inherited eco­ logical system as are terrain and climate.1Human ecology is thus a pro­ cess o f constant re-creation o f the environment by the actors living within it. In the use o f space, for example, Durkheim noted a phenom­ enon he termed “ collective representation”_ the tendency of the resi­ dents o f a city or other locality to present a chosen image of social real­ ity to themselves, their neighbors, and outsiders, by means of the way they distribute themselves over territory.2 If,say, it is a marketplace rather than a temple or a government building that is the point around which population density or property values are centered, this is an im ­ portant statement of collective priorities. By drawing upon detailed census figures for contemporary cities to correlate spatial features with such demographic factors as age distri­ bution, household structure, ethnicity, wealth, and occupation, social

Urban Space


scientists have been able to raise the study o f urban ecology to a high level of technical sophistication.3N o such precision can be claimed for the present analysis. It is difficult enough to conduct such a study for any historical city, let alone for those of China. Still, it seems important to make an effort in this direction, by laying out just what can and can­ not be deduced from our fragmentary sources about the spatial pre­ conditions for Hankow’s nineteenth-century social history. That is the task of this chapter. Property As in busy port cities everywhere, land in Hankow was a scarce re­ source. The Chekiangese visitor Yeh Tiao-yuan remarked in 1851, on the eve o f the Taiping invasion, that at Hankow “an inch of land is worth an inch o f gold.”4Arriving in town a decade later (a mere eight years after the final antirebel campaign had razed it to the ground) and seeking to purchase premises for a mission, Josiah Cox complained to his London superiors that, since Hankow was both “inconceivably prowded” and “very wealthy and commercial, , ,the price of land there seemed beyond the Methodist Mission Society’s reach; he suggested that a plot in the provincial capital across the river would be consid­ erably cheaper.5 The logical consequence of high property values was that land in the city was very densely built upon, with structures ^hap­ hazardly crowded together like the teeth o f a dog.”6As early as the sev­ enteenth century local reformers had begun to complain that over­ building had obstructed access routes in many parts o f town, creating problems not only for commercial traffic but also for public safety.7Any momentarily vacant space immediately fell prey to encroachment (ch^in-chan, chfin-yueh) by squatters, stallkeepers, businesses seeking ex­ tra space for their workmen or stock, or landlords seeking to expand however slightly the boundaries o f their property. Most severely sub­ ject to encroachment was land in the public {kung) or official (kuan) do­ main, but despite feverish efforts to have boundaries o f their holdings legally established and popularly respected, private landlords also found regular cause for complaint. As we shall repeatedly observe throughout this study, disputes over encroachment and access were probably the single most common type o f conflict in the city, and local administrators were called upon to devote a burdensome percentage of their time to ironing out questions of zoning and traffic flows’ prohib­ iting encroachment, and adjudicating property disputes. The basic facts o f land scarcity and restricted access dictated the char­ acteristic architectural form in the city, the shophouse (tien-p^ or shih-


The City

fang) .8Midway in size and value between the large factor’s warehouses on Main Street and the ramshackle huts around the periphery, solidly built wooden shophouses dominated the scene in most Hankow streets and lanes (see Figure 3). Responding to the scarcity o f street frontage, shophouses were usually narrow and deep; due to the high cost o f land, they were usually two-story. Upper stories typically included an over­ hang (ch'i-lou), encroaching onto public thoroughfares and allowing both maximal use o f space above and the passage of pedestrian traffic underneath. Shopkeepers and their families normally resided either up­ stairs or behind their shop, with apprentices and other employees sleep­ ing in the shop itself. What legal principles governed property ownership in Hankow? De­ spite the lavish scholarly attention devoted in recent years to questions o f land tenure in late imperial China, we really know very little about customary laws o f property in the countryside, and far less still about their urban variants. Evidence from Hankow is, however, surprisingly rich on the subject. The gazetteers compiled by the Hui-chou Guild in 1806 and the Shansi-Shensi Guild in 1896 contain transcriptions o f doz­ ens o f title documents (ch'i) to real property holdings in the city, and the 1884 Hanyang Gazetteer includes a detailed descriptive register of the real estate endowments o f several public agencies.9 From these we learn, first o f all, that the basic unit o f ownership, the lot, was legally designated as either “developed” (ti-chi) or “undevdoped” (wu-chi)— the latter not necessarily vacant, but housing no structure with a per­ manent foundation. The lot was invariably listed not by area, but rather by its boundaries (often the base of a wall or the frontage onto a major street) and sometimes its dimensions. For the most part, it seems clear that something comparable to the Western fee-simple system o f own­ ership was the norm; that is to say, property rights were relatively strong. The state did retain the power of eminent domain, enabling it to condemn and acquire property earmarked for public purposes, for which it usually compensated the owner at a negotiated price.10 More­ over, the practice o f conditional sale (hsiao-mai) was not unknown, in which the previous owner retained either some claim to ground rent or some option for later redemption. In by far the majority of cases, how­ ever, real property sales were absolute (ta-mai), and this might be spec­ ified in the title document, often with a formal renunciation o f all future claims on the property by the seller and his descendants.11 Thereafter, the purchaser held all rights of development, rental, and resale. Legal notions o f real property are of course intimately related to the property s tax status, and this is a subject about which we are less clear. Was urban property taxed at all? The research of Shiba Yoshinobu and

Figure 5. A view o f Hankow shophouses, 1981. Structures similar to these in design (especially the overhanging second story), materials,and density dom­ inated the city’s lesser streets in the nineteenth century.


The City

others has indicated that after a.d. 780 built-up property in cities was formally exempted from the land tax (which, in any case, was intended to apply to cultivated acreage only), and Shiba suggests that the legal term “ developed” was applied precisely to signal such exemption. He shows, however, that in the T ang and Sung this property was subject to a different set o f fiscal obligations, known variously as the house tax (wu-shui) or shop tax (ti-p’u-chHen)’ but acknowledges that due to a ^re­ search vacuum” the continuity o f these taxes into the C h’ing cannot be ascertained.12 According to the .contemporary fiscal expert Joseph Edkins, it was none other than Hankow itself in which the first routinized urban “house and shop tax” in the C h’ing period was introduced, coming only in 1898 at the initiative o f Chang Chih-tung. Chang appointed a permanent ‘‘house tax deputy” under the auspices o f the Hankow Taotai,who was to collect a tax equivalent to 10 percent o f annual rent. This so-called “Hankow system” quickly became a model for urban tax programs throughout the empire.131 have found no evidence to con­ tradict Edkin’s assertion that this was in fact the first regularized, statecontrolled urban property tax in Hankow; indeed, the 1867 Hanyang Gazetteer divides all taxable land in the county into several categories (e.g. paddy fields, embankment land, mountain land), omitting urban property altogether.14Long before this, however, the province had im ­ posed a onetime “deed tax” (ch^i-shui) on all property sales, urban as well as rural. Whenever an urban lot changed hands the cognizant ptiochia headman was required to notarize the transaction and collect 3 per­ cent o f the sale price.15 At least by the late 1870^, moreover, regularly scheduled taxes on urban property were being imposed by lesser au­ thorities. A lead editorial in Shen-pao during 1879 reported approvingly the practice of such taxes being independently assessed semiofficial "reconstruction bureaus, ’ (shan-hou-chii) at the prefectural and county levels, with the proceeds going to local improvement projects.16 And not six months before, the same journal reported an instance of a fully nongovernmental neighborhood association at Hankow imposing a 5 percent surcharge on rents for community purposes.17It was clearly this kind o f localized practice that Chang Chih-tung was building upon in 1898 (he explicitly copied the practice o f assigning the burden o f the rent surcharge half each to landlord and tenant), regularizing it and ap­ propriating the revenues for his own viceregal treasury. There can be no doubt from the frequency of transactions described in local sources that a genuine market in real property existed in Han­ kow. Surviving records of exchanges of property indicate that barter transactions were rather more common than in present-day Western

Urban Space


society,18 but nevertheless the great majority o f deals were sales for cash,Professional real estate brokers seem to have been unknown, but most transactions were arranged by go-betweens, who were often compensated for their services. Virtually all transactions were recorded in legally binding documents, with several witnesses (including the pao-chia headman) among the signatories. These contracts might be very brief, as in the following example from the Hui-chou Guild col­ lection: “O n _____ day, 10th month, 35th year [of the K ’ang-hsi reign; that is, 1696], we contract to buy from Yang Shih-mei one tiled house for a price o f 113 taels silver.”19 Other contracts were quite lengthy, describing the property in minute detail and explaining why and how the transaction was consummated. The real estate market in Hankow was evidently very active, with some properties changing hands every few years.20 As suggested above, the leasing o f urban property was also com­ monplace. In most cases described in Hankow sources, this simply meant a landlord buying developed land and renting it to a businessman or residential group. In a few cases, however, an entrepreneur would lease an unoccupied lot on a long-term basis and develop it himself for rental purposes. Borrowing a pattern common in rural land relations, the lot-owner would then be entitled only to collect ground rent from the developer, whereas the latter could collect a higher secondary rent from the tenant.21There thus could be two, and sometimes even more, layers o f investors drawing rental income from a single piece of prop­ erty. A common variant on this system involved simply subletting a portion of one’s leasehold, such as an upper story of a shophouse.22 Though the precise proportion o f developed property in Hankow that was leased rather than owned by the occupant cannot be deter­ mined, my guess is that it was extremely high— quite possibly in the area o f 90 percent. Certainly, the willingness o f street associations and government officials to assess real estate taxes as a function solely of rents suggests a figure this high. Large sections o f the town were totally owned by absentee landlords. The area around Hsin-huo Street, for ex­ ample, had in the pre-Taiping years been dominated by Kiangnan shopletter describing the purchase o f an undeveloped lot by the Methodist Missionary Society in 1862,upon which their Hankow Mission was to be built, illustrates how such transactions were accomplished. Having been shown twelve available lots, the mission­ ary Josiah Cox contracted to buy one o f them for 410 taels. H alf o f this sum was paid at the time o f receiving title, the other half upon assuming occupancy. The intervening period o f one m onth was necessary for title search, notarization by local officials, and clearing the inevitable squatters from the lot. The cost o f these services (including pro­ viding compensation to the squatters) added approximately 25 percent to the price paid by the purchaser. Cox, letter o f 22 Oct. 1862, M M S Box 487.

7 。 The City keepers; in the postrebellion years the Kiangnan men had moved on, though they retained ownership o f the shops now leased to others.23 Thus urban real estate at Hankow was not only a marketable com­ modity, it was a major form of investment. The scale of individual holdings could be quite large; a Shansi-born cloth merchant named C h’en Pu-hsien, for example, in the 1870^ owned several parcels of property including a block of more than thirty shophouses on Ts’aicheng Street valued at upwards of 800 taels.24A piece goods shop pro­ prietor from Hupeh’s Hsing-kuo county owned dozens of rental shops along the length of Ta-huo Street.25 Institutional investors such as guilds, local-origin clubs, and temples might have much larger portfolios. The Tea Guild o f the 1880s and i 890, s , to cite but one example, covered its considerable operating ex­ penses almost entirely with revenues from its extensive real estate hold­ ings.26Mary Rankin has recently argued that institutional endowments in the form o f urban real property became much more pervasive in the post-Taiping decades,27and evidence from Hankow suggests that she is correct, though this phenomenon was not new to these years. The Huichou Guild at Hankow owned extensive and profitable holdings by the late eighteenth century, as did certain benevolent halls by the 1820 s and 1830 s. O n the other hand, I see no reason to conclude that institutional investors at any time accounted for more than a significant minority of urban landownership. The rewards for investment in urban real property came not only in rents— consistently high in relation to both land prices and construc­ tion costs— but also in capital gains. Both the first and the second halves o f the nineteenth century saw steady increases in urban property val­ ues, though the dramatic collapse of values in the 1850s as a result of the Taiping devastations meant that it was only around 1890 that values regained the level they held at mid-century. Undoubtedly this was re­ lated to the fact that, despite the widely reported haste of postrebellion reconstruction efforts in the town, it was only in the 1880 s that the last undeveloped plots remaining from the razing of the city in 1854-55 began to disappear.28There is some evidence to suggest that aggregate property values in the post-Taiping years increased on average 3 to 5 percent per year, though localized or short-term appreciation o f values may have been much higher.29Speculation was common, as when Can­ tonese investors in the early i86o*s bought up large tracts of Yangtze riverfront land and resold it to newly arrived British merchants at handsome markups.30 O n the other hand, urban property recom­ mended itself as a fairly safe investment by local standards. The abovementioned cloth merchant C h’en Pu-hsien, for example, had his large

Urban Space


and profitable business suddenly wiped out in 1873 by the collapse of the native bank that held his accounts, so that he found himself entirely dependent on his real estate income for financial survival. Under these conditions it is hardly surprising that urban property at Hankow was so highly valued a form o f investment, and that the market in it was so active. Spatial Structure


Hankow was a narrow strip o f land hugging the shoreline of the Han River for a stretch of nearly four miles and the Yangtze for an additional mile (see Map 2). Function dictated that its early settlement concentrate along the rivers, and its preindustrial growth take primarily the form o f linear extension along the shoreline rather than expansion to any depth inland. By the nineteenth century it centered on four major thor­ oughfares paralleling the riverbank: River Street (Ho-chieh), Main Street (Cheng-chieh), Middle Street (Chung-chieh), and Dike or Back Street (T’i-chieh,Hou-chieh). These were crossed by more than forty lanes or alleys (hsiang) leading down to the river, the more important having pier facilities at their foot. For administrative purposes the town was sliced like a sausage into four wards (Jang): Chii-jen, Yu-i, Hsunli,and Ta-chih, reading progressively downstream. By the late Ming, Hankow had largely assumed the physical dimen­ sions it would retain through the nineteenth century. The building of the city wall in the 1860 s did, it is true, considerably extend the inland boundaries, but apart from a concentration of squatters atop the wall itself the area of actual urban settlement was not effectively expanded. Since most o f the newly incorporated area was swamp or backwater pools, it was only with the introduction o f new landfill technologies and, especially, the advent o f the railroad around the turn o f this cen­ tury that Hankow's rapid physical growth both inland and downstream began. For most of the three centuries before this, growth had been intensive rather than extensive, the result o f increasingly dense occu­ pation of a relatively constant area of space. In Hankow’s early days both population and business activity seem to have been distributed rather evenly along the shoreline. In 1525, for example, a local literatus counted 630 shophouses along the “upper bank” (Chii-jen and Yu-i wards) and 651 along the “lower bank” (Hsun-li and Ta-chih wards).31In the C h’ing, however, this distribution became skewed. Pao-chia enrollment figures reproduced in Table 4 re­ veal a trend over the eighteenth century for registered— i.e. perma­ nently resident_ households to concentrate more heavily in the two

Map 2. The Wuhan Cities, ca. 1890.

