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Chapter One Introduction The Moral Excellence of Loving the Group
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The Terminology of Chinese Associations

The terminology of Chinese associations in Shanghai in the period under study reveals a plethora of social, economic and religious connotations and complicates the task of describing the broad scope of phenomena related to native-place identity[56] Distinctions among Chinese association names have been understood to reveal the underlying nature of associational practice. In contemporary usage, however, quite different terms could be interchangeable. This flexibility provides evidence of the relatedness of the forms beneath the names and of the fact that the formal and informal associations denoted were not discrete but overlapping.

Huiguan, gongsuo. Huiguan, the most studied institutional expression of native-place sentiment, were formal associations of sojourning fellow-provincials. Huiguan were established in Beijing as early as the late Ming by sojourning officials and scholars. Outside Beijing, particularly in centers of trade, huiguan were more commonly established by merchants, who patterned their meeting halls on the politically acceptable meeting halls of sojourning Confucian scholars. This was the case in Shanghai, where huiguan appeared as early as the seventeenth century and increased in number during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.[57]


The fact that nearly all Shanghai huiguan were established by so-journing merchants helps explain the interchangeability of huiguan and gongsuo , the latter a term many huiguan employed in reference to themselves, despite the fact that gongsuo is often considered to denote trade associations, not specifically associations of fellow-provincials. In Shanghai huiguan and gongsuo could be used interchangeably because of the overlapping of trade organization with native-place ties. It is useful, therefore, to represent most huiguan and gongsuo as organizations of fellow-provincials which also expressed trade interests.[58]

Bang . The term bang encompasses a broad range of meanings and occurs equally in reference to formal organizations of regional and trade identity like huiguan and gongsuo , similar but informal groups, and illegal associations like gangs, which were also frequently organized along axes of regional identity. The term kebang , "guest bang" (that is, outsider merchant group) occurs in reference to groups of merchants from areas outside their city of operation. Other records distinguish between wobang , "our bang" and tabang or waibang , "other bang" or "outside bang." Bang also frequently occurs in the compound bang-pai , or faction. In huiguan and gongsuo records, bang is employed in reference to subgroups within the association itself (regional and trade subgroups) and in reference to corresponding groups outside the association. In records and literature emanating from outside the associations, bang often means regional or trade communities, at times huiguan or gongsuo specifically.

The term bang and its use in regard to associations of fellow-


provincials are significant not because it denotes a specific type of organization but because in its broadness it describes the quality of the group, that is to say, that the group acts in the manner of a clique, faction, or gang. This quality was recognized as both natural and potentially negative (because self-interested). Although the term is often used in a neutral sense, it is not accidental that in accounts recording unruly behavior of regional and trade associations the associations are referred to as bang , and not as the more respectable huiguan and gongsuo , which appear more frequently in gazetteers and in stone inscriptions left by the associations. Unfortunately for the historian trained to find identity in well-defined naming practices, this renaming of the association in accordance with its phase of behavior provides instead the idealized construction of what the members were doing at a given moment.[59]

New Terms in the Twentieth Century . A variety of new terms and associational forms—shangye lianhehui (merchant federation), gonghui (public association), youyihui (friendly society), xiehui (society, consultative committee), tongzhihui (comrades' association)-appeared in the twentieth century, beginning around the time of the Revolution of 1911. New and different forms of native-place associations appeared under all of these new names, reflecting Shanghai residents' striking capacity to adapt the native-place organizational principle to new circumstances and to integrate new social and political elements into their traditions and practices.[60]

In addition, a term employed to denote a new and self-consciously '"modern" form of general native-place association came into existence, the tongxianghui (literally "association of fellow-provincials"). The full


name of these associations, lü Hu tongxianghui (association of fellow-provincials sojourning in Shanghai), evokes again in the Republican era the permanence of (often ascribed) regional identity and the perceived transience of (often permanent) residence.

Terminology and Interpretation: Guilds and Landsmannschaften . The dual nature of huiguan and gongsuo , which most commonly incorporated both native-place and common-trade ties, has resulted in a controversy over the basic nature of these organizations, reflecting a certain historiographical essentialism. This controversy has been expressed through variations in the western terminology which scholars have employed to characterize Chinese associations. Consideration of Chinese terminology therefore cannot alone describe the scope of the problem. We must also discuss western terminology.

