I set forth in this paper a partial description and preliminary analysis of rural marketing in China. This neglected topic has significance with ranges far beyond the disciplinary concerns of economics. It interests anthropologists in particular because marketing structures of the kind described here for China appear to be characteristic of the whole class of civilizations known as “peasant” or “traditional agrarian” societies. In complex societies of this important type, marketing structures inevitably shape local social organization and provide one of the crucial modes for integrating myriad peasant communities into the single social system which is the total society. The Chinese case would appear to be strategic for the comparative study of peasant marketing in traditional agrarian societies because the integrative task accomplished there was uniquely large; because the exceptional longevity and stability of Chinese society have allowed the marketing system in many regions to reach full maturity prior to the beginnings of modernization; and because available documentation of Chinese marketing over several centuries provides rich resources for the study of systemic development—of change within tradition.

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