From Resistance to Participation: Clanship and Urban Modernization in the Wuyi Rural Market Towns during the Republican Era

Abstract

Studies on urban modernization in early twentieth century South China usually attribute rural development to the government and some returned overseas Chinese only. In Wuyi, a region in South China, traditional clanship dominating the rural society is usually considered to be slowing down urban modernization during that period. However, most of the modernized rural markets were in fact developed by the local clan organizations. It seems that clanship influence on urban modernization in rural society has always been underestimated.
This paper attempts to investigate the neglected role of these clan organizations in the process of urban modernization during the Republican era in Wuyi. It is a historical study that is mainly based on archival documents including government publications, articles in local magazines, share offer prospectuses for village and market establishments, fundraising articles for construction of bridges, etc.
The above documents show the gradual change of clan organizations’ attitude from resistance to acceptance, cooperation, and finally to active participation in the process of urban modernization in their hometowns. They are further analyzed by referring to artefacts of townscape which show merger of traditional clanship and modernized practices in rural markets. As an illustration, Tingjiang Xu is examined to show inter-clan competition with neighbouring markets under the modernized administrative system and design.
This paper concludes that clan organizations had acted as a crucial intermediate party among the government, returned overseas Chinese, and the local individual dwellers in urban modernization in Wuyi. It corrects the widely but wrongly held image of a reactionary clanship society being pressured by external forces for modernization in Republican China (1912-1949).



Author Information
Tung-Yiu Stan Lai, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: ACAH2013
Stream: Arts & Humanities

This paper is part of the ACAH2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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