Cotton Textile Manufacture and Marketing in Late Imperial China and the ‘Great Divergence’

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

By 1800 cotton cloth was China’s most important domestic trade commodity after grain. This paper reviews the history of cotton textile production in the Jiangnan region (or Lower Yangzi River area) where it thrived from 1300 to 1830, and discusses the factors contributing to its commercialization. It reveals the impact of the Ming and Qing governments in its institutionalization, and how the social organization of the industry was framed around the household economy and women’s labor. This essay also documents the problems that cotton production and marketing encountered by the end of the eighteenth century, and demonstrates how the recent debates about the ‘great divergence’ and the nature of the Chinese political economy resonate in the history of China’s cotton textile enter-prise. Finally, it shows how in the first decades of the nineteenth century, empire-wide demographic and environmental constraints brought economic stasis to Jiangnan’s cotton industry.

Cotton Textile Manufacture and Marketing in Late Imperial China and the ‘Great Divergence’

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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References

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1)

Hobsbawn (1968):34.

2)

Farnie and Jeremy (2004); Beckert (2005); and Parthasarathi and Riello (2009). The latter publication was a result of the ‘Global Economic History Network Project’ (2003-06) led by Professor Patrick O’Brien at the London School of Economics. For information about the Project and other related publications see the website http://www2.lse.ac.uk/economichistory/Research/GEHN/Home.aspx.

3)

Parthasarathi and Riello (2009): 2.

4)

Zurndorfer (2009): 44.

5)

Parthasarathi and Riello (2009): 2.

7)

Xu Dixin and Wu Chengming (2000): 170-4.

8)

Shiba (2001).

9)

Brook (1998); see also essays in Smith and von Glahn (2003).

10)

Marks (1996).

11)

See Pomeranz (2000). On population dynamics see Lavely and Wong (1998) which argues against the view that all Chinese families sought or had high fertility; for a different perspective see Elvin (1999).

12)

See Pomeranz (2000): 27-38116-21 Appendix F for his views which are challenged by Allen et al. (2011). Pomeranz (2010a): 190 counters the arguments of his critics who maintain that Chinese wage earners did not have a standard of living on par with Europeans before 1800 with other information that wage earners were only a small minority of the working population.

13)

O’Brien (2006): 67-9; Zurndorfer (2011).

14)

Pomeranz (2009): 119.

16)

See Shaffer (1994). On the historiography of this routinization see Gommans and Zurndorfer (2008).

17)

Chao (1977): 4; Kawakatsu (1994): 21-5.

18)

Cartier (1994).

19)

Cartier (1966).

20)

Twitchett (1965).

22)

Chao (1977): 11-12.

24)

Pelliot (1959): vol. 1 499-507.

25)

So (2000): 79-80.

26)

Nishijima (1984): 19.

27)

Chao (1977): 16. See also Ma Wanming (2002).

28)

Bray (1997): 213.

29)

Fan Jinmin and Jin Wen (1993): 59-80.

30)

Chao (1977): 18-19.

33)

Wiens (1974): 517.

34)

Yan Zhongping (1963): 15-17.

35)

Chao (1977): 21. Wiens (1974): 518 notes that people paid tax in cotton when the rice harvest failed such as in the years 1424 and 1446.

36)

Wiens (1974): 518.

38)

Chao (1977): 20.

39)

Chao (1977): 21.

41)

Chen Shuping (1983): 29-30.

43)

On Huang Daopo see Bray (1997): 215; and Nishijima (1984): 21-3.

44)

Bray (1997): 215.

47)

Sun Jingzhi (1959): 11. Xu Guangqi:965 wrote that in Jiading peasants rotated cotton with rice every two to three years.

48)

Fan Jinmin (1998): 10-13.

50)

Liu Shiji (1987): 11-16.

52)

Xu and Wu (2000): 53.

53)

Li Bozhong (1998): 109.

54)

Liu Shiji (1984): 18.

56)

Fan Shuzhi (1990).

57)

Quan Hansheng (1958).

59)

Huang (1985): 112. See also the comments of the Ming bibliophile Yu Xiangdou (fl.1588-1609) in his popular handbook Santai wanyong zhengzong 三台萬用正宗 (Santai’s orthodox instructions for myriad uses) juan 21:14b-15a on the superior quality of cotton grown in the Hebei-Shandong region.

60)

Wiens (1974): 520.

62)

Xu and Wu (2000): 54.

63)

Clunas (1991): 104-5.

64)

Cited in Bray (1997): 225.

65)

Cited in Lin Liyue (1999): 124.

68)

Cited in Chao (1977): 50.

69)

Bussagli (1980): plates I-XVIII (cotton-making).

70)

Dietrich (1972): 126-7.

72)

Song Yingxing: (1966): 66; Hamashima (2011): 148 posits that because those Songjiang peasant families engaging in cotton production had little capital to invest e.g. for the purchase of materials to make a loom there was a “minute division of labor.” As he writes: “In this way specialist families participated in only one particular step in the entire process that transformed raw cotton into products such as cotton thread and cotton cloth; each step in the process began with the purchase of materials and the products of that step were immediately brought to market in return for which the peasant received currency.”

73)

Mann (2000): 25.

75)

Bray (1997): 189.

76)

Chao (1977): 48.

77)

Fan Shuzhi (1990): 139-41.

78)

So Ho Tam (2005): 167.

79)

Terada (1972); Zurndorfer (1989): 54-5132-5.

