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Localities at the Center

Localities at the Center

Native Place, Space, and Power in Late Imperial Beijing

Richard Belsky

ISBN 9780674019560

Publication date: 03/31/2006

A visitor to Beijing in 1900, Chinese or foreign, would have been struck by the great number of native-place lodges serving the needs of scholars and officials from the provinces. What were these native-place lodges? How did they develop over time? How did they fit into and shape Beijing's urban ecology? How did they further native-place ties?

In answering these questions, the author considers how native-place ties functioned as channels of communication between China's provinces and the political center; how sojourners to the capital used native-place ties to create solidarity within their communities of fellow provincials and within the class of scholar-officials as a whole; how the state co-opted these ties as a means of maintaining order within the city and controlling the imperial bureaucracy; how native-place ties transformed the urban landscape and social structure of the city; and how these functions were refashioned in the decades of political innovation that closed the Qing period. Native-place lodges are often cited as an example of the particularistic ties that characterized traditional China and worked against the emergence of a modern state based on loyalty to the nation. The author argues that by fostering awareness of membership in an elite group, the native-place lodges generated a sense of belonging to a nation that furthered the reforms undertaken in the early twentieth century.


  • The book [is]...a true monograph based on dense research, but framed by a clear and fair discussion of existing scholarship, comparative issues and a conclusion suggesting the significance of the subject. Mr. Belsky's study manages, in the best traditions of the series, to use an engaging case study to illuminate varieties of socially generated forms of management and political action in modern China, as well as to better document the sources of modern China arising from Chinese society.

    —Pamela Crossley, Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER)


  • Richard Belsky is Associate Professor of History at Hunter College, City University of New York.

Book Details

  • 334 pages
  • 6 x 9 inches
  • Harvard University Asia Center