3. An Immigrant Community in Northern Jiangsu: The Dafeng Land Reclamation Company and Farmers from Haimen County

Nishizawa Haruhiko


Among the various enterprises managed by Zhang Jian, a land reclamation business in Northern Jiangsu which was based on the joint-stock company, was one of the first attempts to introduce a capitalistic management system to Chinese agriculture. Therefore, it has quite an important significance in the socio-economic history of modern China.
So far, in relation to the history of the land reclamation business, studies have been carried out mainly on the capitalistic nature of the company. As a result, many scholars have emphasised its backwardness rather than stressing its capitalistic nature.[1]
It is true that the management system of these companies maintained certain feudalistic features. With the exception of Tonghai Land Reclamation Company, almost all these companies failed as business entities in the long run. Moreover, since the companies finally distributed their land to each stockholder, all of these companies ceased to exist as a matter of course. However, it is also true that land reclamation work carried out by those companies played a decisive role in turning the Northern Jiangsu reclamation area into an important cotton producing district within the province today.
Among the many land reclamation companies, Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, which was established in succession to the very first Tonghai, Dayoujin and Dayu Land Reclamation Companies, boasted the largest scale of operations in the Northern Jiangsu reclamation area, and therefore, this company occupies a significant position in the history of the Northern Jiangsu land reclamation project. Recently, intensive research has been undertaken by local scholars on this company.[2] In 1986 and 1987, I carried out a total of three weeks' field research at Dazhong Zheng, the headquarters of the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company. In this paper based on my field data, I would like to report briefly on issues previously little studied such as the circumstances of the migration of the Haimen farmers, and the relationship between the company and the tenant farmers from the establishment of the company through to the division of the land.