1• Yellow Crane Pagoda 2. P ro v in c ial M ilita r y E x a m in a tio n

Ground (site of 1882 mutiny) 3. Clear Stream Pavilion 4. Hanyang City West Gate (site o f 1801 rice riot)

5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.

Parrot Island Chii-jen Gate Yu-i Gate Hsun-li Gate Ta-chih Gate T’u-tang Inlet Yii-tai Canal Main Street Center Street

14. 15. 16. 17. 18.

River Street Back Street Huang-p*i Street Wu-hsien Temple Shen-chia Temple

19. Chieh-chia-tsui Pier and Tbmple

20. 21. 22. 23.

to Sage-King Yu Lung-wang Temple Ssu-kuan Temple Rice Market and Pier Hui-chou Guildhall

24. Shansi-Shensi G u ild h a ll 25. Tzu-hsin Benevolent H a ll

(Tzu-hsin t’ang)

Urban Space ta ble



Household pao-chia Enrollment for Hankow, by Ward Ward Chii-jen and Yu-i Hsun-li and Ta-chih Totals



47,732 51,649 99,381

76,900 52,282 129,182

so u rces:

1818 H C , 12:9 and 12:19; 1920 H C , 3:1. n o t e : A third pao-chia enrollm ent o f 1888 yielded a total o f 180,980 house­ holds, but unfortunately the distribution b y w ard is not recorded.

upstream wards, Chii-jen and Yu-i. By no means, however, does this necessarily suggest that the section o f the city upstream on the Han had become its more vital component. For one thing, much o f Hankow s population— and in many ways the most important part— was not stable but transient. As early as the i8 io , s local officials frankly admitted that their census-taking machin­ ery was wholly inadequate to record the number and whereabouts of such persons as traveling merchants (k’o-shang), long-distance transport workers, and harbor boat-dwellers.32And it was precisely in Hankows downriver districts, which the pao-chia figures showed as less popu­ lated, that these groups were concentrated. According to an 1822 re­ port, for example, Ta-chih ward hosted by far the city’s greatest number of sojourning merchants and short-term lodgers.33 It seems quite pos­ sible, then, that the actual density o f population by the early nineteenth century was in fact greater in Hankow’s downstream portions, pre­ cisely the opposite of what the pao-chia figures suggest. Secondly,it is clear that in a commercial city such as Hankow inten­ sity o f land use cannot be expected to correlate directly with residential densities; indeed, more commonly the correlation will be inverse. In Hankow, as it turns out, observers in the second half o f the nineteenth century repeatedly stressed their impression that the center o f eco­ nomic gravity in Hankow had been moving progressively down­ stream.34A number of other indicators offer support for their view. As we shall see in Chapter Eight, for example, despite the heavier pao-chia enrollments in Chii-jen and Yu-i wards in the early nineteenth century, it was in the other, downstream wards that the system’s managers con­ tinued to deploy the majority of their local security personnel. More­ over, as shown in Table 5,throughout the post-Taiping years the num ­ ber o f fire brigades (shui-chu) in the extreme downstream ward, Tachih, remained consistently higher than elsewhere in the city. Both of these deployment patterns responded, it appears, not to a simple con­ centration o f residences, but rather to some combination of factors in-


The City TABLE 5

Fire Brigades of Hankow, by Ward Ward



Chu-jen Yu-i Hsun-li Ta-chih Totals











s o u r c e s : 1867 H C , 6 : 1 5 - 1 7 ; H P T C , 4 9 :4 3. n o t e : T h e totals are incom plete, since on ly brigades w hose locations are kn ow n are included.

eluding complexity and manageability of the population, value of property to be safeguarded, and ability o f neighborhood sponsors to pay the costs o f this protection. Whereas Western reporters were inclined to date the establishment o f Ta-chih as the town’s center o f gravity only to the i86o, s,and to attribute this solely to the magnetic appeal of the British Concession at the downstream end o f Ta-chih ward, they were clearly wrong on both counts. The more basic— and earlier— appeal was that o f the Yangtze itself, the great artery o f China s domestic interregional trade in which Hankow had emerged as the central entrepot. The Rice Market (Mich’ang)’ focal point o f the gigantic grain trade that sparked the city’s development, was located on the Yangtze shoreline just downriver of the confluence. By 1850 a Chinese visitor could report that it was here and at the piers immediately adjacent that the bulk o f Hankow’s in­ terregional trade had come to be centered.35 It seems fair to conclude that as this interregional trade escalated in importance during the first half o f the C h’ing,while the Han River trade (upon which Chu-jen and Yu-i wards largely depended) grew more slowly, the relative impor­ tance of Ta-chih within Hankow grew accordingly. In the last quarter o f the nineteenth century, of course, foreign trade and even more im ­ portantly the advent of steamer service on the Yangtze drew further concentrations of merchants and longshoremen, warehouses, and hos­ tels to such areas of Ta-chih as the China Merchants Co. Pier at the foot o f Chang Mei-chih Lane. L an d Assignm ent Students o f comparative urban land use and spatial structure have generally agreed in seeing “precapitalist” or “preindustrial, ’ cities as characterized by a multicenteredness (that is,the absence o f a clearly defined central business district, CBD), and a low level o f functional

Urban Space


segregation of land use.36 One of the boldest of such analyses is that of the urban geographer James E. Vance, Jr., who systematically relates spatial structure to land values within the city.37 Vance associates the presence o f a C B D with the existence o f a regular curve o f land values, falling off as one moves away from a central point (often termed the “peak-value intersection,” PVI). Such regularity Vance finds only in “ capitalist” cities. In the precapitalist city, land assignment is based on social rather than economic factors, land ownership is merely func­ tional (providing a place to live or work),and consequently property is ranked in attractiveness and developmental potential only by its “use value” to the owner. By contrast, land in capitalist cities has come to be regarded above all as a commodity and a source of profit; it is valued less for its functional utility than for its rent-productivity (its "capital­ ized value”). Systematic awareness of differing rent-productivities by means o f market mechanisms leads to a ranking of location in eco­ nomic terms and a more distinct segregation of land use. In a purely capitalist system o f land assignment, there will be a near-perfect cor­ relation between land value and closeness to the PVI, as well as a direct correlation between land value and land use (more profitable commer­ cial uses taking precedence over residential ones). While late imperial Chinese cities have not— and probably cannot— be studied with the rigor demanded by Vance’s scheme, most observers of Chinese urbanism have concluded that, prior to the introduction of Western models such as the International Settlement at Shanghai, Chinese cities generally conformed to the precapitalist or preindustrial type. They lacked a single clear C B D and an integrated hierarchy of land use. Instead, urban spatial structure is often described as “ cellular,” with commercial quarters decentralized by individual product or trade, spatially differentiated from the administrative center of town, and in­ termixed with residential neighborhoods.38 To what extent did Hankow conform to this “precapitalist” pattern of land use? It is clear, for one thing, that commercial activities were often segregated by product; for instance, the center of the salt trade was in Ta-chih wards Pao-chia Lane, that o f groceries in Hsun-li ward’s Liu-tung Lane, and that o f non-rice grains in Chii-jen wards’s Yangchia-ho Street.39To the extent that any administrative center may be said to have existed in the city, it had no special relation to commercial cen­ trality, being located neither near the harbor nor along any of the city’s major thoroughfares.^ Moreover, the predominance of the shophouse ^For most o f our period Hankow had no identifiable administrative center, the yamens o f its numerous low-level officials being scattered throughout the town. Toward the end o f the century some concentration o f administrative functions did appear, in the triangle


The City

form o f architecture ensured a low level of segregation of land into res­ idential and commercial uses. And yet, it is also clear that some degree o f functional hierarchy was observed in the ordering of land use in Hankow. We have already sug­ gested, for example, that Ta-chih ward came to acquire something of a “ downtown” status, as center of many of the city’s longest-distance and highest-volume trades (rice, cotton, tea, hemp, and others). An even more striking hierarchy of centrality pertained with respect to the four major thoroughfares that paralleled the riverbanks. It was over­ whelmingly along the several miles of Main Street,and Main Street alone, that the warehouses o f brokers in the city’s great wholesale trades were located. The two flanking avenues, River Street and Center Street, hosted wholesale dealerships and other businesses of secondary importance. Back Street saw for the most part merely retail shops and residences. In other words, contrary to expectations for traditional Chinese urban land assignment, a considerable degree of spatial seg­ regation by process rather than by product was observed in business sit­ ings. The long, sinuous Main Street would not meet the geographer’s strict definition o f a “ central business district, ” but it was indisputably central.5*" As we shall see, the social significance of this spatial hierarchy was far from negligible. These land-use patterns at Hankow correlated to a large extent with property values. We have already seen that the city had an active land market, and that considerable attention was paid to the rentproductivity o f property. Individual and institutional entrepreneurs with a keen sense o f potential capitalized value undertook fairly largescale urban redevelopment projects. Property values demonstrated great sensitivity to a wide range of direct or indirect market factors. For example, in 1864 a succession of extremely destructive fires created a seller’s market in developed real estate, temporarily raising asking prices as much as 50 percent, and in 1889 word o f the impending post­ ing to Hupeh of the development-minded viceroy Chang Chih-tung bounded (roughly) by Cotton Street, C h’ing-lung Lane, and Tung-chia Lane. Here were found the offices o f the Hankow Taotai, the Salt Commissioner, and the Hankow Sub­ prefect, with that o f the Li-Chih Submagistrate half a block away. This administrative nucleus was repeatedly described by visitors as inconspicuous and secluded. ^The clearest description o f this hierarchy o f Hankow’s thoroughfares is in SP 、 Kuang-hsii 9/5/3. In his study o f four major Chinese metropolises in the I920, s and I930*s, Ying-hwa Chang also notes the simultaneous existence o f a “diffuse” pattern o f land use and a certain degree o f concentration o f higher-order commercial activities in an “urban core” (Chang, “The Internal Structure o f Chinese Cities,” pp. 353-56). There is a parallel here as well to the conclusion o f Hohenberg and Lees (The Making of Urban Europe, p. 33) that, whereas preindustrial European cities may not have displayed a neat, concentric ordering in the use o f space, most did have a single main street, differential access to which in large part served to define social status.

Urban Space


led to a sudden rise in property values throughout Hankow* Properties with frontage (p^-m ien) on important shopping streets naturally com­ manded higher prices than those without them, and those fronting on “official thoroughfares” (kuan-chieh) such as Main Street and Center Street ranked highest o f all.40 Though the fragmentary price data that survive do not permit us to plot the spatial distribution o f property val­ ues at any given time, one informed 1862 writer noted that “The price of land increases rapidly as one approaches the center of town.”41 Thus, even as Hankow retained several spatial elements characteristic o f Vances “precapitalist” city (and o f Chinese cities as usually de­ scribed), it also conformed in important respects to the model o f land use and land value distribution in the “ capitalist” city. This ambiguity reinforces our earlier conclusion that, in Hankow, the “ transition to capitalism” was still in mid-process, and suggests that the ecological consequences o f capitalist property relations, like their social conse­ quences, were still in the nineteenth century softened by aspects o f the Chinese cultural system in which they were embedded. That land-use patterns were capable o f undergoing further market-induced "ratio­ nalization51is demonstrated by their history in the period immediately following. In 1911,after some fifteen years o f rapid and wrenching in­ dustrialization, a local reporter noted that the major thoroughfares of the town had come to be lined almost exclusively by the newly con­ structed offices of the city’s modern businesses, and that a phenomenal recent rise in land values in the center city had forced out longestablished shops o f the area, in many cases driving them across the river to Hanyang.42One can but imagine the severity of the social trans­ formations this signaled. Residence Patterns and N eighborhood Form ation Most Hankow people lived where they worked. This was true of almost all o f the city’s large transient population_ the boat-dwellers, for instance, or the itinerant merchants who put up in hostels (k'o-chan) that doubled as offices and warehouses. It was also largely the case for resident merchants, whose typical shophouse was home for both the proprietor’s family and his employees. Even rather large businesses such as the Keng-hsing Drygoods Store near Lung-wang Temple might house their entire staff, in the Keng-hsing case more than 60 clerks, on the shop premises.43 It was generally only those persons at the extreme ^Fluctuations in construction costs o f course also influenced property values. For ex­ ample, the imperial purchase o f 100,000 taels worth o f timber at Hanyang’s Parrot Island fgr post-Taiping reconstruction o f palaces at Nanking led to a roughly 15 percent rise in prices o f new buildings at Hankow in 1864. Cox, letter o f 28 Dec. 1864, M M S Box 487.


