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Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society$
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Rubie Watson and Patricia Buckley Ebrey

Print publication date: 1991

Print ISBN-13: 9780520069305

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520069305.001.0001

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Women, Property, and Law in the People's Republic of China

Women, Property, and Law in the People's Republic of China

(p.313) Ten Women, Property, and Law in the People's Republic of China
Marriage and Inequality in Chinese Society

Jonathan K. Ocko

University of California Press

This chapter focuses on the connections between social practice and enacted law, particularly enacted laws in the People's Republic of China designed to alter the relationship of women and property in an effort to decrease gender inequalities in Chinese society. In the Ch'ing code, women's relation to property, unlike men's, was nearly always mediated by marriage. Whatever property a woman got from her natal family came as a marriage portion; whatever claims she had to the use of her husband's estate after his death depended on her staying there, not leaving her husband's family to marry someone else. In the twentieth century, new laws fundamentally altered the legal basis of gender differentiation. The chapter examines the revisions of the law code aimed at improving women's property rights, especially the 1950 and 1980 marriage laws and the 1985 inheritance law. It shows that despite the persistence of long-held cultural notions now labeled “feudal,” some real change is discernible, above all in the rights of widows to inherit from their husbands.

Keywords:   social practice, marriage laws, women, property rights, gender inequality, widows, inheritance law

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