81)

Dietrich (1972): 130-1.

82)

Bray (1997): 222.

83)

Brook (1998): 199.

84)

Fan Jinmin (1998).

86)

Hamashima (2011): 145 argues that those who profited on a great scale from cotton cloth production were unlikely to engage in long-distance trading of this commodity or other items when there was so much to gain within Jiangnan itself through finance brokerage and storage.

88)

Cooke Johnson (1995): 53-9; Elvin (1977).

92)

Fang Xing (1987): 83-9.

93)

Fang Xing (1987): 92-3.

94)

Lu Hanchao (1992): 493.

95)

Lu Hanchao (1992): 485 claims zhongji was renamed xin’gaibu 新改布 (new revised cotton cloth) in order to distinguish the Qing version from that of the Ming.

96)

Styles (2009): 322-24.

97)

So Ho and Tam (2005): 175.

98)

So Ho and Tam (2005): 168-74.

99)

Li Bozhong (2003): 345-76.

100)

So Ho and Tam (2005): 176.

102)

Cooke Johnson (1995): 168-75 argues that the downward spiral in the foreign nankeen trade did impinge upon the ‘economic health of Shanghai’ by the end of the 1830s but she links this malaise with other factors that did not necessarily concern the domestic cotton trade industry.

103)

Xu Dixin and Wu Chengming (2000): 174.

104)

So Ho and Tam (2005): 180-1.

105)

Lu Hanchao (1992): 493-4. On Qing government involvement in establishing these trade routes see Huang Guosheng (2004).

106)

Mann (2000): 26.

108)

Marks (1996): 62. See also Bowen (2009).

109)

Fan Jinmin (1998): 67.

110)

Xue Yong (2007). Pomeranz (2000); Li Bozhong (1998). See also Isett (2007): 228-38.

112)

Fan Jinmin (2002).

113)

Hamilton Chang and Lai (2006): 116-17based on Xu Xinwu (1992). The influence of merchant-owned brand names is satirized in novellas written by Yue Jun 樂浚 (1766-1828). See Schwarz (2003).

114)

Hamilton Chang and Lai (2006): 111.

115)

Myers and Wang (2002): 644; Rowe (1998): 180-81 and in particular the drawing on page 181.

116)

Rowe (1998): 180-81.

117)

Zelin (1984).

118)

Shen Daming (2007): 85.

119)

Perdue (2005); on the regulation of brokers’ licenses and taxation see Mann (1987).

120)

Qiu Pengsheng (2007): 130.

121)

Qiu Pengsheng (2002). One should not underestimate the numbers of workmen involved in dyeing and calendaring. According to Liu Yongcheng (1959) in 1720 there were 300 dyeing mills in Suzhou employing 10000 workers in 1730 the numbers increased to 450 with 19000 and in 1833 there were 2500 dyeing establishments employing 50000 men.

122)

Pomeranz (2009): 122.

123)

Dunstan (2006).

124)

Will 1999: 358. On page 367 Will suggests that the Qing authorities did not see the Canton system as a market properly speaking but rather as a site for efficient exploitation that also needed monitoring for strategic reasons.

125)

See Hummel (1944): 233-35 for Fang’s biography; and also Will (1990): 14-16.

126)

Cited in Amano (1962): 607-08. Fang’s advice confirmed what was already a growing trend in North China i.e. the building or expansion of irrigation facilities. Chen Shuping (1983): 49 writes that the number of irrigation wells in Shaanxi province in the 1750s increased roughly to 61000.

127)

Li (2007): 100; cf. P. Huang (1985): 112-14; and Wiens (1974): 519.

128)

Yan Zhongping (1946): 20-6.

129)

Will (1994): 869.

130)

Will (1994): 867.

131)

Will (1994): 867.

132)

Dunstan (2006).

133)

Will (1994): 868.

135)

Pomeranz (2009): 129.

136)

Pomeranz (2010b): 80.

137)

Li Bozhong (1994).

138)

Liu Xiusheng (1990) observes that in 1820 more than one-third of China’s total population (126 million out of a total 300 million) lived in regions where cotton production was not common.

139)

Pomeranz (2009): 128. See also Yamamoto (1987) which examines the expansion of cotton production in central and eastern Hubei and the marketing of both its raw cotton and finished cloth in Sichuan.

140)

Pomeranz (2006): 249; Rowe (2002): 513.

141)

Rowe (2009): 92.

142)

Pomeranz (2010b): 82; McKeown (2011): 313.

143)

Pomeranz (2006): 249.

144)

Pomeranz (2010a): 193; see also Elvin (1998): 754.

145)

See Rosenthal and Wong (2011): 5-6.

146)

Rowe (2009): 95 refers to how ecological deterioration affected central and southern China’s principal ‘floodwater receptacles’ Dongting Lake in Hunan and Boyang Lake in Jiangxi.

147)

Pomeranz (2008): 87based on Wang Yeh-chien (1973): 84-109; Pomeranz (2001): 333 330 stipulates that at this point Jiangnan’s land tax rates may have been as high as fifteen percent versus a national average of around four percent.

148)

Pomeranz (2008): 87.

149)

Pomeranz (2010a): 194.

150)

Pomeranz (2000): 323-6.

151)

Grove (2004): 437; Chao (1977): 30-47 argues that in the nineteenth century the domestic production system proved highly resistant to efforts to build up factory-based cotton weaving.

152)

Köll (2004).

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