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13 Law, Gongqin, and Transnational Polygamy: Family Matters in Fujian and British Malaya, 1855–1942

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines a more complicated form of transnational family, the polygamous transnational family, the liangtoujia. It shows the marital relations of the liangtoujia across spatial boundaries and under different legal systems in comparison to the relations of co-residential polygamous families. The chapter illuminates the intra-liangtoujia conflicts that are seldom mentioned in prior scholarship on family; and sheds light on the role of the gongqin inside and outside the colonial legal system and his mediation/execution across geographical boundaries. The liangtoujia that straddled Fujian and British Malaya navigated both the Chinese and British legal systems. The part of the family that remained in the hometown was subject to Qing law and, later, the Republican codes, whereas the household in Malaya was subject to British common law and "Chinese customary law". The study of the gongqin is thus necessary to complete the story of the liangtoujia's cross-border conflicts.

Keywords: British Malaya; Chinese customary law; colonial legal system; cross-border conflicts; Fujian; gongqin; liangtoujia; Qing law; Republican codes



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