Dafeng Land Reclamation Company and immigrant farmers from Haimen County

Dafeng Land Reclamation Company was formally established in 1918 by Zhang Jian, his brother Zhang Cha and Zhou Fujiu. The sum of the investment capital for the company amounted to 2 million yuan. The land owned by the company reached more than 1.1 million mu, which covered the whole area of the former Taishu-caoyanchang-zaoqu of Wainan salt farm. From 1918, the company started to excavate the river and construct an embankment, and began to invite tenant farmers to reclaim the land. While constructing the embankment against the sea, the company also excavated four drainage rivers running east-west and three drainage channels running north-south, thus dividing the whole of the reclaimed land into thirty-five districts. At the beginning, the company started to reclaim four less salty and relatively fertile districts in the northwest corner, close to Doulonggang. In 1919, they planted over 60,000 mu of cotton. In 1920, they successively reclaimed another four districts in the southwest and five districts in the northeast.
In 1921 and 1922, the Huai River flooded and caused severe damage to the area. Dafeng Land Reclamation Company owed more than 2.5 million yuan in debts. At the general meeting of stockholders held in 1925, the company finally decided to sell off the land of the eight southeastern districts, all together 270,000 mu, to Yuhua Land Reclamation Company, and made 1.2 million yuan. During 1925, the company, under quite difficult circumstances, made a great effort to repair the West embankment and deepen the Zhongmaoyou River. Due to improved drainage conditions, the company made more than 230,000 yuan profit that year. However, in 1926 and again in 1928, the Huai River flooded, leaving the company with a total debt of more than 3 million yuan.
In 1929, the company's stockholder's association negotiated with both the Xingfeng and Tongtai Banks, and made an agreement as follows; the company should give 120,000 mu of cultivated land as a security to Xingfeng Bank; the company should give 455,000 mu of pasture and cultivated land as a security to Tongtai Bank; the three parties should set up a holding company; if the company could not pay off the debt by the end of 1931, then the two creditors would immediately requisition the land in pledge. Consequently, the company had no way to pay off the debt and the two banks took over the land according to the agreement. In addition to this, the company was successively forced to sell off rest of the land to pay off another debt. During the years of 1934 and 1935, the amount of cotton produced recovered to the expected level. After 1936, however, the company made a new arrangement with Tongtai Bank and Dasheng Spinning Mill in which the company would repurchase part of the land they had sold to them previously, so that they could distribute it, amounting to 250,000 mu in all, to each stockholder. Finally, only a small amount of cultivated land, together with real estate in Dazhong and Xinfeng Zheng, and swamp and grass land in the north, was left in the company's possession. In appearance, Dafeng Land Reclamation Company seemed still to exist, but in reality, the land was divided between the stockholders, and the company turned into an organisation merely collecting farm rent for these stockholders.[3]
Labour power for the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company mainly consisted of immigrant farmers from Haimen and Qidong County. Obtaining labour power, along with raising capital and buying up land, were the three most difficult management questions each reclamation company had to resolve. The Northern Jiangsu reclamation land used to belong to Wainan Salt Farm and a few of the original inhabitants who had been employed in the salt making plant still lived there. These original inhabitants not only had no special knowledge of cotton planting but also had no experience of ordinary agriculture at all. Therefore, the company needed to invite farmers from the Haimen and Qidong area, which was famous as a traditional cotton producing district, to supply labour for cotton planting.
In terms of the whole labour force within the land reclamation area in Northern Jiangsu, the original inhabitants accounted for about 15%, while immigrants from Haimen and Qidong accounted for more than 80%. Up to 1928, reclamation companies in the area employed more than 1,000,000 immigrant farmers from outside the area. Within the land reclamation area, the southern part was more favourable than the northern part in terms of climate, soil and political security, and it was closer to the immigrant farmers' homes, so the reclamation companies were able to obtain a higher contract fee. Companies in the northern part, on the other hand, were anxious to attract immigrant farmers, so they made concessions such as reducing the contract fee. In addition, they established a special recruiting office in the Haimen and Nantong area. As a result, the number of Haimen and Nantong farmers who became tenants of companies in the northern part increased gradually as time passed.[4]
Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, located in the northern part of the reclamation area, was no exception to these general conditions. At the beginning, more than 90 per cent of the company's tenant farmers were from the Haimen and Qidong area. The original inhabitants amounted to only 2,000-3,000. The majority of the tenant farmers were from Haimen, numbering around 6,000 households, with about 20,000-30,000 people. Within the company's thirty-five districts, the original inhabitants were distributed in only a few locations such as a portion of the southeastern part of Xingfeng District, the western part of Chengfeng District, a portion of the southern part of Fufeng District and the northern part of Hengfeng District. Other districts were almost all occupied by farmers from Haimen. In the case of Yuhua Land Reclamation Company, located next to Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, tenancies were all occupied by farmers from Haimen. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, land reform was carried out in these reclamation areas, and as a result, many rice growing farmers who were natives of Xinghua migrated into the former land reclamation area from the west and south of it. At present, within Dafeng county, it is estimated that people from Haimen and Qidong occupy roughly one third of the whole population, numbering about 200,000 people.
Although soil and drainage conditions of Dafeng Land Reclamation Company were not equal to those of companies in the southern part, still the company was in possession of a vast area of undeveloped land and it provided the tenants with a promising future. Moreover, Dafeng Land Reclamation Company belonged to Dasheng Capital Group and its management style was basically the same as that of Tonghai Land Reclamation Company, which was located between Nangton and Haimen County. Therefore, the farmers of Haimen had a certain sense of closeness towards the company and they were willing to became its tenants. In fact, many of its management staff were also from Haimen and they were also tenants of the company, engaged in cultivation themselves. Thus to a certain extent they shared common interests with the tenant farmers.
As mentioned above, in attracting tenants, Dafeng Land Reclamation Company founded a recruiting office in the Haimen and Qidong area. When tenant farmers signed a contract, they had complete freedom to choose any place within any district they wish to cultivate. An outline of the written contract, which the company exchanged with the tenant, was as follows: "Tenant X willingly undertakes to cultivate the company's land, located in number Y of Z district; the deposit, which the tenant pays to the company, is three silver yuan for each mu of land. On a fixed day the company will receive a cash deposit of X yuan and the farm rent is 50% of the yield." As soon as the tenant received the contract, he had the right to cultivate the appointed land.
When Haimen farmers migrated to the north, they moved on either an individual or a family basis. In the case of a family, the movement took place over time, with the migrants divided into groups. Many Haimen farmers came to the north in spring and went back home in autumn. From Haimen or Lusi to Dafeng took about four days on foot, walking one hundred li every day. At that time, there were two overland routes: one was through Lusi, Liujia, Sijia, Sanyu, Juegang, Jiaoxie, Sancang, Yicang, and Panjia to Daqiao, which is equivalent to today's Huaihai Public Road. The other route was along the seashore but it was not as safe. One other way was to take a boat from Fengli and sail to Dafeng.