In their efforts to comprehend and classify Chinese native-place and trade associations, scholars have employed two western-language terms, "guild" and "landsmannschaften, " to convey the nature of the groups involved. "Guild," which suggests an essentially economic organization, has been favored over "landsmannschaften, " which expresses the primacy of regional bonds.[61] This discrepancy in terminology results not only from the different economic arguments that have surrounded the associations but also from the fact that there appears to be no western term that incorporates both landsmann and trade characteristics.

It is not surprising that the Europeans frustrated in their attempts to expand trade with China adopted the term "guild" to describe the Chinese protective associations they encountered which rebuffed their attempts to penetrate Chinese markets. European interests were primarily commercial, and it was in this realm that they encountered the Chinese associations. The term "guild" offered the most obvious analogy to their historical experience. Their own economic interests, therefore, caused them to view native-place ties as an incidental and subordinate feature of Chinese guilds. They did not, in general, seek to investigate or understand the linguistic, religious and cultural basis of these associations.[62]


The native-place characteristics as well as the noneconomic functions of these associations have accordingly been cited as evidence of irrational, particularistic or monopolistic tendencies of Chinese guilds.

Such views dovetail with historical and sociological models of the catalytic role of cities and urban associations in the development of capitalism. In particular, Weber's linkage of China's apparent failure to achieve capitalism with the failure of Chinese cities to resemble European cities—in other words, their failure to develop economically "rational" urban associations and a "commune-autonomous" form of urban settlement—has spawned numerous meditations on the nature of Chinese cities and their relation to European cities. William Rowe's study of Hankou represents the most significant recent scholarship in this vein. Because Weber stressed the particularism of Chinese business ties, arguing that urban citizenship could not develop in communities of sojourners, native-place associations have been a natural focus in studies of Chinese cities.[63]

Japanese historians like Niida Noboru and Imahori Seiji have stressed the importance of regional ties in Chinese "guilds," asserting that although common native place was not an essential condition for membership, common local-origin was nonetheless a general rule. Imahori Seiji, echoing Weber's arguments, emphasized that the closed and reactionary quality of these associations stifled China's economic development.[64]

Ho Ping-ti's major study of Chinese regional associations, developed in response to this dominant trend in Japanese historiography, empha-


sized the importance of regional ties in Chinese associations. He chose the German term landsmannschaften to describe huiguan and called gongsuo landsmann guilds.[65] Although he emphasized the primacy of nafive-place ties in his choice of terminology, his assessment of the significance of these ties differed sharply with Japanese interpretations and (though not explicitly) the superimposition of Weberian typology on the Chinese historical case. The novelty of Ho's argument was his assertion that in China native-place associations played a critical positive role in economic development by facilitating interregional and social integration. Important recent work by Susan Mann on the Ningbo financial community and by Marie-Claire Bergère on the Shanghai bourgeoisie demonstrates the adaptability of traditional native-place organization to the needs of modernization.[66]

Recent scholarship by Chinese historians has addressed and restated these various arguments. The dominant trend in contemporary Chinese scholarship suggests that in the nineteenth century the nature of Chinese commercial and handicraft associations changed. Du Li and Xu Dingxin argue that feudal and particularist associations became increasingly democratic and that the significance of native-place ties gave way to more "rational" commercial alignments. This argument must be seen in the context of the abiding preoccupation with the "sprouts of capitalism" in Chinese historiography, supporting arguments that China developed or was developing an indigenous form of capitalism, in accordance with Chinese interpretations of Marxian stages of economic development.[67]


Rowe's detailed study of Hankou concurs generally with this most recent judgement of mainland Chinese historians, although Rowe is more preoccupied with Weberian than with Marxist categories. Rowe .Employs Weber's categories regarding urban requirements for the development of capitalism but rejects Webers conclusion that Chinese cities were irredeemably alien to the dynamic western model. He argues that .(at least in cities like Hankou), China was developing an indigenous form of capitalism, which was expressed in the rationalization of economic behavior. In his choice of the word "guild," Rowe minimizes native-place organization and sentiment by insisting on fundamental economic primacy, and he suggests that by the late-nineteenth-century Chinese guilds increasingly fulfilled Webers prescriptions for rational economic behavior.[68]

Rowe at once agrees with Ho Ping-ti's assessment of the positive economic role of huiguan and denies the other major element of Ho's :argument, the primacy of the native-place tie. Whereas Ho suggested a separate model of "rational economic activity" based on the particularities of the Chinese case, Rowe's study concludes with the suggestion that apparent Chinese peculiarities aside, urban organization in Hankou 'by the late nineteenth century had come to resemble the European model.

