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By James Z. Lee

Destiny and Fortune in Rural China is an immense contribution to the research of either the social and inhabitants heritage of overdue conventional China, and that of old demography as a rule. Lee and Campbell show the interplay among demographic and different social pressures, and illustrate graphically the character of social mobility and social association in rural China throughout the century from 1774SH1873. Their conclusion--that social norms, rooted in ideology, decided demographic performance--is supported by way of a mass of hitherto inaccessible basic facts.

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Military ranks were supposed to be recruited and promoted according to their ability and virility. Civil officials were elected or selected for their acumen, aptitude, and honesty. At least in theory, therefore, a talented peasant from an otherwise undistinguished family background should have been able to rise, in Horatio Alger fashion, to a position of wealth and prestige, regardless of where he stood in his household's hierarchy. The problem, of course, is how to measure the relative benefits of banner position versus household position.

Ba Jin, Family, 86) Throughout this text, we use heredity specifically to refer to the principle by which Chinese transferred individual status, such as kin and occupational position, according to parental status. We are accordingly not referring to the geneticenvironmental inheritance of personal characteristics, nor to the inheritance of property. 5 Both principles were central tenets of the Confucian canon. 7 As a result, the Chinese developed two social myths that on the surface seem contradictory.

Because marriage w a s arranged according to seniority—elder brothers married before y o u n g e r brothers—the oldest m e m b e r s of a given generation t e n d e d to b e the ones closest to the descent line, w h i c h passed t h r o u g h eldest sons. For example, the children of a household h e a d t e n d e d to b e older than the children of his y o u n g e r brothers. Given that cousins are the children of the head's father's younger brothers, they tend to be younger than the head and his brothers, and their children tend to be younger than those of the head and his brothers.

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