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Adopting an heir: Widows’ heir adoption and related legal and social issues in the Qing Dynasty

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In the Qing Dynasty, widows who did not remarry could become the right subject of adopting an heir. There were two main types, adoption by order and adoption by affection. Sometimes an heir with a different surname could also be adopted. Some relatively economic compensation actions were taken in the adoption. The widows’ right of adoption was restricted by such factors as patriarchy, clan, feudal ethical codes and conventions. However, the widows could appropriately use law to protect their rights and interests. Meanwhile, when the magistrates judged cases about adoption, they were usually apt to support the widows’ requests so as to protect the rights and interests of social vulnerable group with fully applying the right of discretion.


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