villages (social organization)


villages (social organization)
The social organizations in villages range from official, state-mandated organizations to non-registered, villager-organized minjian (popular, non-official) institutions. Both state and minjian organizations oversee such varied activities as traditional rituals, village recreation and entertainment, and provision of public services. State directives require villages with sufficient resources to set up institutions that provide services and implement state policy. ‘Village small groups’ (cunminxiaozu), for example, assist village cadres with administrative responsibilities such as collecting state and local taxes, carrying out birth control policies, mobilizing villagers to participate in village elections (see democracy and elections), and allocating land and housing. Villages also have a representative of the All-China Women’s Federation (fulian) and may have women ‘small group’ leaders (funu zuren) who help township and village officials implement state birth control and contraception policies and disseminate information about women’s health (see reproductive health). Other state-mandated village social institutions include ‘associations for the elderly’ (laoren xiehui), which are supposed to provide social activities and welfare subsidies, and councils called hongbailishihui, organized by village cadres to standardize and oversee weddings (rural) and funerals and prevent villagers from going to great expense, an ancient concern of the Chinese state.
According to the ‘Regulations on the Registration and Management of Social Organizations’, approved by the State Council in September 1998, social organizations must find a sponsoring unit within the government and register with the Ministry of Civil Affairs or relevant department. Most rural minjian institutions, however, remain unregistered and located in villages where local authorities look the other way. At the village level, the line between state and society is often blurred as both official and minjian institutions cooperate with one another to finance and organize such community services as dispute mediation (see People’s Mediation Committees), road and irrigation repair, mutual aid in agricultural production, movie screenings, opera performances, basketball tournaments, temple fairs and annual festivals (see Dragon-Boat Festival; Ghost Festival; Lantern Festival; New Year Festival; Qingming Festival). Moreover, officially permitted organizations, such as the Laoren xiehui and the Hongbai lishihui, often serve as fronts for unregistered minjian organizations.
Villager-organized minjian institutions include lineage organizations (see ancestral halls/lineage temples), temple associations, community councils and rural folk-singing and dancing groups. Many of these traditional institutions were disbanded and banned during the Cultural Revolution, but revived again in the mid 1980s. Throughout the 1990s, minjian institutions often re-emerged where economic and political liberalization advanced more quickly or in areas far from metropolitan centres where local governments do not strictly enforce state regulations. In areas such as Guangdong and Fujian provinces, newly rebuilt temples and lineage halls have mushroomed with the influx of donations from overseas Chinese to their home villages.
Village temple and lineage organizations range from informal groups of several people who manage the upkeep of a temple or organize the New Year Festival to more formal associations with a clear division of labour and with members elected or appointed by the community at large. Different members will take responsibility for organizing religious rituals, social activities and public projects. Formal temple and lineage associations often have an accountant and/or cashier who will publicize the association’s yearly expenses and income from donations. Lineage and religious institutions may also evolve into broader community organizations, such as community councils or village elders (laoda). In such communities, village cadres allow such organizations to take over the governmental responsibilities of providing public services and allocating village resources, such as land. State-registered churches, as well as underground house churches, are also common in parts of the countryside (see Catholic villages; Christianity (Protestantism)). However, because church organizations are more heavily regulated by the state than other village social organizations, they are far less likely to extend their activities into the social and public service domain.
Jing, J. (1996). The Temple of Memories: History, Power, and Morality in a Chinese Village. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Saich, T. (2000). ‘Negotiating the State: The Development of Social Organizations in China’. China Quarterly 161:124–41.
Tsai, L. (2002). ‘Cadres, Temple and Lineage Organizations, and Governance in Rural China’. China Journal 48.
Yan, Y. (1996). The Flow of Gifts: Reciprocity and Social Networks in a Chinese Village. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
L.L.TSAI

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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