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upper and lower ends of the occupational scale who lived apart from their worksite, and for these too the journey to work was usually very short. The wealthiest brokers and wholesale dealers might live in walled town-house compounds (chu-chai) away from their offices, while porters, peddlers, and beggars lived in thatched huts (tsao-fang, yii-shih), in makeshift mat-sheds (p ’eng-ch’ang), or in extreme circum­ stances in the open streets or marketplaces.44 Proximity o f workplace and residence meant that economic elites, like their counterparts in European cities, lived close to the center o f town (as in Europe, it was essentially only with industrialization that elite flight to newer, suburban districts became the fashion).45 In Han­ kow the favored residences were in the quieter lanes, within a few mo­ ments1 walk of Main Street. By contrast, the periphery of the city— near the piers below River Street and along the interior dike near Back Lake— saw the squalid living quarters of rough laborers and the un­ employed. A good description of the riverbank was offered by the Brit­ ish traveler William Percival in 1889: N early all the so-called Chinese houses— or, m ore correctly speaking, all the m o st miserable shanties, letting in b o th w in d and rain— o n the b an k o f the

river, are raised well up on piles, thirty to forty feet above the high-water mark. . . . In these wretched dwellings live hundreds of families. . . . When the water rises, twenty-five, thirty, or more feet above its ordinary level, many o f these piles are swept away, down come the houses, bringing their occupants with them, who are carried away by the current.46

The general spatial hierarchy of residences, as o f businesses, was ac­ companied by one of local origin. Put simply, there was likely to be a direct correlation between the centrality within Hankow of one's res­ idence or worksite and one’s distance from one’s native place.47 Main Street and the other major wholesale business areas were home to mer­ chants hailing from such far-off parts of China as Shansi, Anhwei, and Kwangtung, whereas peripheral areas such as River and Dike streets were peopled largely by Hupeh or Hunan natives. Yet, important as personal wealth and ethnicity were in determining general residence patterns in the city, probably the more important fact was that these were only generalities. When one shifts the focus from the level o f the city as a whole to that o f the urban neighborhood, in virtually all cases what one finds is not an exclusivity by social class or native origin, but rather precisely the opposite. Most neighborhoods in Hankow were strikingly heterogeneous. The basic unit o f neighborhood solidarity in Hankow was the “street” (chieh, hsiang) or, for larger throughfares, the “block” (tuan). The phrase “ men o f the [same] street” (chieh-shih-jen) sometimes ap­

Urban Space


pears in contemporary sources to describe neighbors, and visitors left frequent descriptions of residents of a street sitting out in their door­ ways, chatting together while enjoying the cool evening breeze. Prob­ ably the situation can be no better summed up than by citing Imahori Seiji’s observation of Peking: “A ‘street’ (chieh-hsiang) is not a thor­ oughfare, but rather a society made up of the households on either side.”48 One way in which neighborhoods were heterogeneous was in being simultaneously commercial and residential, a characteristic guaranteed by the prevailing functionally integrated use of individual properties. This pattern may be seen in the following two examples, which are among the best documented: Liu-tu ch’iao (Sixth-ferry bridge) and Shen-chia miao (Shen-family temple). The first neighborhood, site of a bridge spanning the Yii-tai canal, was one o f the oldest-settled areas of town, dominated by migrants from nearby Hupeh counties. A cen­ ter o f the coppersmithing and ironsmithing trades, and home o f the Leather Goods Guild, it was also intensely residential, and countless working-class homes made it notoriously prone to fire. Its numerous wineshops and teahouses served both neighborhood people and others from throughout the city. The second neighborhood, a sidestreet run­ ning from the bustling temple itself down to the river, hosted one of the city's busiest open-air markets, several literati-run benevolent halls, numerous native banks, many old medicinal herbs dealerships’ and the Soochow Guildhall. The pier at its foot served both ferries to Hanyang and visiting Hunanese rice boats, and the area was a center of Hankow’s grain trade. It was also densely packed with small retail shophouses and shacks of casually employed longshoremen. A further type of intraneighborhood diversity was occupational, a fact that persisted despite the tendency of individual trades to concen­ trate in separate parts o f the city. (Although many Hankow streets bore names suggesting exclusivity by trade— Calico Street, Muslin Street, Tailors,Lane, Actors,Alley— by the nineteenth century most such names were vestigial. In the 1870’s,for example, there were no cop­ persmiths located on Coppersmiths' Street.)49Routine fire reports offer us some very detailed views o f adjacent businesses~a cotton-packing plant, woodworking shop, dyeing plant, coal dealership, and tobac­ conist on Hsiung-chia Lane; a native bank, wineshop, hatband shop, grocer, imported yarn store, rope dealership, and silk dealer on Weitzu Street; a fireworks dealer, tobacconist, coppersmiths shop, cotton merchant, and noodle shop on Hsi-tzu Street.50 Despite the general ethnic distribution patterns noted above, neigh­ borhoods were also ethnically diverse. Local reporters repeatedly com­


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mented on the prevailing practice o f “intermixed dwelling” (tsa-chu) and “nondifferentiated residence patterns” (tsa-chJu pu-fen).51 There were, to be sure, some areas with strong ethnic flavors, such as the Shansi and Moslem districts, but even these were far from ghettoes. The cosmopolitan character of individual neighborhoods is suggested by the fact that the Ningpo (Chekiang) and Ma-ch, eng (Hupeh) guild­ halls were located nearly adjacent to each other, as were those of Huang-chou (Hupeh) and Chung-chou (Honan), Kiangsu province and Nan-ch’eng (Kiangsi), and C h’en-chou (Hunan) and Nan-ch, ang (Kiangsi).52By the latter decades o f the century Huang-p, i Street was a neighborhood of Huang-p’i county natives in name only.53 Finally, despite the general trend for elites to congregate toward the center o f town and push poorer people toward the periphery, neigh­ borhoods were also mixed in terms o f economic levels. Again, there were some neighborhoods (Chung-shen Lane, Kuan-yin Temple Lane) known to be more gentrified, and others (Ch, ang-sheng Street, Chunt’i Temple) known as “impoverished.”54 Yet the pervasiveness o f the shophouse and other forms of employer-employee coresidence guar­ anteed that no neighborhood was likely to be fully economically ho­ mogeneous. This fact was exemplified by Yung-ning Lane, where some o f Hankow’s most opulent townhouses were located, but also where the towns lowest class of streetwalkers plied their traded The heterogeneity of Hankow neighborhoods tells us something important, I believe, about the city’s overall social character. Historians examining the rise o f large-scale merchant capitalism in the W estprior to industrialization— have frequently been struck by its visible ef­ fects on urban neighborhood composition. For example, studying Rochester, N .Y. (where the transition came in the early nineteenth cen­ tury), Paul Johnson notes: In 1820 most Rochesterians worked, played, and slept in the same place. There were no distinct commercial and residential zones, no residential areas based on social class. The integration of work and family life and master and

wage earner produced a nearly random mix of people and activities on the city’s streets. That changed quickly after 1825. Masters moved their families away from their places of business, and some o f the side streets took on a distinctive ♦In his comparative study o f land use in Peking, Tientsin, Nanking, and Shanghai, Ying-hwa Chang notes a predominant pattern o f mixed residence by economic level, even while more and less “fashionable” residential areas did exist. He concludes that, “There seems to have not been a social class structure and other institutional bases for the agglomeration o f upper-class families.” Significantly, Chang also observes in the early twentieth century a new and rapid development o f far more homogeneous upper- and lower-class neighborhoods. Evidence from Hankow fits his conclusions nearly perfectly. See Chang, ,4The Internal Structure o f Chinese Cities’” pp. 369-81 (quote from p. 377).

Urban Space


residential, middle-class character. Workingmen, forced from their employers’ households, moved into neighborhoods o f their own.55

There were obviously cultural as well as economic factors that deter­ mined the timing o f this transformation in individual cities. In London, for instance, it seems to have been well under way by the mid-i700’s, whereas in Paris, where the triumph o f commercial capitalism lagged only slightly behind, neighborhoods seem to have remained largely heterogeneous by class well into the nineteenth century.56In nineteenthcentury Hankow, despite the prevalence o f a highly developed com­ mercial economy, in at least this one of the anticipated social conse­ quences the city had not taken “ merchant capitalism5* to its logical lim­ its. Though richer and poorer areas o f the town had clearly begun to emerge in the nineteenth century, prior to industrialization Hankow continued to display, at least to a significant degree, the pattern o f in­ termixed neighborhoods typical o f Chinese cities. We may suppose that this contributed in no small way to the citys ability to maintain an overall atmosphere o f consensus and community on the municipal scale. What were the bonds that held together these highly diverse urban neighborhoods? First and foremost was the common concern for se­ curity. Many neighborhoods were fortified by enclosing street gates (cha-lan), and although for much o f the nineteenth century few o f these were kept in working repair or religiously closed every night, the visual stimulus to neighborhood solidarity must still have been pronounced.57 Neighborhoods were also the basic units for pao-chia regimentation, and for other periodic impositions o f collective responsibility; Magis­ trate Ts*ai Ping-jung in June 1877, for example, made the various shops o f each street mutually liable for circulation or hoarding of contraband Currencies.58Economically, tenant-proprietors o f the same block were frequently united by sharing a common landlord, and residents usually "shopped at a common set o f retail stores. Shopkeepers patronized the same native bank (ch'ien-chuang), often physically situated in their midst, and personal loans were brokered and secured by neighborhood go-betweens (chung-pao) Needless to say, such ties stimulated a healthy interest in mutual financial solvency. Virtually every street had its own temple, whose parish was precisely coterminous with the neighborhood and which served as the focus of neighborhood worship. Temples of course had expenses, and their cor­ porate finances were managed by a board of neighborhood shopkeep­ ers and underwritten by locally imposed assessments on property.60At festival times neighborhoods demonstrated an even greater capacity for


The City

collective action and organization, as we shall see in Chapter Five. In short, Max Weber’s dictum that, in China, “The village legally and ac­ tually was capable o f acting as a corporate body through the temple— an impossibility for the city”61 was based on the failure o f his sources to look below the level o f the municipality to that o f the “urban vil­ lage,** the street. Beyond performing these basic local community functions, there were a number of ways in which Hankow neighborhoods deliberately organized to manage or finance specific tasks. O n occasion, the initia­ tive came not from local people but from the administration, which delegated such things as repair o f public facilities (e.g., ferry docks) to shopkeepers in the immediate area, much as it did maintenance o f cer­ tain hydraulic works (min-t'i, or “people’s dikes”)in rural areas. But neighborhoods also relied upon their own initiative not only for such purposes as sanitation and street repair, but also increasingly over the nineteenth century for an expanding range of public-security and public-welfare programs. Most often they did this not through formal organizations such as the street associations found by Imahori in Pe­ king, or the “Kaifong” (Mandarin: chieh-fang) studied by James Hayes in nineteenth-century Kwangtung coastal ports, but through an infor­ mal yet routinized pattern of neighborly cooperation.62The expanding activism of Hankow neighborhoods is in large part the story we have to tell here. Perhaps the better question, then, is not what gave urban neighbor­ hoods their internal cohesion but rather what allowed them to function in harmony with one another? One method was by nesting into higher levels of organization. The ward (fang), for example, was a readily available intermediate organizational unit between the neighborhood and the municipality. For the administration, the wards (actually, twoward units) served asjurisdictions for the town’s submagistrates, whose role in local governance was far from negligible, and as units of man­ agement for the pao-chia system, both in census-taking and in the chain of reporting responsibility for pao-chia headmen.63 For the urban pop­ ulace, the ward was used as a locational indicator for businesses, tem­ ples, and other institutions, and as the catchment area for certain retail or service-oriented guilds (e.g., the 1667 Hsun-li ward butchers’ guild, the 1866 Chii-jen bricklayers' guild, and the 1889 Chu-jen and Yu-i fishmongers’ guild).64 The most vital service the ward offered city people, however, came in the organization of urban militia recruitment and management, on private initiative beginning with the late 1850’s and under official coordination from the mid-1880 s (see Part Four, be­ low). It thus seems likely that it was only in the post-Taiping era, as

Urban Space


such security systems assumed an ever-greater profile in Hankow life, that the ward became a really powerful unit o f community organization and identity. A more basic aid to interneighborhood cooperation throughout our period was the fact that, for all their utility as units of collective action, neighborhoods were neither exclusive nor closed. For one thing, there was always a great deal of geographic mobility within the city. This was true not only o f transient merchants (whose tendency to change their lodgings almost daily continued to frustrate local authorities5de­ sire to monitor their whereabouts),65but o f permanent residents as well. For example, many retailers owned not one but a chain of stores throughout the city, and both they and their employees shuttled from one store to another as business activity demanded.66Other merchants simply moved their operations as they saw fit. Secondly, the territorial subcommunity o f the neighborhood was cross-cut by other,equally compelling subcommunal ties. Gilbert Rozman has observed that: “The bonds of common origin and occupation weakened in Tokugawa cities and ties based on residence within the same cho spread. The same transformation did not occur in China. Pro­ pinquity within the city was secondary to Vung-hsiang (from the same hsien) and t'ung-hang (from the same guild) in urban organization.”67 Evidence from Hankow suggests that Rozman underestimates the functional role of residential propinquity in urban China; yet the con­ tinued importance of the kinds of ties he points out, under conditions o f heterogeneity of the neighborhood by ethnicity and trade, gave Hankow a dense intermeshing of personal identities upon which a sense of community transcending the individual street could be, and was, constructed. At the same time, as we shall see, the compartmental char­ acter o f strong neighborhood units served as a handy device for the forging o f municipality wide systemic linkages— both for competitive recreational purposes in popular festivals, and for more pragmatic ends such as public welfare and public security. In short, the city’s organi­ zational and mobilizational resources were extraordinarily rich and flexible. Focal Points In arguing for the relative lack of a distinctive urban culture in China, F. W. Mote has suggested that late imperial cities lacked all the usual visual correlatives o f urban consciousness— town halls, town squares, public monuments— and that, partially in consequence of this, urban “corporate identity” could not develop.68 Although the specifics o f


