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

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Authors:
Tung-Yiu Stan Lai, Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hong Kong
Weijen Wang, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
Email: stylai1421@yahoo.com.hk
Published: September 2014
https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.2.1.03

Citation: Lai, T.-Y. S., & Wang, W. (2014). From Resistance to Participation: Clanship and Urban Modernization in the Wuyi Rural Market Towns During the Republican Era. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.2.1.03


Abstract

Studies on urban modernization in early-twentieth-century South China usually attribute rural development only to the government and some returned overseas Chinese. In Wuyi, a region in South China, the traditional clanship that dominated rural society is usually considered to have slowed 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, fund-raising articles for construction of bridges, etc. The above documents show the gradual change of the 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 the 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 pushed by external forces for modernization in Republican China (1912–1949).

Keywords

urban modernization, Wuyi, Republican China, clanship