Many writers interested in Chinese culture and society have drawn attention to the uneven distribution of large, highly corporate, localized lineages in China. Many have noted the concentration of such lineages in the two southeastern provinces of Fukien and Kwangtung, but relatively few writers have attempted to offer anything like a systematic explanation for the distribution. The most recent and ambitious attempt to come to grips with the problem is found in Maurice Freedman's book, Chinese Lineage and Society. The author reviews a number of factors relevant to the emergence and persistence of strong lineages, and singles out a few which he considers to be of special importance. A relationship is suggested between rice cultivation, extensive irrigation, the exigencies of frontier life, and the emergence of large, localized, highly corporate lineages. The purpose of this paper will be to reassess the role of the frontier in the development of the Chinese lineage. We will consider the extent to which the conditions of frontier life may have functioned as a catalyst in the formation of elaborated, localized lineages in China. Freedman has suggested that the need for cooperation in opening and bringing water to wild land, and in defending life and property, stimulated a rapid development of corporate, localized lineages on the southeastern Chinese frontier.

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