The City

Mote’s argument are hard to refute, evidence from Hankow suggests that the conclusions he draws may be overstated. Nineteenth-century Hankow was endowed with a rich variety o f focal points and gathering places that served in both symbolic and practical terms to cement and operationalize community ties, as well as, o f course, to provide arenas for the occasion and resolution o f social conflict. ’ Hankow in fact did have at least one public monument upon which, it was hoped, imperial loyalty as well as municipal solidarity might be focused: the 1861 Martyrs’ Shrine (Chung-i chieh-lieh ts’u) in Chii-jen ward, upon which were inscribed the names of some 6,200 fatalities at Hankow during the Taiping wars.69But though this monument, main­ tained by the gentry-directors of the Tzu-hsin Benevolent Hall, seems a remarkably precocious example o f Western-style civic architecture, I find no evidence that it had strong sentimental appeal to the city’s com­ moner population. O f more practical significance was the Shen-chia Temple, near the city’s heart on Main Street at the boundary line be­ tween Hankow’s two submagistracies, a huge structure that increas­ ingly assumed the de facto position o f a city hall. Meeting place o f the Upper Eight Guilds (Shang-pa-hang) prior to the Taiping occupation and the Eight Great Guilds (Pa-ta-hang) in the postrebellion years, the temple (as we shall see in Part Four) gradually came to house the various functional organs of urban self-government. In line with Mote’s prediction, these were virtually the only points o f congregation specifically designed to attract the urban population as a whole. There were, however, a great number and variety of more localized gathering places strewn throughout the city. Did these, as is often assumed, reinforce the city’s cellular structure and impede the de­ velopment o f a more encompassing urban community? Perhaps so. Yet just as often, in the same way that subcommunal ties crosscut one an­ other within Hankow neighborhoods, so too did points of congrega­ tion such as marketplaces, temples, and teahouses offer sites for me­ diation between and intermeshing o f subcommunal groups. In spite of its dense crowding, Hankow did not lack for open spaces where diverse elements o f the population might mix with one another. These were not decorative set pieces such as town squares or public parks, but rather extremely vital, functional (usually multifunctional) hubs o f pedestrian traffic* Typical were the ferry piers at Chieh-chiaAccording to Richard Sennett, town squares in early modern Europe, far from en­ couraging mingling, instead fostered “isolation in the midst o f visibility.” In his view, spaces such as Bloomsbury Square and the Place Vendome were merely “ monuments to themselves,” places “ to move through, not be in.” Sennett, The Fall of Public Man, pp. 1 2 - 1 5 ,5 3 - 5 6 .

Urban Space


tsui and the Lung-wang Temple, which, with their popular temples and marketplaces,were the most congested points in the city.70 Another form o f public space was the open field just outside the dike near the T'u-tang Inlet, where crowds of urbanites gathered for festival cele­ brations, leading the authorities to fear incidents or disturbances.71 The most important open-air focal points, o f course, were markets. As the Hui-chou visitor Fan K ’ai wrote in 1822, “For a distance o f 30 li east and west, markets and bazaars are arrayed like the teeth o f a comb.”72These included great, specialized markets such as the nation­ ally famous Rice Market (Mi-ch’ang), a large raised platform of pol­ ished marble; the winter all-night markets of Wu-ts'ai Lane and Mawang Temple; the New Year’s Lantern Market o f the Ssu-kuan Temple; and the sprawling fresh fruit market at the Lung-wang Temple, trans­ formed on summer evenings into a flower market celebrated in scores o f poems.73Local retail consumers were served by many “central mar­ kets'1(chung-shih), so called because they were held for scheduled morn­ ing, afternoon, or evening sessions in the middle o f otherwise busy thoroughfares. As with rural periodic markets, these urban neighbor­ hood markets were linked by the rounds o f individual peddlers, who visited one site in the morning, another in the afternoon, and perhaps a third in the evening, serving as vehicles for the circulation o f local news and rumors.74 A more direct form of municipal integration was provided by the citywide retail shopping areas, especially the incrediblybustling temple-markets of the Shen-chia and Ssu-kuan temples. Be­ yond their spirited haggling and commercial bustle, Hankow’s mar­ ketplaces played host to street theater o f many different kinds: martial arts practitioners, prostitutes hustling patrons, streetsingers, beggars who entertained shoppers in hopes o f a handout. Although antecedents had appeared as early as the 丁, ung-chih reign, it was only at the start of the twentieth century that much of Hankow's retail commerce be­ gan to move indoors, into Western-style department stores (pai-huo kung-ssu). As Sennett has noted o f the advent of the European depart­ ment store a century earlier, this development probably marked a major step in the foreclosure o f public space and the fragmentation of the en­ compassing urban community.75 As important as open-air focal points in bringing citizens together were Hankow’s rich variety of indoor gathering spots. Temple pre­ cincts offered meeting places for trade organizations, workmens as­ sociations, neighborhood self-help groups, literati poetry dubs, and— especially at holidays and each temple’s annual fair— for throngs o f the population at large. Brokers* warehouses offered wining, wenching, and gaining for their customers and suppliers. Guildhalls were period­


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ically thrown open for public theatrical presentations. Brothels (ch'inglou) hosted fashionable business parties, while opium dens (yen-shih) offered meeting grounds for less reputable types. Public bathhouses in each neighborhood facilitated relaxed and routinized contact between local residents. Regional-specialty restaurants attracted diners from di­ verse parts o f the empire, who consciously sought to develop a more cosmopolitan palate.76 Most important o f all were the city’s teahouses (ch’a-fang, ch'a-shih) and wine shops (chiu-fang, chiu-ssu). These quintessential repositories o f both elite and popular culture were found in every area of town: along the riverbanks, in the major marketplaces, in residential neigh­ borhoods and, famously, along the lakeshore. According to an 1822 report there were several hundred teahouses scattered throughout the town; a century later the county gazetteer recorded no fewer than 696 teahouses and 286 wineshops.77Hankow teahouses varied in scale from large multistory establishments that took in lodgers to small open-air tea tables such as those surrounding the Rice Market, where wealthy grain dealers met and conducted their business in a gentlemanly fashion over tea. They varied also in clientele, from gentrified lakeshore pavil­ ions, to lower-class shacks whose gross sanitary deficiencies horrified Westerners, to those with strikingly mixed-class patronage.78 (Though Hankow laborers eagerly sought out wineshops on paydays, at other times they were forced to settle for the milder and approximately half as expensive tea.) All of them offered a functional equivalent to the cof­ feehouses of Islamic and early modern European cities: one did not go to a teahouse to seek privacy, but deliberately to enjoy good talk.79They were noisy places where labor bosses held court and negotiated work contracts with employers, where storytellers chanted tales from the Water Margin and other martial epics, where conflicts were resolved or initiated, and above all where news and gossip circulated, Conclusion Nineteenth-century Hankow was an ordered and integrated urban ecological system. Its internal spatial structure was very far from the square grid o f classical Chinese urban planning, still adhered to with more or less fidelity in most C h’ing administrative cities, including Wuchang and Hanyang. The combination of its freedom from such planning and its overriding commercial impulses allowed it to take on ^For example, H. E. Hobson wrote in 1870 that “Through the early part o f October rumours were not wanting in the tea-shops and other places o f public resort in Hankow, to the effect that the insurgents [mutinous troops in Hunan] would soon be here.” IG C , Reports on Trade, i 8yot “Hankow,” p. 23.

Urban Space


many o f the spatial characteristics associated with the so-called "capi­ talist city” o f the early modern West: the emergence o f a central district (albeit not as strictly delimited as those in industrialized cities), a hi­ erarchy o f business location in terms of process (brokerage o f long­ distance wholesale commerce at the center), and a general though by no means rigid hierarchy of residence by economic status (and, follow­ ing this, by local origin). The sorting-out process o f land assignment that produced this hierarchy was obviously determined in part by the givens o f landscape_ proximity to the Yangtze attracting interregional traders, for example— but would not have been possible without the existence of a free and active land market and a popular sensitivity to market values and rent-productivity of property. Whereas this kind of “revolution in property,” with rights of ownership virtually absolute, is often identified in the West only with the triumph of “bourgeois so­ ciety,"80it had been achieved in Hankow well prior to the start o f our period o f study. At the same time, Hankow did retain to some degree several o f the morphological features traditionally identified with the Chinese city: considerable decentralization by trade, a mixed pattern o f land use by function (commercial and residential), and, above all, mixed residence by economic class. The retention of these characteristics clearly helped to cushion some of the worst social tensions that accompanied the tran­ sition to mercantile capitalism in Western cities. Hankow’s fairly heterogeneous urban neighborhoods were capable vehicles for collective action, yet did not offer closed horizons of iden­ tity or popular mobilization. Likewise, the focal points and gathering places with which the city was liberally endowed, and which guaran­ teed its citizenry a rich public life, could offer reinforcement to sub­ community solidarity along lines of ethnicity, occupation, economic level, and proximity o f residence; yet they also served to bring diverse elements together, and, especially given the city’s role as national com­ mercial hub and its large transient population, to keep its residents in­ formed o f current trends and fashions from all parts of the empire. Hankows spatial characteristics, all in all, both reflected and reinforced the city’s exceptional vitality and cosmopolitanism. They also contrib­ uted in no small measure to the atmosphere o f urban community and consensus fostered by the city’s elite.




Popular Welfare

X h e u rb an com m unity in nineteenth-century Hankow did not spring to life out of some instinctive gemeinschaft bond uniting its in­ habitants. Rather, the sense o f communal identity at the level o f the city as a whole, transcending family, neighborhood, ethnicity, and occu­ pation, was in large part deliberately forged. This is neither to say that it was a fraud, nor that it resulted from a premeditated plan on the part o f the urban upper classes. But though, as we have seen, there were solid social and ecological foundations upon which a municipal con­ sciousness might be built, dearly the sense o f territorial community on such a large scale was a value with particular appeal for the elite. It pen­ etrated the broader urban society largely by diffusion— a diffusion achieved less through systematic indoctrination than through the in­ cremental creation o f a wide range of municipal institutions, respond­ ing to a variety of threats and needs collectively faced by the urban pop­ ulation as a whole. The nineteenth century, in Hankow as throughout urban China, was a period o f profound innovation and dramatic expansion of collective action in the provision of social services. The initiative for such action came largely from the society itself; the bureaucratic administration played a real but decidedly secondary role in the process. For the most part this spurt of activism was also a product of wholly indigenous forces, although toward the end of the century some Western influences did begin to make themselves felt. Philanthropy and community ser­ vice in nineteenth-century Hankow were grounded in the Confucian moral imperative of paternalist social responsibility, in the specific manner in which that imperative had come to be interpreted over the late imperial period, and in response to a changing social and political ehvironment.1 Though the various service areas that this wave o f innovation tduched were not always viewed by contemporaries as separable, for



purposes o f discussion let us deal in this chapter with institutions and activities oriented toward popular welfare (min-sheng), and in the next with civil construction and other projects intended for the improve­ ment o f urban services. One final and intimately related area o f inno­ vation, that o f public security, must await discussion at a later point. In looking at welfare services in the present chapter, we will first ex­ amine early efforts undertaken in the name o f the state (ad hoc disaster relief, public granaries, poorhouses, and orphanages),then turn to the privately initiated system o f benevolent halls (shan-t, ang) that grew up during the course o f the nineteenth century. We will find that, even in the ostensibly state-sponsored programs, the participation o f extragovernmental elites was always crucial to the projects' success, and that local societal participation had been growing steadily for some time. The eventual appearance o f private benevolent halls thus fit into a longer-term trend. Nevertheless, the institution o f benevolent halls, beginning in the i820, s and growing rapidly after the recovery of the city from the Taipings, did indeed constitute a bold new departure in both the conception and the scale o f routine welfare services provided to the entire urban population. The shan-t’ang,s emergence represented a dramatic change in attitudes and assumptions about responsibility for community well-being, which indicated a very different kind o f urban society in the making. State In itiative: D isaster R e lie f The two forms o f disaster that regularly struck Hankow— the twin specters hovering over the city’s population at all times— were flood and fire. Indeed, these catastrophes were so routine that foreign visitors were often amazed by the equanimity with which they were greeted by local people. Floods o f calamitous proportions struck the town in 1757, 1769,1788,1801, 1848,1849, and 1884 (also, of course, in 1931 and 1957),and less severe inundations hit almost annually.2 Great fires oc­ curred in 1810, 1846, 1849, 1864, 1887, and 1892, and smaller neigh­ borhood blazes were an almost daily event. In the wake o f both flood and fire the number left homeless and bereft of livelihood could easily reach into the tens of thousands. As is well known, the imperial government in general paid more at­ tention to disaster relief after the fact than it did to routine welfare ser­ vices, and the experience o f Hankow proved no exception. Although genuine sympathy for popular suffering certainly played some role in bureaucratic thinking, the government’s primary reason for getting in­ volved in disaster relief was the preservation of order— insuring the “ pacification” (an-fu) and “tranquillity” (an-ching) of the afflicted pop­

