Although most studies of rural society in China deal with land villages, in fact very substantial numbers of Chinese people lived by the sea, on the rivers and the lakes. In land villages, mostly given to farming, people lived in permanent houses, whereas on the margins of the waterways many people lived in boats and sheds, and developed their own marked features, often being viewed as pariahs by the rest of Chinese society. This book examines these boat and shed living people. It takes an "historical anthropological" approach, combining research in official records with investigations among surviving boat and shed living people, their oral traditions and their personal records. Besides outlining the special features of the boat and shed living people, the book considers why pressures over time drove many to move to land villages, and how boat and shed living people were gradually marginalised, often losing their fishing rights to those who claimed imperial connections. The book covers the subject from Ming and Qing times up to the present.
Introduction: Boat living in land-based society He Xi and David Faure Part One: As seen from historical sources 1. Government registration in the fishing industry in the Ming and the Qing Yang Peina 2. Dispersal and Regrouping in Zhoushan islands from the Ming to the Qing Xie Shi 3. The right to fish on Poyang lake as seen in a local record Liang Hongsheng 4. The complexities of property rights at Diaocha lake as seen from litigation Zhang Xiaoye Part Two: As encountered in field research 5. Gods adrift: religious ritual and local society on Naozhou Island He Xi 6. Incense associations among small boat fishermen on Tai lake Xia Yihong 7. Some examples of the responsibilities and succession of incense heads (xiangtou) among the fishermen of Tai Lake Ota Izuru 8. From respect for the gods to sacrifice to the ancestors, creating lineage culture among the fishermen of Weishan lake Diao Tongju and She Kanglue Part Three: As contemporary stereotypes 9. Land supports fishing people: the fishermen of Dongting lake from the 1930s to the 1950s Wong Wing-ho 10. Going beyond pariah status: the boat population of Fuzhou in the Chinese People’s Republic Huang Xiangchun 11. From sheds to houses: a Dan village in the Pearl River delta in the twentieth century Zeng Huijuan 12. The recent history of the fishing households of the nine surnames, a survey from the counties of Jiande and Tonglu, Zhejiang province Sato Yoshifumi
Historians are being increasingly attracted by the methodology of historical anthropology, an approach which combines observations in the field with documentary analysis, both of official documents and of documents collected from local society. In China, historians have been pursuing such local historical research for a generation, with very little of this work being available in English hitherto. This series makes available in English research undertaken by the Historical Anthropology of Chinese Society project based at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and related work. The books argue that top-heavy, dynasty-centred history is incomplete without an understanding of how local communities were involved in the government process and in the creation of their own historical narratives. The books argue that Chinese social history needs to be rewritten from the bottom up.