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Polyandry and Wife-Selling In Qing Dynasty ChinaSurvival Strategies and Judicial Interventions$
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Matthew H. Sommer

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780520287037

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520287037.001.0001

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Analysis of the Prices in Wife Sales

Analysis of the Prices in Wife Sales

(p.149) 5 Analysis of the Prices in Wife Sales
Polyandry and Wife-Selling In Qing Dynasty China

Matthew H. Sommer

University of California Press

Legal cases document a wide range of brideprices in wife sales, which usually constituted very substantial sums for the people involved (equivalent to several years’ grain supply or wages for agricultural labor, or to the price of two or three head of cattle). Wife sale was a relatively inexpensive way to acquire a wife, because most sellers had to accept the first offer. The low end of the price scale represents extreme desperation; the high end, the market for concubines and prostitutes. Most prices fell in the broad mid-range illustrated by Nanbu County’s cases. Terms of child custody also influenced prices. Dowry was not a factor in wife sales, which were part of a spectrum of brideprice-heavy marriage practices.

Keywords:   brideprice, dowry, marriage, concubine, prostitute, child custody

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