Official Landscapes in Traditional China

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Abstract

This article is arranged in seven sections. In the first section, attention is drawn to the remarkable and extremely extensive rectilinear land layouts which can be deduced from large-scale topographical maps of northern China, to the likelihood of their having been constructed in periods of official land allocation schemes, and to various problems of procedure which arise in the attempt to study them systematically. The second section surveys the chün-t'ien land management systems, as they are known from the traditional historic sources, and a number of special features of these systems, especially the relations between changes in land allocations and changes in the official units in which they were measured. It is argued that the rectilinear forms indicated by the maps could not easily have been set up in chün-t'ien times, because the land was then already closely settled, and that the prominent strip systems which can be found on most of the maps, not always clearly an outcome of the chun-t'ien systems, suggest an earlier origin for these basic rectilinear forms. This reasoning, and even more the study of the dimensions used in the strip systems, leads back to the tradition of ching-t'ien. In the third section, examples are given of military farm layouts, which are a special and local feature of some of the maps. In the fourth section, two examples of contrasting rectilinear layouts are described and analysed as types-one from Anhwei, the other from Shensi. Both appear to be T'ang reconstructions of much older formal layouts, and both are thought to lead back to ching-t'ien through detectable steps in Ch'in or Han time. The fifth section gives three examples of layouts from Shantung, all apparently rebuilt under Northern Ch'i, but all based upon ching-t'ien foundations. The sixth section illustrates and analyses a layout from Honan, apparently reconstructed in Sui times but also apparently built upon ching-t'ien foundations. In the seventh and last section, the salient features of the argument and the interpretations are summarised.

Official Landscapes in Traditional China

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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