Popular Welfare


ulations.3The most immediate task was prevention o f looting, and the officials’ first response was usually sending in troops to maintain the rule of law.4This was often coupled with emergency disbursement of grain from official granaries and, in the most severe cases, with the is­ suance o f daily cash subsidies to the homeless. In the wake o f the 1849 flood, for example, subsidies were provided at Hankow in the amounts of 10 cash per day per adult and 5 cash per child; in the disastrous bliz­ zard o f 1877 the rates were set at 8 cash and 4 cash, respectively.5If the calamity occurred in midwinter,local officials^ sometiiftes commis­ sioned the manufacture o f winter garments for free distribution to the needy, and, when lingering floodwaters spawned epidemics, they dis­ tributed free medical supplies.6 Most revealing was the administrations attitude toward sheltering the homeless. Both flood and fire tended to strike the poor more fre­ quently than the comfortably well-off, because poorer neighborhoods tended on the one hand to cluster along the low-lying riverbanks and lakeshores on the city’s outskirts, and on the other hand to be more densely built up, using particularly flammable materials such as thatch. Even so, these poorer populations exhibited attachments to their homes that struck Western observers as remarkable. A bemused Griffith John, for example, wrote of the way residents of flood-stricken neighbor­ hoods clung to their dwellings “to the last moment,” rather than flee to higher ground: “By means o f raised boards, and piled up tables and benches, they continue to live with several feet of water inside their ^houses. Confined to a very contracted space between the water and the roof, you see them sometimes moving along in their double [51c] and sometimes crawling about on all fours as if they were so many quad­ r u pe ds .T ho se forced out o f their homes faced the alternatives of buying rush mats from itinerant vendors to construct refugee-style ^ lean-tos, or o f camping out in the open air in the city’s streets and mar­ kets.8N ot infrequently a serious disaster was met by some private bene­ factor contributing funds for the creation of temporary shelters; the salt tnerchant Hsu Fu-yao, for instance, gave 3,200 taels for this purpose following the great fire of 1810.9 Both officials and elites, however, were strongly conscious o f the attachment o f lower classes to their proper residences, and accordingly devoted much money and attention to the swift reconstruction o f devastated neighborhoods. As analyzed by Shen-pao following the fire o f 1882,this concern derived above all from a fear that unduly long dislocation o f poor households from their homes would risk a breakup o f the family group; given the importance accorded by Confucian social thought to the domestic unit in the main­ tenance of stability, this risk was to be avoided at any cost.10 Although officials usually responded to the worst disasters with dis­



bursements from government treasuries and even their own pockets, the major funding for disaster relief came from local societal sources. Sometimes the donors were institutional— guilds or the informal as­ sociation o f salt merchants (which donated over 20,000 taels to local disaster relief between 1799 and 1801)— but more often they were in­ dividuals.11The officials knew well whom to approach within the mer­ chant community in time of need, the celebrated local boosters who were sure to open their pocketbooks and line up colleagues to do the same. Time after time the same names recur: Wu Kuang-te and Yeh Ch'eng-ch'iian in the eighteenth century, Hsu Fu-yao in the early nine­ teenth, Hsiung Chien-hsun in the post-Taiping decades, to name but a few. The incumbent chairman of the reputation-conscious Hui-chou Guild was always a good bet, all the way from C h ’eng Tzu-yiin in the early days o f the C h’ing to Yu Neng-p’ei and his son Sheng-chu at the dynasty’s end.12 Depending on the nature of the crisis, these philan­ thropic leaders might solicit contributions simply from the most wealthy merchants, or from all ^substantial households *(shih-hu) ,then personally assume accountability for the funds and management o f the relief efforts. As the 1867 county gazetteer noted, the role of the admin­ istration was essentially to “prompt and endorse” (ch^an-yu), whereas the tasks o f “financing and implementing*5 (chtian-pan) relief efforts were left to Hankow’s “merchants and people.”13 State In itiative: G ranaries


The mentality o f the late imperial Chinese state, like that of old re­ gime France, laid great stress on the responsibility for provisioning its population. The legitimacy a dynasty claimed for itself rested heavily on its ability to feed its subjects, and consequently control over the cir­ culation, supply, and price of grain remained a cornerstone o f eco­ nomic policy.14One o f the basic instruments the state employed toward this end was its system o f local granaries, and it is in this area o f routine public welfare that the administration remained most active. A rough sketch o f the history of granary institutions in Hankow and Hanyang, therefore, reveals a good deal about the changing intentions and ca­ pabilities o f the state in meeting the needs of its urban populations. Over the Ming-Ch’ing period, a confusing number o f similarly named grain storehouses made their appearance (and disappearance) in Han­ yang county, and these storehouses may be classified into the “evernormal, ” “emergency,” and “community” types. Euer-Normal Granaries (ch'ang-p^ng tsfang). A standard governmental instrument o f food-supply regulation under the Sung and the Ming, ever-normal granaries were reinstituted under Ch'ing statutes of 1660

Popular Welfare


and 1691, but for whatever reason that of Hanyang county, located at the county seat and under the direct control of the magistrate, was re­ established only in 1729. As its name implied, this type of granary was intended to serve the public welfare only indirectly, by maintaining sta­ ble or level (p'ittg) rice prices over time and between regions o f the em­ pire. This was done by buying grain after the harvest, when it was cheap, and dumping it to bolster local supply during times of escalating prices. Whereas through most of the eighteenth century this system seems to have worked fairly well, it rapidly fell into decay during the corrupt last decades o f that century.15When the Hanyang granary was inventoried in 1848, it was found to contain only 6, 100 tan o f grain, a small fraction o f its specified quota o f 97,297 tan. Destroyed four years later during the first Taiping ransacking o f the city, it was never rebuilt.16 Emergency Granaries (yu-pei ts’ang). The other component o f the gra­ nary system inherited from the M ing was the so-called emergencygranary system, designed to provide direct relief by dispensing grain to the needy in times of dearth. These were to be smaller but more nu­ merous than the ever-normal granaries, deployed at the subcounty level. Over the late imperial period Hanyang county hosted several in­ stitutions o f this type. The oldest had been founded in 1388,and was formally reestablished under the C h’ing during the K'ang-hsi reign. Located just outside the county seat, it was directly under the jurisdic­ tion of the magistrate and was empowered to purchase on the market 250 tan o f rice after each year’s harvest, to store for possible emergency disbursement. In the K ’ang-hsi period, Hanyang s Yu-pei ts’ang was joined by a so-called T'ung-chi ts’ang (general relief granary), super­ vised by a Granary Intendent reporting to the Hanyang prefect. This granary's mandate was similar to that of the Yii-pei ts’ang,but it was somewhat smaller, authorized only to purchase 150 tan o f grain per year out o f prefectural accounts. Neither o f these institutions survived the Taiping devastations, and they may have been gone long before that time; indeed, one recent student has suggested that the emergency gra­ nary as an institution had disappeared throughout the empire by the eighteenth century.17 Community Granaries (she-ts^ng). All of the granaries so far discussed included Hankow within their formal service area, but none was ori­ ented specifically toward the city’s own needs. This was the task o f a very different sort o f institution, the “community granary.” The unit upon which she-ts,ang were to be founded was the she’ a hallowed concept in Chinese political thought that came to acquire a quasi-mystical aura of grass-roots communitarianism, especially in rural areas.18 Already by the twelfth century, Chu Hsi had popularized the creation o f granaries based on this presumably “natural” unit, and thereafter his authority



was regularly invoked by those who sought to promote granary found­ ings . The key elements that differentiated she-ts,ang in theory from other granaries were their establishment on popular initiative with local so­ cietal financing and management, their specifically rural location, their attachment to “natural” units o f local community, and their basic func­ tion o f providing low-interest loans of grain to cultivators. They were to be, in Bin Wong and Peter Perdue’s apt phrase, “a public institution without being a bureaucratic one.”19The early Ch*ing rulers thought highly o f she-ts,ang,especially the Yung-cheng emperor, who called for their establishment in each county in 1724. Local officials at Hanyang responded enthusiastically. Gazetteer sources note the existence o f some 27 she-ts'ang in the county during the early C h’ing,with the first eight (one for each subdistrict) apparently dating from the K , ang-hsi reign and the remaining 19 established under the Yung-cheng reign.20 Although they were by definition a rural institution, intended to serve the needs o f cultivators alone, at least some eighteenth-century she-ts,ang were clearly located in cities. In 1726, for example, LiangHuai salt merchants laid out 300,000 taels to set them up at Yangchow and several other lower Yangtze commercial centers.21 One or more of Hanyang’s initial eight she-ts^ang may similarly have been located in Hankow; the Jesuit father Etienne le Couteaux, who visited the town in 1727—28, reported for example that Hankow*s Catholic mission was being used by the authorities "a servir de magasin pour le riz, qu’il fait distribuer au petit peuple a bon compte., , 22 Nevertheless, the orienta­ tion of she-ts,ang in this period remained essentially rural, and the goal primarily to insure the survival o f the peasant household. In Hankow this changed abruptly in 1745, at the hands o f Hupeh Governor Yen Ssu-sheng广 Yen’s unusually frank recognition o f the unique social-welfare needs o f large urban areas, in fact, so enamored the nineteenth-century social theorist Wei Yuan that Yen’s memorial re­ porting the establishment of a so-called “merchant collective” (shangshe) at Hankow was selected by Wei for inclusion in his famous Statecraft Compendium (Huang-chrao ching-shih wen-pien) o f 1826.23 Yen was prompted into action by his observation o f the difficulty Hankow ex­ perienced in feeding itself following the floods and heavy snowfalls of 1742. He wrote in part: It is now several years since she-ts'ang were established among the poor in re­ sponse to the imperial edict. When rural villages experience hard times between *Yen Ssu-sheng was a Kiangsi native who held a succession o f provincial governor­ ships in the 1730s and 1740s, including that o f Hupeh in 1743-45. His reforms o f the brokerage licensing system and o f copper coinage in the province are discussed in Rowe,

Hankow, pp. 189, 192-94.

Popular Welfare


harvests, there is no hungry person who does not receive at least some aid. However, the great markets and towns have not been provided for. Here, trav­ eling merchants congregate and specialists in all aspects of trade live from one generation to the next. . . . Some are very successful in commerce, but there are also those who fail. There are also small peddlers, commercial laborers, and homeless outcasts. In the homes o f the prosperous there is ample food and clothing, and consequently propriety and righteousness thrive. [As Mencius said,] if one’s constant livelihood is comfortably assured, ones constancy o f heart will also be maintained. But when one looks at the less prosperous trad­ ers, or still more at the laborers, peddlers, and social outcasts {liu-li wu-kuei chih "«),one finds among therri some who are desperately dependent upon charity. It is here that hotheads and troublemakers make their appearance. If there hap­ pens to be a year o f dearth, then market activity falls off and the sale o f rice comes to a stop. There is no surplus grain for distribution in the Ever-Normal Granary, and consequently no one can live in security or sleeps in peace.

After going on to describe Hankow’s great size, social complexity, tre­ mendous grain consumption, and dependence on distant areas for food supply, Yen concluded: ‘‘We should generally operate under the prin­ ciple o f each segment o f society taking ckre of its own needs. I f peasants farm industriously, they should accumulate reserves in their she-ts'ang. If merchants enjoy profits, they too should accumulate reserves on their own. These are equivalent situations.” The institution that Yen created was a merchant granary, headed by a granary director (i-chrang) who was to be a sojourner-merchant o f long residence, acknowledged public-mindedness (le-shan)7 and busi­ ness acumen. His actions would be subject to periodic review by local officials, but otherwise he would be left to operate on his own. The first director chosen was one P’eng C h’i-hsien. Second son of a merchant family that had changed its registration to Hankow, C h’i-hsien had been designated to run the family business while his elder brother Shang-hsien took a* gentry degree and entered official service. C h ’ihsien likewise received a classical education, but had never passed an examination. In his later years, 丨 P’eng edged into a second career as manager o f a wide range o f Hankow public-service projects.24In short, as a successful “ merchant-literatus” (shang-shih) of widely reputed in­ tegrity and breeding, P'eng was virtually the classic type o f the urban 爸entry-director (shen-tung)f and an obvious choice to head the merchant granary. O nly the general outlines can be discovered of the granary’s opera­ tions, but it appears to have been quite a remarkable institution that only an equally remarkable city such as Hankow could have spawned. Noting that the various trades and local-origin clubs o f the city already had their own headmen to manage their affairs, Yen suggested that the six leading trades— salt,pawnbroking, rice, timber, cotton cloth, and



medicinal herbs— and the leading provincial clubs collectively contrib­ ute several tens o f thousands o f tan o f rice to be stored at a central lo­ cation within the city. He stressed that official coercion would be un­ necessary, since he already had been informed of the leaders’ readiness to enter into the scheme (which may, in fact, have been their idea to begin with). Whenever the price o f rice in Hankow rose, grain from the storehouse would be sold off cheaply, in order to depress the in­ flated market price, and the proceeds held to replenish the stock by pur­ chase at still lower prices, “when rice boats from Szechwan and Hunan are backlogged in the harbor.” Theoretically, at least, the greater pur­ chasing power at this time would allow the granary’s holdings contin­ ually to expand. The Hankow merchants’ she-ts,ang did not survive the Taiping razing of the town, but the cryptic comments of an 1850 visitor, Yeh Tiaoyuan, indicate that it was still in existence on the eve of the rebels’ ar­ rival, more than a century after its founding. Yeh seems to suggest that grain was disbursed at below-market prices in inflationary periods not to the general public, but rather only to members o f the major trade and local-origin guilds that were its subscribers. Thus it was essentially a mutual-insurance scheme— and an effective one— but hardly the pro bono publico relief program for which, Yeh notes with some sarcasm, the granary's elite sponsors liked to claim credit.25 This interpretation of the Hankow she-ts'ang's operations helps explain why, even given the granary s continued effectiveness, ad hoc relief efforts remained neces­ sary in times o f sudden dearth. Post-Taiping revivals. N ot only did the Taiping armies wipe out Han­ kow^ and Hanyang's grain reserves in the early 1850b,they effectively destroyed the institutional fabric of the granary system, leaving local forces in the later nineteenth century a clean slate upon which to work out whatever arrangement seemed appropriate to the times. The first postrebellion granary was the so-called Feng-pei ts’ang,set up in Han­ yang city in 1871 under the management o f a gentry-deputy reporting to the Hanyang prefect. This institution probably functioned much like the older ever-normal granary (and indeed it was popularly known as the Hanyang ch’ang-p’ing ts’ang”). The key innovation here was its method o f financing: although stocked initially by a special disburse­ ment from a government granary at Wuchang, it was maintained pri­ marily by regularly budgeted payments from the Hankow office of the Imperial Maritime Customs. This reliance on at once the most lucrative and the most dependable source of government revenues in the prov­ ince probably accounted for the granary’s continued solvency. When audited in 1882 it held an actual total of more than 35,600 tan of rice.26 The other post-Taiping granary (no more were established through

