The period from the Qin dynasty to the end of Qing dynasty is known as imperial china. This period began in 221 B.C. The first empire was the Qin dynasty followed by the Han dynasty. Though Qin dynasty failed after a shorter period, to some extent it contributed to the prosperity of the Han Chinese.
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The Han was the most prosperous dynasty. It failed because of several divisions. Afterwards other dynasties followed up but Han dynasty remained the most prosperous of all the dynasties. During Quinlong’s reign festivals that brought together friends and relatives were practiced.1
The fall of Han dynasty brought a change in the governance of the people of china. Zurndorfer says that “… a rich agricultural environment, frontier conditions, the absence of strong government control…”2 led to development of lineages this was the development of a new system of governance.
Taking a closer look at these dynasties one will find that there was consolidation of corporate lineages as core to institutions of social and economic life and due to some reasons; these lineages became famous affecting other historical developments at this time.
Consolidation of corporate lineages existed in late imperial Chinese history. Zurndorfer refers to the lineages as corporate groups.3 This is because they celebrated ritual unity and were and were from a common ancestor. They existed for long and could even trace their ancestry thousand years back and their migrations.
Lineages in the late imperial era had much to do with the social and economic life of the Chinese people in this time.4 The lineages were in charge of social activities taking place such as the rituals. This is a clear indication that these lineages were of a greater importance to the core institutions of social and economic life.
Lineages united members of the same blood, and through marriage ties. Marriages strengthened the wife’s family and elevated her status. Such families could secure power in the society and they developed social networks. Economically in the lineages there was various kind of labor due to large groups of kins organized together and from dependable families.
There were areas specialized in farming. For example according to Miles an area like Jiujang became an epicenter of “commercialized agriculture”.5 They got labor from the households found in their lineage. Through this, projects were set up, and this was profitable to the economy because they could supply raw materials from their farming.
There was celebration of Lineages during this era. They became of great importance in ancient China. Families held festivals and also performed religious rituals.6 Lineages were important in maintaining high position from generation to generation. Easy access to office was through lineages. Lineages continued to be prominent in the late imperial Chinese history.
Reasons regarding as to why corporate lineages remained to be the main feature in Chinese emperors is to be attributed to both social and economic life of the people of china during this era.
Social life of the individuals has effects toward their economic lives. As seen from the explanations above lineages comprised of people-related by blood and through marriage ties and sometimes people made famous by their careers. Because this people came together, they could thrive economically. Most lineages were also able to rule because of their economic power.
Lineages were a source of power and wealth. Lineages which ruled had to be famous and have some level of economic control. This is because for one to rule in this era it depended more on family wealth and prestige than of ability.
Families owned knowledge and techniques7 these encouraged lineages to thrive in ancient china. Individuals who desired to rule had to make it through wealthy lineages. Even an individual who did not belong to a particular dominant lineage could not get access to office even if he or she had the ability. It was a matter of family wealth and prestige.
The fall of Han dynasty of dynasty contributed to the prominence of lineages in late imperial china. This was due to the weaknesses that sprung up during the Han dynasty. They therefore influenced china society in many ways for they changed the relations between the social elites, and the courts.
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Consolidation of corporate lineages saw the pooling of resources together and hence making families to be wealthier and influential. Watson says that the corporate lineages were “Local self Government”.8 Members of the family could come up together and provide resources for certain prestigious projects.
In Fuzhou, 13 members of the family contributed funds which they used to purchase a prestigious site within city and constructed a splendid ancestral hall in which they used to offer sacrifices to their ancestors.
In carrying out such activities by some families, it mighty has brought some competition among families. This is because family lineages had wealth having the ability to control power than anybody who would have the ability and want to compete alone.
Observing of religious activities also made lineages very important. Influential families offered sacrifices to their ancestors and performed other religious rites. Religion is an important aspect in human life. Some sources say that there was a connection between the Buddhist and some imperial families.
Religious activities were important for they also helped in tracing ancestry something that was important in lineages in the late imperial china. The Buddhist religion claims a relationship between Buddhism and the imperial family of the Wei. This is important because religious activities should be taken seriously and one who supports or incorporates them is considered important.
From the following it clear that the lineages had effect on ancient Chinese society, it interacted with other historical developments in china. Lineages produced leaders, controlled social activities, and prestigious economic activities in the country of china. Lineages were very powerful and their power was greatly felt.
Lineages Interacted with other Historical developments at this time. Lineages contributed transformation of the economy. Lineages were very influential because of their control of the economy. Members of the same lineage came together and even contributed to purchase and own prestigious cites.
Some families as earlier explained specialized in various economic activities like farming done by the Fan clan of Nantang. Such activities transformed the economy because a certain lineage was in control of a project it possessed and could finance it making it easier for the success of that particular project in a long period.
Lineages also transformed basic ways of thinking about women during this era. Women also became powerful trough lineages. Marriages also made lineages to continue. Agriculture dominated the economy of this time and women had an understanding of this.
They were constrained by tradition and local customs because the scope of the government was narrow. They therefore had to sharpen their way of thinking to ensure that they competed in a society that everybody wanted to have power through lineages that had accumulated wealth. They could understand the changes that were taking place in their society and adapt to them.
Lineages brought new territories in China. The rulers trusted those that they appointed to “make dukes” for they were his relatives from his lineage. The lineage was large and therefore they could provide the rulers with military and financial assistance on request making it easier to create new states.
Expansion of the territories was significant to China. This enabled it to handle the growing population and secure more wealth from the surrounding territories. We find that the lineages were important because any ruler need trust when he or she needs to acquire territories, and it is easier to trust a member in a lineage than a member who is not a ruling lineage.
