Women's Property Rights in a Chinese Lineage Village

Kwok Shing CHAN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines female property rights in a Chinese lineage village in rural Hong Kong in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It demonstrates the conditions under which female villagers have been entitled to family property and/or cash dividends of an ancestral estate, even though the male-only inheritance rule is a deeply rooted lineage custom. Notably, female inheritance, while allowed, has applied only to land and cash, not to village houses themselves because those are still essential for the maintenance of a lineage community and its associated sense of identity. As for cash and land, particularly after the 1970s, they are not bound up with that social or symbolic meaning, and thus are considered transferable to female villagers. This article shows that in a lineage system women's property rights are permitted, but this is neither absolute nor based on the principles of gender equality, meaning that women's rights are situational and subject to negotiation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-128
Number of pages28
JournalModern China
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2013

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Chinese lineage
  • gender and property
  • inheritance
  • women's property rights


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