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Uniformity and Regional Variation: The Xiangli System in the Sui Dynasty

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 40, No. 2, 2019

 

Uniformity and Regional Variation: The Xiangli System in the Sui Dynasty

(Abstract)

 

Lu Xiqi

 

As defined in a decree issued in the spring of 583, the three heads or sanzhang system, designed to be implemented chiefly in the old Northern Qi area in Shandong, basically followed the Northern Qi version of 564, with slight modifications. With the setting up of a system of xiang heads (xiangzheng 乡正) who would hear disputes among the common people, as recommended in Su Wei’s memorial of the same year, the judicial position of xiangzheng coexisted with the administrative positions of the three-heads (or two-heads) system. The xiangli (乡里) system announced in the edict of 589 targeted the territory previously under the Chen dynasty; it was basically a continuation of the xiangli system of rural control originally based on a Han dynasty model and followed since then in the south under the Eastern Jin and the Southern dynasties. With the reform of the bureaucratic system in 607, the xiangli system centered on xiangzheng and lizhang became the basic system of rural administration under the Sui dynasty. In the course of its design and creation, the system had to take into account the institutions already existing in the target area and the question of feasibility. Thus “inconsistency” or “regional variation” was built into the system. However, in actual practice there was a tendency toward convergence that led to uniformity of implementation. In Chinese history, the coexistence of regional variation and uniformity was a marked feature of the formation and implementation of different systems.

 

Keywords: xiangli system, Sui dynasty, regional variation, uniformity

Social Sciences in China