There was expansion of Han into no-Han areas. Han was a successful dynasty. When this dynasty was coming to an end it had built up strong individuals who had accumulated wealth. These individuals set up very strong families that started tracing their ancestry.
These made the Han to spread to other areas where it did not exist as a result of lineages. Because Han was the most prosperous Dynasty in Chinese History, other dynasties that followed also adopted its name as their dynastic tittles. This was in 221, 304, and 551 Han dynasty therefore spread to other areas due to its prosperity that made many celebrate it.9
Lineages led to development of strategists and philosophers who were against increasing warfare and political strife. Chaos emerged due to who was to inherit the office in a lineage set empire. In some there were well laid recommendations for one who was to take over. Coups were witnessed in some because of jealousy.
Many people lost their lives due to such interference in the ruling offices. Strategist and philosophers emerged, and ensured that wars were stopped in the country to avoid individuals’ lives touched.
Development of independent and local elites. Lineages saw the development of many independent local elites who dependent on the strength of their families. These elites were united by blood and marriages.
They got involved in the activities of their families independently to accumulate wealth and enjoy power. Handlin-Smith10 says that special social power influence that was enjoyed by garden owners contributed to the rise and solidarity of local elites.
These elites contributed greatly to the economy of their country because coming from rich lineages helped them to have funds that they could used to support their ideas that would bring a change in their society. These elites produced great contribution to various fields such as, engineering, farming, and also teaching.
Lineages were a source of Good morals in the Chinese society. Moral development is important in the life of individuals. Because people were united by blood and lived together according to their ancestry origin, moral standards were set up highly and families lived in peace.
Families also lived by giving offering to their ancestors, and they were supposed to live like their ancestors in order to please them. This would only be done by ensuring good moral standards among members of the same lineage.
The lineages also ensured that the Han dynasty achievements continued in other dynasties that followed. The Han dynasty was considered the most successful one because it had developed strong and affluent individuals.
This individuals were responsible for the development of lineages because they stepped up to search for their ancestral origins in which they were united and ensured that the prestigious achievements of the Han dynasty were not destroyed for they were important to the growth of the china’s economy.
Though lineages were famous in early Chinese history, to some extent they failed. Lineages are thought by some to comprise members of the same ancestry but according to Chun “Sometimes among the peasants a clan is found, but is of another kind”.11
The lineage that existed in china was of great importance to the development of the economy. Lineages systems in ancient China resembled the Feudal system in Europe.
Chun, Allen. “The lineage-village complex in southern China: A long footnote in the anthropology of kinship.” Current Anthropology 37, no.3, (1996): 429–50.
Dennis, Joseph. “Between Lineage and State: Extended Family and Gazetteer Compilation in Xinchang County.” Ming Studies 45-46 (2001): 69-113.
Du, Yongtao. “Translocal Lineage and the Romance of Homeland Attachment: The Pans of Suzhou inQingChina.” Late Imperial China 27, no. 1(June2006): 31–65.
Faure, David. “The Lineage as a Cultural Invention: The Case of the Pearl River Delta.” Modern China 15, no.1 (Jan 1989):4-36.
Handlin-Smith, Joanna. “Gardens in Ch’i Piaochia’s Social World: Wealth and Values in Late-Ming Kiangnan.” Journal of Asian Studies 51, no. 1 (February 1992): 55–81.
Lagerwey, John. “State and Local Society in Late Imperial China.” T’oung Pao 93, no. 4- 5. (2007): 459-479.
Miles, Steven B. “From small fry to big fish: representing the rise of Jiujiang Township, Nanhai County, 1395-1657.” Ming Studies, no. 48 (Fall 2003): 65-99.
Siu, Helen. “Recycling Tradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, no. 4 (1990): 765–94.
Watson, Ruble S. “The creation of a Chinese lineage: the Teng of Ha Tsuen, 1669- 1751.” Modern Asian Studies 16, no. 1 (Feb1982): 69-100.
Zurndorfer, Harriet T. “Local Lineages and Local Development: A Case Study of the Fan Lineage, Hsiu-ning hsien, Hui-chou, 800-1500.” T’oung-pao 70, no.1-3 (1984):18- 59.
1 Helen Siu, “Recycling Tradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, no. 4 (1990): 766.
2 Harriet T Zurndorfer, “Local Lineages and Local Development: A Case Study of the Fan Lineage, Hsiu-ning hsien, Hui-chou, 800-1500,” T’oung-pao 70, no.1-3 (1984):21.
4 David Faure, “The Lineage as a Cultural Invention: The Case of the Pearl River Delta,” Modern China 15, no.1 (Jan 1989):4.
5 Steven B. Miles, “From small fry to big fish: representing the rise of Jiujiang Township, Nanhai County, 1395-1657,” Ming Studies, no. 48 (Fall 2003): 65.
6 Helen Siu, “Recycling Tradition: Culture, History, and Political Economy in the Chrysanthemum Festivals of South China,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32, no. 4 (1990): 766.
7 Joseph Dennis “Between Lineage and State: Extended Family and Gazetteer Compilation in Xinchang County,” Ming Studies 45-46 (2001): 69.
8 Ruble S. Watson, “The creation of a Chinese lineage: the Teng of Ha Tsuen, 1669-1751,” Modern Asian Studies 16, no. 1 (Feb1982): 69.
9 John Lagerwey “State and Local Society in Late Imperial China,” T’oung Pao 93, no. 4-5. (2007): 459.
10 Joanna Handlin-Smith, “Gardens in Ch’i Piaochia’s Social World: Wealth and Values in Late-Ming Kiangnan,” Journal of Asian Studies 51, no. 1 (February 1992): 55.
11 Allen Chun, “The lineage-village complex in southern China: A long footnote in the anthropology of kinship,” Current Anthropology 37, no. 3, (1996): 429.