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Lineage Organization in North China

Myron L. Cohen
The Journal of Asian Studies
Vol. 49, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 509-534
DOI: 10.2307/2057769
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2057769
Page Count: 26
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Lineage Organization in North China
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Abstract

Myron Cohen presents a new interpretation of Chinese lineage organization based on field work conducted in north China during 1986 and 1987. This north China variant, which Cohen calls "the fixed genealogical mode," is contrasted with the southeast China pattern first described by Maurice Freedman. In the southeast China pattern, which Cohen distinguishes as "the associational mode," corporate property is seen as the chief factor providing cohesion to the lineage. Claims on corporate holdings give the lineage its fundamental organization, and status within a lineage or the segmentation of lineages are determined primarily on the basis of such claims. In contrast, Cohen argues that lineages retain a central role in village life in the north China "fixed genealogical mode" even though they may lack corporate property. Cohen believes that pressures have stripped away most tangible resources of north China lineages, but have left behind strongly hierarchical relations based on seniority among lines of descent from a founding ancestor. He finds that these lineage bonds are expressed in the annual ritual cycle of the region.

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