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Han Dynasty China: Economy, Society, and State Power --A Review of Cho-yun Hsu, Han Agriculture: The Formation of Early Chinese Agrarian Economy

CHEN Chi-Yun (University of California ,U.S.A.)  
The book "Han Agriculture: The Formation of Early Chinese Agrarian Economy " authored by Cho-yun Hsu is one of the series "Han Dynasty China Project" published by the University of Washington in Seattle. The author surveys the important historical materials about the Han agriculture and introduces them to the western readers, and moreover, he gives an interpretive history of the agrarian economy, society and state in ancient China. However, being influenced by K. A. Wittfogel's view of "asiatic society" and "oriental despotism", the author overlooked the textual research and annotation of traditional historical materials when he reviewed the agrarian economy in the Han Dynasty making use of relative social science theories. The tendency above made the author ignore or misread the fundamental information expressed by traditional historical materials as he discussed the essentials that influence the development of agrarian economy, such as irrigation work, population growth, tenant farmers, state power and land tax. Similarly, there are considerable issues in the author's lower estimation of forces of landlord class in the Han Dynasty. Actually the landlord class have developed vigorously throughout the Han Dynasty. In the latter period of West Han, the landlords and magnates annexed land even more intensively. By the East Han, with the rise of estates, the foundation of the unitary empire was eroded continually, which brought the Han Dynasty to an end .
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