By Adele Marion Fielde
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Extra info for A Pronouncing and Defining Dictionary of the Swatow Dialect: Arranged According to Syllables and Tones
One family letter described the incident: After they beat Yuan with bamboo sticks, there was blood all over her. Then they shouted: “What is the point of killing this useless woman? ” The second eldest brother chased Yitang with knives in both hands. Yitang ran as fast as he could. He fled to a small hill but was blocked by a deep pond. As he jumped over the pond, he rolled down the hill and lost consciousness. 40 It was a savage family battle. Professor Ping-ti Ho writes that the custom of equal inheritance in Chinese society frequently gave rise to property disputes among brothers.
The ultimate goal in the property division was a larger share for the nuclear family. The Decline of the Family Male descendents’ fights over property was the root cause of the Chang family decline. In the same letter, Sam concluded, “While Chunli has a high reputation, he is not as great as Zhandong even though he lived seventy-nine years old with four-thousand dan of farm wealth and eighteen children. ”43 The size of the family was difficult to support. When the collected rent was divided among each family within the lineage, each son received only a modest amount after expenses were deducted.
Some of these relatives 36 The Transnational History eventually paid back their debts. 20 Ironically, while Yitang’s emigration experience helped him gain greater entitlement to land holdings in the Chang clan, the possibility of returning to the home village for retirement became slim because of the intensity of lineage conflicts. The history of Yitang Chang’s family illustrates how family politics affected life among rural people in Guangdong, why kinship organizations were important, and how such organizations were formed, split, and re-formed according to the interest of each nuclear family.
A Pronouncing and Defining Dictionary of the Swatow Dialect: Arranged According to Syllables and Tones by Adele Marion Fielde