Popular Welfare


the 1920’s) was the successor to earlier “emergency” granaries. Known as the Yung-sui ts*ang (ever-pacific granary), it was set up at Hanyang in 1878 by Magistrate Lin Tuan-chih, whose concurrent activities in the area o f urban law and order will be discussed in Chapter Eight. Pri­ marily intended for aid to the peasantry, and stocked with grain col­ lected from the rural elite, it also held subsidiary cash accounts for di­ saster relief, which were collected from Hankow merchants and banked with the county’s Pawnbrokers Guild at an interest rate of 1 percent per month. Nonetheless, the Yung-sui ts’ang was a small institution; audits o f 1878 and 1882 both showed holdings o f no more than 2,000 tan. Thus Hankow in the post-Taiping years was left without a public granary o f its own— a condition that persisted even after its establish­ ment as an independent county in the early twentieth century. There were good reasons for this. Official granaries had never been intended to provide for the needs of urban non-food producers, and although Hanyang granaries did under extreme circumstances make disburse­ ments to Hankow both before and after the midcentury rebellions,27this was always viewed as an anomaly. In the post-Taiping years, moreover, the responsibility for providing welfare services to Hankow urbanites was assumed by new and more effective institutions, as we shall see. Despite periodic spurts o f official activism, it is clear that the private sector had always played the largest role in both emergency and routine efforts to prevent starvation among urban residents. Even at their peak of effectiveness, the government-mandated granaries could have made very little headway in feeding the Hankow population, whose con­ sumption needs were already placed by Yen Ssu-sheng in 174$ at several thousand tan per day,28As in all communal welfare activities, the efforts o f the state were seemingly sincere, but grossly insufficient. Jo in t State-Societal Initiative: Welfare Agencies Beyond the limited role played by its system of granaries in dispens­ ing relief, the C h ’ing administration sponsored a number o f other agencies involved in the direct provision of welfare services to mem­ bers of the urban population. Even more than in the case o f granaries, however, an examination of the scope o f action o f such agencies reveals the merely token degree to which the state directly involved itself in these matters. At no time did the C h’ing state aspire to any significant role in providing a “safety net” for the downwardly mobile in Hankow society, and the trend in our period of study— despite occasional ges­ tures to the contrary— was one o f a further pulling back from direct government involvement. The Poorhouse. The most important government welfare agency lo­

i oo


cally, and the one whose history best typifies the direction of overall change, was the P’u-chi-t’ang (poorhouse). During the eighteenth cen­ tury, institutions bearing this title were established by local officials in virtually every county o f China. Their basis in statute was an item in the G h, ing Code charging county magistrates with providing "suffi­ cient maintenance and protection” to all “poor destitute widowers and widows, fatherless children, and the helpless and infirm, ’’ and estab­ lishing a penalty o f 60 strokes of the bamboo for any magistrate found derelict in this responsibility.29It is sometimes claimed that the first in­ stitution specifically called a “P, u-chi-t’ang” was that set up in Canton around 1722, and formally recognized in an edict of the C h , ien-lung emperor in 1739.30However, Hanyang’s own poorhouse may have an­ tedated this famous example, since we know that a so-called P'u-chit, ang located in the crowded western suburb of the county seat was destroyed by flood in 1727. This early poorhouse, under the cognizance o f the prefect, was operated entirely out o f official funds. Over the early eighteenth century these funds had become ever tighter, and even before its destruction the Hanyang poorhouse had begun to fall into disrepair.31 Following the flood the poorhouse was rebuilt, but because of the evident growth o f the urban poor at Hankow, Prefect Hu Chuehch, eng opted to establish a branch in that town’s Ta-chih ward in 1737. This branch soon outstripped the parent institution in size and impor­ tance. Even so, the Hankow poorhouse remained strikingly small in relation to the population it served. Ostensibly dedicated “to the assis­ tance o f orphans and the destitute, ” it encompassed a total o f 69 apart­ ments, serving perhaps in all some 200 inmates. At some point the poorhouse added a small attached granary to serve the needs of the non­ resident poor, but by the mid-nineteenth century this was no longer functioning. The Hankow poorhouse as a whole survived the Taiping occupation, but shortly thereafter was superseded by other institutions and its operations discontinued.32 With its reconstruction following the 1727 flood and its gradual ex­ pansion into Hankow, the P’u-chi-t’ang’s style o f management and fi­ nance had gradually shifted out o f official into local societal hands. Its predecessor institution had been under the direct supervision o f a sub­ prefect, but with reconstruction management was transferred to a com­ mittee o f local gentry-directors; one o f its managers in the 1730^ was the prominent merchant P’eng C h’i-hsien, whose involvement with Hankow’s community granary we have already discussed.33 Similarly, the costs o f operation, once borne solely out o f the prefectural budget, were removed from official accounts. The institution’s annual operat­

Popular Welfare


ing costs (amounting in the 1860’s to approximately 1,300 taels*) were now met from two sources: (1) an endowment from an estate of paddy fields in adjacent Huang-p, i county, originally donated in the I 73〇, s by the Hankow gentry-merchant Wu Kuang-te, and (2) a subscription taken up on a monthly basis from neighborhood businesses, averaging about 40 taels per year per shop.34 The Orphanage. Hanyang’s other major “official” welfare agency, the Yu-yiag-t^ng (orphanage), provides a variant on this pattern. Based loosely on a Sung model, C h’ing orphanages were first estab­ lished by salt merchants, who opened one at Yangchow in the 1650s. In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries they began to ap­ pear in Canton, Shanghai, and other commercial cities. The K ’ang-hsi emperor in 1711, and the Yung-cheng emperor again in 1724,ordered their establishment in each county of the empire, as formal government agencies under the direct supervision o f the magistrate. Nevertheless, as Fuma Susumu has shown, in striking contrast to their Sung prece­ dents C h’ing orphanages were by and large financed and managed by local societal forces.35 At Hanyang, the local Yu-ying-^ang was a by­ product of a legal dispute pitting the administration against Hankow's preeminent commercial group, the Hui-chou Guild. In 1732, a Han­ yang official had condemned and confiscated a block of 16 shophouses, managed by the Guild as rental properties, to be razed for creation o f a ^ fire lane (huo-lu). In fact, as the Guild had suspected, the properties were not torn down, but rather continued to be rented out by the adminis­ tration, with their income ostensibly applied to local governmental purposes. In 1734 the Guild filed suit directly with the Hupeh governor for return of these “ sacrificial properties” (ssu-ch, an, i.e., properties whose rental income had been used to underwrite costs o f the Guild’s spring and autumn sacrifices), and won its case. It then filed a supple­ mental suit with Hanyang Prefect Ts, ui Wen-yuan for recovery o f lost rental income. Although the income lost was estimated at 360 taels per year for three years, the Guild agreed to settle for a flat 1,000 taels, and further to donate this monetary award for the construction of an or­ phanage in Hanyang city, for which Prefect Ts, ui might claim credit. Moreover, the Guild would devote its considerable expertise in real es­ tate development (they were even then in the process o f building a pier complex in Hankow) to managing the orphanage’s construction. Though they knew that their own thousand-tael donation would not cover the entire cost of construction, Guild Chairman C h’eng Chang, These costs included expenditures on food, clothing, and medicine for poorhouse residents, plus salaries for two live-in servants, ten day-workers, and one bookkeeper; i 86y H C , 1 5 :1 5 -



using the Hui-chou contribution as a “moral example,” would head up a subscription drive among his fellow Hankow merchants. The drive was successful (the above-mentioned Wu Kuang-te, for instance, per­ sonally gave several hundred taels),and the orphanage was constructed and opened.36 The Yii-ying-t, ang’s operational expenses, even in this era o f “high C h ’ing,” were not met out of governmental accounts. A small per­ centage came from rental income on an endowment o f paddy land in Chiang-hsia county donated for the purpose by a prominent Hankow merchant; the bulk was met out of two special assessments, one of 8 taels per month on the Hankow salt merchants and one of 40 taels per year on the county Pawnbrokers,Guild.37Inasmuch as these mercantile contributions were the result o f mandatory (though undoubtedly ne­ gotiated) assessments levied by local officials, one might say that the Hanyang orphanage was indeed supported out o f government tax monies; more appropriately, however, it provided an example o f just how fluid the boundary was between state and society, public and pri­ vate, communal and governmental. The ambiguous status o f the Hanyang orphanage was even more ap­ parent in its post-Taiping reincarnations. Razed by the rebels in 1852, the Hanyang institution was reestablished in 1866 in the wave o f re­ newed governmental activism that we call the T, ung-chih Restoration. The guiding spirit was Hanyang Prefect Chung Ch'ien-chiin, appar­ ently a man of wide-ranging initiative who took important roles in the building o f the Hankow wall and in other reconstruction projects. The revived institution was part o f what Mary Rankin has described as an empirewide “vogue” o f orphanage building on joint state-private ini­ tiative in these years.38The new orphanage also responded to a felt need for moral regeneration on the part o f the local elite; Hankow mission­ ary Porter Smith, for example, noted in 1866 the deep conviction in local society that “the decay of all the provincial foundling hospitals” was in part responsible for an embarrassing (to the elite) rise in infan­ ticide.39 In 1866,Prefect Chung called a conference o f “local gentry and mer­ chants" to plan the reconstruction o f the Yu-ying-t'ang at Hanyang city, with an appended Home for Virtuous Widows (Ching-chieht, ang) and a free school, which would admit the most promising or­ phans from the Yii-ying-t’ang as well as other bright children o f poor county residents.40A subscription drive was mounted among Hankow merchants, which netted some 2,500 strings of cash. One fifth of this was used for the construction itself, and the remainder placed on ac­ count with the Pawnbrokers9Guild. The interest on this fund, set at 1.6

Popular Welfare


percent per month, was used to cover the operating expenses o f the home and the school. A written bond signed by the pawnbrokers was kept on file in the prefect’s office, and the orphanage s accounts were audited annually.41 Other Institutions. In the same year as the reconstruction o f the Han­ yang city Yti-ying-t’ang,a related institution known as the Public Wel­ fare Bureau (Kung-shan-chii) made its appearance in Hankow. The sketchy information surviving on this institution suggests that it oc­ cupied a particularly ambivalent position between the official and pri­ vate spheres. O n the one hand, it is listed in most local sources among the fully private “benevolent halls” (shan~tJang) of Hankow, and in many ways it does appear similar to these other institutions. Its funding came primarily from merchant contributions, and its management was partly overseen by a nearby benevolent hall, the Ts’un-jen t’ang. O n the other hand, unlike other benevolent halls this institution was known not as a “t’ang” but as a “chii, ” a term bften reserved for government agencies, and its essential function was one usually held to be a gov­ ernment responsibility, the support of indigent widows and orphans. Moreover, it was founded under the patronage of Hankow Taotai Chung Ch'ien-chun, who made a substantial personal contribution to its support; in 1890 it received a further large contribution from former Hankow Taotai Ho Wei-chien (then living in retirement in Yangchow), which allowed it to purchase the property it had long occupied and rented in Ts’un-jen Lane. But when, the following year, the Hanyang magistrate attempted to set up a supplemental foundling home at the other end o f Hankow in Chu-jen ward, he made a point o f referring to the Kung-shan chu as the “merchants’ orphanage/* in contradistinc­ tion to his own “official orphanage.”42 The implication was clear: for years in Hankow what was supposed to have been a state function had been performed by nonbureaucratic, commercial initiative. One final quasi-governmental institution deserves to be discussed. This was a style o f relief agency unique to Chinese society: a Wastepaper Collection Bureau (Hsi-tzu-chii). It was an institution with a long tradition elsewhere in the empire, the idea being to collect any scrap of paper with characters written upon it, to be solemnly burned out o f respect for the written word. Literate individuals were expected to drop off their wastepaper at the agency themselves, but a bounty was paid to indigent persons who brought in discarded paper off the streets (thus creating an occupational group comparable to the ubiquitous “ ragpickers” of early modern Europe).The concept, then, was bril­ liantly fitted both to the sensibilities o f the Confucian elite and to the need for some minimal form of poor relief.



