Taisu Zhang, ‘Land Law in Chinese History’

Although land law or ‘real property law’ is but one of several branches of what scholars commonly call ‘economic law’, or laws that regulate everyday economic activity, its history has drawn, over the past several decades, an unusually large amount of attention from legal theorists, economists, and comparative scholars of all methodological orientations. This has been especially true within the field of Chinese legal history: few scholars outside the field have any clear sense of pre-modern, early modern, or even modern Chinese family law, the law of personal injury, or even criminal law, but a much larger number will likely have some impression of historical Chinese land law, and may even have an educated opinion about it. This is not because land law was any more important to everyday socioeconomic life than those other bodies of law, but rather because land law has played a much larger role in theoretical and comparative scholarship, particularly in scholarship that seeks to explain global economic divergence – specifically, the divergence between China and the West in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Although this literature has perpetrated its share of myths about Chinese property institutions, much progress has been made over the past few decades, to the point where something approaching an academic consensus on core institutional features has emerged …

Zhang, Taisu, Land Law in Chinese History (March 2, 2020). Routledge Companion to Chinese Legal History, forthcoming.

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