Rowe's argument for a process of "de-parochialization" and "indigenous rationalization" in Hankou's native-place and trade associations, .like the arguments of Du Li and Xu Dingxin, depends on a formalistic typing of associations. These studies deduce the presence or absence of native-place sentiment or organization largely on the basis of an organization's name, on the formal existence of new trade associations or on 'the basis of gazetteer accounts which provide fragmentary and uneven ,descriptions of association structure or constituency. Such focus on the names and formal structure of organizations can be highly distorting because native place was commonly an informal (though integral) component of new forms of trade association. This may only be evident through an examination of organizational behavior. In 1925, for instance, Chaozhou merchants had a Sugar and Miscellaneous Goods 'Trade Association in addition to their huiguan . But this did not mean a


separation of native-place and economic functions. The apparent formal distinction between trade and native-place association (tempting for a historian eager to discover a decline in the native-place organization of trade) was in fact illusory. When the Shantou Finance Board wrote to the trade association in 1925, for example, the huiguan drafted the response. Other glimpses of how formal institutional divisions may collapse into common native-place identity are revealed by the placement of documents in archival collections. In the Shanghai Archives, for instance, the archive of the Hu She (association of sojourners from Huzhou, Zhejiang) includes the meeting records, trade rules and regulations for the Shanghai Municipal Silk Trade Association (Shanghai tebie shi chouduan ye tongye gonghui ) and the Shanghai Huzhou Silk Gongsuo (Shanghai Zhe-Hu zhouye gongsuo ).[69]

Because the primary focus of the present study is social rather than economic, models of economic development from feudalism to capitalism (Weberian and otherwise) are not an overriding concern. Nonetheless, the process of investigating the social behavior of huiguan and gongsuo and the availability of important new sources have led me at least peripherally into these debates. In two respects—in affirming the persistent native-place segmentation of Shanghai's urban community and the importance of native-place links which transcended Shanghai's borders—the findings of this study challenge those of Rowe which suggest the attenuation of native-place ties in the last decades of the nineteenth century and the displacement of native-place identity by an emergent urban "Hankou" identity.[70] As the story of the forms and


sentiments of Shanghai urban organization told in the following pages will demonstrate, the idea of the native place remained a potent organizing principle as late as the 1930s. Moreover, native-place sentiment was not rigid but was a remarkably flexible axis for the coalition of a variety of social organizations, ranging from "feudal" to "modern" types, if these stifling labels must be used.

The fact that people retained their native-place identity did not mean they could not also develop broader (particularly national) identities. They would, and the how and why of this process is integral to the story in this book. The transformation of urban identity was a process of accretion of identifies, not the displacement of native-place identity for newer, more "modern" ones. It was precisely in this process of adoption and accommodation that understandings of both tradition and modernity were forged and transformed.

The city of Shanghai did not conform to Weber's typologies of cities, European or Chinese. Perhaps more important, freedom from Weberian straight jackets permits the exploration of certain unique features of Chinese urban social and economic formations. The story of the enduring but shifting formations of native-place sentiment expressed through changing Shanghai urban institutions raises new issues of multiple and variable urban identities; connections between communities of fellow-provincials in Shanghai and their native areas (connections critical to the comprehension of both locations); connections between urban elites and non-elites through native-place ties; and the relation of native-place associations to the maintenance (or disruption) of urban order.

Finally, recognition that native-place sentiment and organization were important and enduring in Shanghai during the Republican era permits an understanding of modernization which does not presume the withering of traditional ideas and practices. Instead, we will be free to trace the ways in which "tradition" was not fixed but dynamic, not given but constructed, and the means by which elements of "traditional" Chinese culture helped facilitate and structure the process of radical social transformation we associate with modernity.


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Chapter One Introduction The Moral Excellence of Loving the Group
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