The origins o f the Hankow Hsi-tzu-chu were unique. O f all the wel­ fare institutions at the port, this alone was an agency o f the Hupeh Pro­ vincial Administration, and was directly modeled on a similar insti­ tution founded in the provincial capital in 1872. That institution had been the brainchild o f several gentrymen in the private secretariat (mufu ) o f Governor Kuo Po-yin, who initially funded the project out o f their own pockets. As the agency from the start proved unexpectedly successful, both in its scale of operations and in the approval it garnered from local businessmen, it was soon possible to shift the burden of its expenses to a newly imposed levy o f one cash per day on all Wuchang shopkeepers (p }u-hu). Reportedly, this new levy was accepted by the merchant community with little reluctance. In 1877,the governor’s secretaries suggested to Hanyang Magistrate Ts’ai Ping-jung the possibility o f opening a branch of the Wuchang Hsitzu-chii at Hankow, and Ts’ai responded with enthusiasm广In late July the magistrate set up the bureau in a commercial neighborhood of Han­ kow, and ordered that its expenses be borne by a monthly contribution by neighborhood businessmen, according to their individual ability to pay as assessed by neighborhood pao-chia personnel. Again, there is no' record o f any resistance, and indeed the merchant-oriented newspaper Shen-pao reported the innovation in its customary enthusiastic tone of boosterism for urban community self-help.43 Although the financial burden was borne by local merchants, the Hankow Hsi-tzu-chii o f 1878 was one clear instance o f bureaucratic initiative in urban welfare services. (Indeed, the administration went so far as to order Hankow stationery shops to desist from their accus­ tomed practice of paying for recyclable scrap paper, claiming that this activity was now a government monopoly!) But the agency was re­ markable precisely because it was such an isolated case, and moreover clearly one of no more than token significance. By the post-Taiping era, the process o f state withdrawal from the business o f providing direct welfare services to the urban population, long under way, had been effectively completed.44 It is not hard to see why this occurred. Even at the peak o f state effectiveness in the midC h’ing,the Confucian commitment to small government virtually guaranteed that the bureaucracy would lack the means to deal ade­ quately with the unprecedented problems of new-style commercial 々Ts’ai Ping-jung was one o f a series o f Hanyang magistrates in the early Kuang-hsu reign who took an unprecedentedly vigorous approach to solving the social problems o f Hankow. In 1878,for example, he proposed a radical expansion o f the scale o f orphanage operations at the port, but his attempts do not seem to have borne fruit. He was much more successful in his innovations in Hankow public security, as will be seen in Chapter Eight.

Popular Welfare


metropolises. The question, rather, is why in the face o f its ultimate powerlessness the state did anything at all. Why take steps such as set­ ting up poorhouses or foundling homes that were known beforehand to be inadequate to their task? The reasons were, above all, normative. One goal was to foster public morality; in Hankow, institutions to house “virtuous widows” or to promote respect for the written word were intended to hold up certain kinds of conduct as exemplary. A re­ lated aim was more specifically to offer an example in the area of phil­ anthropy, to inculcate this as a moral value to be imitated by the com­ munity, and especially by the local elite.45In this regard, at Hankow, the state succeeded probably beyond its fondest dreams. Societal Initiative: The Benevolent H a ll System The institution o f benevolent halls (shan-t*ang), which gradually made its appearance in Hankow and other major commercial centers during the nineteenth century, had several antecedents’ but was truly a momentous social innovation o f the late C h’ing. Though governmentsponsored welfare agencies such as poorhouses and orphanages did, as we have seen, enjoy something o f a renaissance during the post-Taiping decades, this era belonged to a new type of welfare institution, which was more exclusively the product o f local societal initiative. In the late nineteenth century, poorhouses and orphanages looked backward; they were an anachronistic revival based on nostalgia for a prerebellion so­ ciety seen as more upright and compassionate. The benevolent halls, in contrast, were a novel and potent instrument of change, and a symbol o f things to come. The quasi-official poorhouses and orphanages provided one anteced­ ent for the nineteenth-century benevolent halls, but there were private precedents as well. One was the charitable activities o f Buddhist tem­ ples. In fact,the oldest philanthropic institution at Hankow, predating even the government poorhouse, was the Ten Position Temple (Shihfang an), set up in Hsun-li ward in 1646.46 In the early C h’ing this or­ ganization periodically provided emergency food relief, but although it survived into the twentieth century the temple seems to have shed its public-welfare functions long before this time. Moreover, the Shihfang an was the only one of Hankow’s many temples ever credited with any activity in this area; the town’s experience in fact strongly confirms C. K. Yang’s observation that China’s religious institutions played in general a remarkably small role in the dispensation o f charity.47 A more compelling model was probably the hui-kuan, or local-origin guild, which provided mutual assistance for its members and charitable aid for visiting compatriots. I have shown elsewhere that hui-kuan at



Hankow sometimes came to extend the range of recipients of their aid to the neighborhood, or even the urban community at large.48 Never­ theless, at Hankow hui-kuan did not play the direct institutional role in matters o f public welfare that they sometimes did elsewhere.* In their orientations and their developmental histories, shan-t'ang and hui-kuan were related but basically different sorts o f institutions. The most important institutional antecedent of the shan-t}ang was the fung-shan-hui (united benevolent society), which enjoyed a vogue in the early seventeenth century in the cities of Kiangnan and North China.49 The salient features of this type o f institution included its or­ igin in response to perceptions of rapid social change (and threats of disorder), its fully nongovernmental character, its heterogeneous spon­ sorship (usually by gentry members but with merchant and other com­ munity membership and support), its grounding in Confucian ideals o f public service and community solidarity, its orientation to collective rather than individual action (both for reasons of efficient operation and as a tool for promoting social cohesion), and above all its strict iden­ tification o f a territorially defined— specifically urban— unit of juris­ diction. Yet the line o f descent from seventeenth-century ^ung-shan-hui ^ to nineteenth-century shan-t'ang was by no means direct. Most o f the late M ing institutions were wiped out in the military strife that accom­ panied the dynastic change, though a few survived or were reestab­ lished soon after the restoration o f peace. During the eighteenth cen­ tury, institutions known as t’ung-shan-hui or t,ung-shan-t,ang were to be found in scattered lower Yangtze cities, sometimes coexisting with the newer imperially mandated poorhouses and orphanages, more often subsumed by them. The trend in this “high C h, ing” era of maximum government effectiveness was squarely toward bureaucratization, at least in name. And it was in self-conscious reaction against this bureau­ cratization and its dysfunctions that the nineteenth-century wave o f shan-t'ang founding got under way. It seems probable that in most localities— especially those such as ^ In the medium-sized commercial city o f Hung-chiang, on the Yuan River near the Hunan-Kweichow border, for example, an umbrella organization o f ten major localorigin clubs became after the 1860’s the principal vehicle o f public-welfare activism. In many respects, Hung-chiang was simply a smaller version o f Hankow: in its nonadministrative status, its heterogeneous population o f sojourning merchants, its domination by guilds, and even its generation o f an amalgamated superguild structure— known in Hung-chiang as the Ten Hui-kuan (Shih-kuan) and in Hankow as the Eight Great Guilds (Pa-ta-hang)— that assumed many o f the functions o f a municipal government. It may perhaps have been the more pressing nature o f the welfare needs o f Hankow that dis­ couraged its guilds per se from assuming responsibility in this area, passing it instead to the more professionally specialized benevolent halls. See Niida Noboru, t4Shindai Konan no girudo-machanto” (A guild-merchant in C h’ing Hunan), Tdydshi kenkyu, 21,no. 3 (Dec. 1962), pp. 315-36.

Popular Welfare


Hankow where no fung-shan-hui antecedents existed— the late C h’ing benevolent hall movement was seen by its sponsors as something quite new and novel. O n the other hand, the fact that benevolent halls made their first appearance in many localities well prior to the O pium War suggests that, whatever role imitation o f Western models may have played in their subsequent spread, they were first and foremost the product o f an indigenous process o f urban social development. The earliest self-described “ shan-t’ang” may have been that set up in the commercial city o f Lukang, Taiwan, in 1778. Shanghai had one as early as 1804, and at least four others by 1850.50At Peking, the first two ap­ peared in 1845 and 1848,followed by nine more in the 1850’s,and nearly a dozen others in the post-Taiping era.51During the postrebellion reconstruction, benevolent halls sprang up in virtually every important town of the war-devastated lower Yangtze, and gradually appeared in many other cities along the coast, notably Canton in 1871 and Chefoo in 1889.52 Nineteenth-century benevolent halls were clearly far advanced over the late M ing t,ung-shan-hui in many respects, such as their corporate character and organizational complexity. They shared with their ante­ cedents, however, a pattern o f sponsorship that was emphatically localist and extragovernmental. The earliest examples were established with no help whatsoever by local officials, who continued to see their own responsibilities for public welfare as limited to ad hoc disaster re­ lief and the sorts o f token, exemplary welfare agencies discussed above. The Lukang shan-^ang, for instance, was set up as ajoint project of the city’s commercial guilds, and Shanghai’s first benevolent hall was an offshoot o f the city’s Bean Dealers,Guild. In the reconstruction era, local administrators came to take a more active interest in such insti­ tutionalized societal self-help, and a pattern of official patronage was the result. The role to be played by official encouragement is stressed, in fact,in an 1879 lead editorial in Shen-pao promoting the empirewide extension o f the shan-t’ang movement.53Nevertheless, it is clear that this movement sprang primarily from post-Taiping intraurban elite net­ works and new currents of elite activism, in the molding o f which Shen-pao itself played no small part. The true relationship o f postTaiping shan-t’ang to local bureaucrats was perhaps best described by the Chinese scholar Yu-yue Tsu in a dissertation completed at Colum ­ bia University on the eve of the 1911 Revolution: These popular institutions being under the law, of necessity, are nominally under the supervision of the civil authorities, in whose jurisdictions they are placed. There is some form of legal incorporation, whose chief elements are approval of the institutions by the civil authorities and their promise to protect



(and sometimes, financially to assist) them. But the real control of the insti­ tutions is not in the hands of the civil authorities, but in those of the people, and their support is derived almost entirely from voluntary sources rather than from official ones.54 Indeed, although in most places local officials seem to have accepted their role o f passive support with equanimity and to have gratefully reaped the rewards o f social stability to which this societal selfnurturance contributed, the shan-Vang could under certain circumstan­ ces become a focus o f elite-official tension, as we shall see.55 Who were the elites behind the benevolent hall movement? C. K. Yang has seen such institutions as the representative organs o f the ur­ banized gentry, in the same way that merchants were represented byguilds and the labor force by work gangs and secret societies.56 But though literati elites certainly did play some role, evidence from Han­ kow and elsewhere shows conclusively that the initiative behind, fi­ nancial backing for, and even management of benevolent halls came most often from merchants.57In large part, of course, what lay behind this was the more basic merger o f gentry and merchant social roles dur­ ing the post-Taiping era. Yet it is worth noting that it was overwhelm­ ingly in cities dominated by commerce, rather than administration or absentee landlordism (Shanghai rather than Soochow), that shan-t}ang first came into being. Even in the national administrative center, Pe­ king, prior to 1890 such institutions were confined to extramural trad­ ing districts, and were spawned not by literati, but by merchants.58 Generally speaking, benevolent h^lls can be divided into two types: those that took a city as a whole as their jurisdiction, and those serving a specific urban neighborhood. Institutions of the latter variety were almost always multifunctional, whereas the former might be either multifunctional (the late-founded and virtually governmental Chefoo shan-t,ang was a remarkable example59), or set up specifically to meet a single compelling need, such as public burial. In Hankow the historical sequence was clear-cut. Benevolent halls founded before the Taiping hiatus were all municipality- or county wide in their service area, whereas those founded after the rebellion were almost all o f the neigh­ borhood variety. Lifeboat Services: The Tun-pen Vang. Hanyang county’s first benevo­ lent hall was the Tun-pen t’ang (Esteem the Fundamentals Lodge), es­ tablished in 1823. Although this institution was physically situated at the river confluence outside o f Hanyang city— in the county’s ritual center, the Clear Stream Pavilion (Ch’ing-ch, uan ko)— it was in fact more intimately connected to Hankow than to the county seat. The rea­ son for its creation was the operation of lifeboats in local harbors, an

Popular Welfare


activity that more deeply affected the heavily trafficked commercial port than the other Wuhan cities. Its endowment, as we shall see, came largely from Hankow properties;Moreover, the hall’s founders were none other than the leaders o f Hankow’s commerce and society, the Liang-Huai salt merchants.60 For nearly a century and a half, the operation of lifeboats at critical points along the Yangtze and other major transport arteries had been assumed to be the responsibility o f the local bureaucratic administra­ tion. This responsibility was mandated by no less an authority than the Ta~Ch}ing hui-tien (Institutions o f the CW'mg Dynasty, ch. 237). The ear­ liest government lifeboat agency on record was established at Ichang in 1676, and by 1750 there were reported to be some 268 throughout the empire, 67 o f them in Hupeh province.61 In the Wuhan area an agency had first been set up in the late seventeenth century and, after a brief lapse, reestablished in 1747.62It was supposed to operate some ten life­ boats, but by the nineteenth century had proven inadequate to its job. By the testimony both o f officials and of local elites, the major problem was managerial. Whereas lifeboat agencies elsewhere were often "of­ ficially established and popularly managed” (kuan-she min-pan), for some reason the Wuhan lifeboats remained under the control o f local subbureaucratic functionaries. As Governor-General Chou T’ienchueh remarked, “The yamen clerks carried out their duties lackadais­ ically, and consequently the entire operation became little more than an empty formality.”63 Dissatisfaction with the operation of the official lifeboat agency led in 1820 to a tentative effort to set up a private alternative, one that 'would be merchant-run (shang-pan). The initiators o f this plan were Pao Shih-jo and Pao Hsueh-ch'ai, two immensely wealthy Hankow salt ^merchants o f Hui-chou origin. The Paos offered some 240 taels to es­ tablish an endowment for the agency, but last-minute hesitations caused them to back down. Specifically, the two merchants expressed fears that the project would become a target for yamen functionaries, who, jealous perhaps o f the threat the merchant-run agency would pose to their own competing agency, would trump up charges against the new agency’s managers to extort great sums of money. What be­ came clear from this affair was chat in order to succeed, a privately sponsored lifeboat agency would need official patronage to ward off clerical harrassment. Following the aborted effort of the Paos, an elder o f the salt merchant community named H u Hsiao-lan decided to take upon himself the task o f realizing the lifeboat scheme. Hu was a registered native of Yangchow, but after many profitable years in the salt trade at Hankow

i io


he had retired to a life o f leisure and occasional public service in a fash­ ionable Hankow inn, leaving the family business to his son Hu Yuan. Personally approaching the Hanyang prefect for the needed official backing, the elder Hu assigned to his son the job o f actually setting up the lifeboat agency. Thus Hu Yuan (by this time a prestigious Hankow philanthropist in his own right), along with Yao Pi-ta* and several oth­ ers, took up a collection among their fellow salt merchants and en­ dowed the Tun-pen t’ang.64The success of the Hus in securing official patronage may have been related to the fact that they held gentry de­ grees, which the Paos, despite their wealth, did not. In any case, in late 1823 a meeting was called to establish the formal regulations for the lifeboat agency, which were given the force of law by being declared “on the record” (li-an) by both local and provincial authorities. The deal struck was that the Tun-pen t'ang would operate its lifeboats indepen­ dently o f those o f the existing official agency and try to avoid dupli­ cating the latter s supposed “operations, ” but the gentry-managers (shou-shih) o f the new shan-tfang were formally empowered to bring criminal charges against any yamen functionary who solicited payoffs or otherwise hampered their operations. Sixteen years later, a stone in­ scription composed by Governor-General Chou T’ien-chueh in the skan-t’ang,s honor strongly reiterated this principle: Management [of organizations designed] for the aid of men and the better­ ment of all creatures entails a great deal of responsibility. However, taking such responsibility and delegating it to knavish and parasitic yamen underlings can only have disastrous consequences in the long run. Only when local gentry take it upon themselves to serve as overseers can responsibility comfortably be del­ egated [by officials] and the activity be effectively managed. Under these con­ ditions, benevolent works [shan-chu] need not be directly in the hands of offi­ cials, but may be accomplished by drawing upon the resources of the people themselves. It is therefore appropriate that I as governor-general give my full support to such upright activities.65 , Written in the wake o f the publication o f the Huang-ch'ao ching-shih wenpien (Statecraft Compendium) in 1826, Viceroy Chou’s stele voices many o f the same sentiments expressed in that work. Indeed, as we shall see further in a moment, there is considerable justification for viewing the first wave o f benevolent hall founding, at least at Hankow, as an urban manifestation o f the ching-shih (statecraft) and feng-chien (local auton­ omy) political currents o f the Tao-kuang era. ^Yao Pi-ta hailed originally from Wan-ch’eng county in T ’ung-ch’eng prefecture, Anhwei, but had changed his registration to Hankow after sojourning there for many years. The Yaos were known as one o f the “ four great families” o f the commercially and scholastically prominent T ’ung-ch’eng. Like H u Yuan, Pi-ta had followed his father into the salt trade, as had his several brothers. Fan K , ai. 5:38.

Popular Welfare

h i

Several o f the officially approved regulations of the private lifeboat agency seem to have been specifically designed to shield that agency from intimidation on the part o f yamen clerks (hsu-i). The particular power the latter held over such agencies was their ability to influence the conduct of inquests (hsiang-yen) into causes of death for corpses re­ covered by agency personnel; if not paid off, clerks apparently could claim that the lifeboat crews had themselves been responsible for the drowning, or had misappropriated personal effects. The instrument se­ lected by the agency managers and the officials to circumvent clerical malfeasance in this area was the local pao-chia headman, or ti-pao. The ti-pao were made responsible for identification of all corpses, notifica­ tion o f next o f kin,and return to the family o f all personal effects. They were also required to submit a formal report on each corpse recovered, describing in detail all articles found on the body and verifying that there were no signs of foul play. If there were no such signs, the corpse would be returned to the family for burial or interred in a public cem­ etery at the Tun-pen t’ang’s expense. If foul play was suspected, the corpse would be turned over to the authorities and an inquest under­ taken.66 At the same time, precautions were taken against the real possibility of misbehavior on the part of the agency’s five-man lifeboat crews. As Morita Akira has pointed out, the proliferation o f lifeboat agencies in these years was directly related to the growth of a poor and rootless labor force,67 and relying on such individuals to man agency boats oc­ casioned hazards o f its own. In order to provide an incentive for the rescue o f the drowning alive, wherever possible, the bounty paid to boat crews for saving living persons was made five times greater than that for recovering drowned corpses— 1500 cash as opposed to 300欠 These bounties were increased in times o f bad weather, when risk to the lifeboatmen was likewise greater. Agency personnel were allowed to engage in other enterprises, such as ferrying persons and goods across the rivers, but only in fair weather and upon the express approval of the agency’s directors. Moreover, in part to stimulate their crews, initiative in bad weather, the agency offered a bounty also to nonagency boatmen who beat the lifeboats to the recovery of victims. Severe pun­ ishments were spelled out for employees engaging in any corrupt ac­ tivity. 冷According to a subsequent report by a British Consul in Hankow, the agency’s orig­ inal code had in fact offered higher bounties for recovery o f corpses than for living vic­ tims, “ owing to the exaggerated respect entertained for the dead by the Chinese.” This had been changed in the code’s 1839 revision, however, “on account o f a very general suspicion that the society’s employees drowned their subjects before taking them out o f the w ater ” !Caine, letter o f 5 Oct. 1869, F O 17/534-



Under the personal direction o f Hu Yuan, the Tun-pen t’ang in its early years enjoyed great success and popular acclaim. To its initial four ang’s wharf outside Hanyang, were boats, operating out of the skan-t, added by 1839 five more, working out of a branch office on the Wu­ chang side. In its first sixteen years of existence, the agency was credited with the rescue o f some 4,132 drowning persons and the recovery of nearly 7,000 corpses, figures that clearly indicate the gravity o f the problem (and, it might be added, offer a hint o f the true size of the city’s population in these years.) The shan-fang also began to branch out from its narrowly limited original aims, first by offering medical aid and shelter to survivors, and then by offering financial assistance to those rescued persons who appeared to have been driven by poverty to at­ tempts at suicide.68 A new era o f welfare services at private initiative and under extrabureaucratic management had begun. Burial services: The T,ung-shan fang and Tzu-hsin t,ang. Two years af­ ter their success in creating the Tun-pen t’ang, Hu Yuan, Yao Pi-ta, and their salt merchant colleagues turned to founding the county’s second benevolent hall, the T ’ung-shan t’ang (Hall o f United Benevolence). Also situated on the Hanyang city shore, the T ’ung-shan t’ang took as its principal tasks the public burial of deceased persons who were either unidentified or whose kin were financially unable to provide coffins or burial plots. The t'ang maintained a free cemetery on Ta-pieh shan (Tor­ toise Hill), overlooking the walled county seat.69 As in the case o f the Tun-pen t’ang,it must have appeared logical to the benevolent hall’s founders to set up their operation near to the county’s center of bu­ reaucratic administration and Confucian culture. Nevertheless, also like its predecessor, the T’ung-shan t’ang’s true locus of activity was the municipality o f Hankow. It was there, after all, that most individ­ uals lacking local roots congregated, and there that unclaimed corpses routinely turned up. It was also Hankow that saw by far the area’s larg­ est numbers o f mass deaths due to disasters of flood and fire. Prior to the T ’ung-shan t’ang’s establishment a number o f “ free” or “ charitable” cemeteries (i-chung) had already been in existence at Han­ kow for years. Local-origin guilds, such as those of Hui-chou, Shansi, and Kiangsi merchants, maintained plots for the burial of indigent compatriots who died while at the port and for the temporary inter­ ment o f wealthier ones prior to reburial in the native place.70A number o f small burial grounds were also maintained for the general public, usually out o f bequests from wealthy individuals. The cemetery o f the Octagonal Pavilion (Pa-chueh t, ing) in Ta-chih ward, for example, was given to the public by Tsui Wen-yuan, a kung-sheng and Hankow real estate developer of the I73〇, s.71What made the T'ung-shan t’ang orig­

Popular Welfare


inal, however, was its large scale, its regularized mode o f operation (made possible by an income-producing endowment),and its collective rather than individual sponsorship. For the first time, responsibility for public burial had been assumed by a group o f individuals acting as col­ lective agents for the community, via a system o f impersonal bureau­ cratized management, and for the benefit o f the municipality as a whole. After operating successfully for some six years, the T ’ung-shan t'ang came up against a severe crisis, the floods o f 1831-32. Acting in concert with the Tun-pen t’ang,the benevolent hall underwrote and carried out massive relief efforts in a Hankow swollen by rural refugees, dispens­ ing not only thousands o f free coffins but also emergency food and medical supplies. Despite their energy and resourcefulness, however, the two Hanyang-based benevolent halls proved unable to handle the challenge o f the floods by themselves. The result was the founding o f the county’s third benevolent hall, and the first headquartered in Han­ kow itself: the Tzu-hsin t’ang (Self-Renewal Lodge). The backing of this new institution for the first time reached beyond the city’s pros­ perous and always socially conscious salt merchant elite to include “merchants and commoners from throughout the chert.” 72 In specifying ^sponsorship by the tlchent>y moreover, it for the first time fixed Hankow alone, rather than the county or the broader Wuhan area, as the formal unit for community action. The Self-Renewal Lodge thus appears as a further breakthrough in the emergence of routinized self-nurturance at the municipality level. In the history it offered o f its own founding, the Tzu-hsin t’ang sounded a further resonance with contemporary currents of reformist political thought. Again, it is the yamen clerks with their manipulation of coroner’s inquests who emerge as the villains. The juxtaposition of obvious commercial prosperity and the problems o f the homeless des­ titute, especially during winter months, presented local merchants with a chronic dilemma. Local officials naturally attempted to prompt spcietal efforts at relief, and subbureaucratic functionaries increasingly seized this opportunity to shake down Hankow businessmen, demand­ ing bribes in exchange for not investigating the deaths of those whose corpses turned up on the merchants* doorsteps, presumably having been denied aid o f last resort. In self-defense, several merchants de­ puted two o f their number who held gentry credentials, Fu P, ei-lin and Kan Wei-lieh, to approach the magistrate with a plan under which, in return for freedom from clerical harassment, the merchant community would undertake to provide free coffins and burial for unclaimed corpses. Given the official go-ahead, the two then launched a subscrip­



tion drive among all major property holders at the port, and the Tzuhsin t’ang was the result. The Hanyang prefect and magistrate both de­ clared the new benevolent hall’s operations “ on the record” (li-an) and, as with the earlier Tun-pen t’ang,the pao-chia headmen were enlisted to circumvent the clerks, being ordered to report all discoveries o f un­ identified corpses to the benevolent hall rather than to official yamens.73 Antagonism to subbureaucratic meddling, at least since the days o f Ku Yen-wu in the seventeenth century, had provided a recurring stim­ ulus to societal mobilization and to the rise o f the antibureaucratic, local-autonomy reformist ideas often referred to as ltfeng-chien^ (lit­ erally, “feudal”)political thought.74 In the Tao-kuang era this thought had been self-consciously revived and given new legitimacy with the publication of the Statecraft Compendium ,edited by Wei Yuan but pub­ lished under the signature of the respected provincial administrator Ho C h, ang-ling. The circumstances surrounding the founding of Han­ kow^ first benevolent hall, as with those of its predecessors at Han­ yang, suggest clearly that this pattern of antagonism and mobilization operated not only in Ku Yen-wu’s world of absentee landlordism, but also in the world o f urban commerce. In the latter context, it contrib­ uted but one more stimulus to the development of effective urban self­ management. In the first years o f its operation, the Tzu-hsin t’ang was credited with providing free coffins and burial for more than 31,000 unclaimed corpses, or nearly 3,000 per year (once again, an indication of the vast size of Hankow’s urban underclass, even in the pre-Taiping era). Dur­ ing the 1840 s, though, a period of slipshod management set in, par­ ticularly in the handling of endowment properties.75Consequently, of­ ficial and popular enthusiasm for the institution dampened. Whatever might have been the long-term result of this fall from grace can only be guessed at, however, since the Tzu-hsin t, ang,like the entire insti­ tutional infrastructure o f Hankow, was effectively swept away by the Taiping occupation. Post-Taiping Benevolent Halls. The history of Hankow benevolent halls in the postrebellion era incorporates two rather distinct stories: the revival of pre-Taiping institutions, largely under local official patron­ age, and the mushrooming o f new-style benevolent halls with virtually no official participation. Following the first rebel occupation and im ­ perial recapture of the Wuhan area in early 1853, the three older shan­ tung still retained sufficient wherewithal to undertake the mass burial of victims of local fighting. But the three institutions did not survive the devastations o f 1855-56. As the area was repacified in the last years of the decade, local officials sought to reestablish the three as fully

Popular Welfare


government-run welfare agencies, but as in earlier years clerical 4