General conditions of the farmers: A case study of Haimen migration

During my field work, a retired cadre, Mr. Zhang Yan, who is a local researcher into land reclamation history, introduced me to various aspects of its history and the circumstances of immigrant farmers. He was born in Haimen in 1911 and he was seventy-five years old when I interviewed him. Zhang Yan, along with his family, came up to the north from Tonghai Land Reclamation Company and they settled down in the Dingfeng District of the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company in 1927. After that, he joined the revolutionary movement and participated in the anti-Japanese war and the following civil war. After Liberation in 1949, he served as a director of the local high school. Through his family history, we can understand, in a concrete form, the process of migration by Haimen farmers after the company was established.
The Zhang family moved to the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company at the end of Guangxu, that is around 1907. In 1911, Zhang Yan was born at Zhongyang Zheng, Haimen County, which is located within the Tonghai Land Reclamation area. He had two elder brothers and two elder sisters. The Zhang family originally had four mu of land before they become tenants of the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company. In Tonghai, they contracted to cultivate one tiao of the company's land (in the case of the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company, this was equivalent to twenty mu). The Zhang family's farm was less than ten li away from Zhongyang Zheng. At the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company, each household generally contracted one tiao of land, though there were also some farmers who contracted two to three tiao. Most of the tenant farmers were from Haimen. Some families moved onto the company's land as individuals over time, while some of them moved in as whole families from the very beginning. Those people generally had a certain amount of funds. When the Zhang family moved into the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company area, they had already lived in the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company area for more than twenty years.
During the five years between 1920 and 1925, Zhang Yan's grandparents and two elder sisters died in succession. In addition, his eldest brother got married. Because of these expenses, the Zhang family eventually fell into debt and they had no alternative but to pledge their land. This did not mean that they completely sold the land, but only that they mortgaged the surface rights to somebody else. If they had had enough money, they could have redeemed the surface rights at any time. The Zhang family pledged four mu of land every year, and after five years they had pledged all their land. If there were no natural or man-made disasters, normally twenty mu of land was large enough to sustain family life.
In 1916, Zhang Yan's brother (seventeen years older than he himself) moved alone from Tonghai to the Dayoujin Land Reclamation Company in the north by himself. Up to 1923, he worked very hard, but his life did not improve at all. So in 1924, he moved again, this time to the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company further north. In the following year Zhang Yan's father also went to Dafeng to join him. During the first few years, as most of the Haimen farmers did, they went to Dafeng in spring on foot to plant cotton there, and after they harvested it in autumn, they came back home on foot again. During the first few years when the reclamation had just started, they had very small harvests and their life was quite hard. In 1925 they only earned one hundred copper bars. When they came back to Haimen, they cooked corn gruel on the way and ate it while they hurried home.
During these years, the Zhang family was still putting their land from the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company in pledge. At that time, they could get fifty to sixty yuan by pledging four mu of land. In 1927, the Zhang family finally decided to sell their entire holding. Four mu of land could sell for about 100 yuan, so that by selling twenty mu of land, they gained 500-600 yuan. When they had first bought company land (to become a tenant farmer meant to acquire the surface rights), they had paid six yuan per mu, so that for four mu they had paid twenty-four yuan. This meant that when they sold the land twenty years later, the price of surface rights had multiplied four times. This was because through years of soil improvement the value of the land had increased accordingly. This increased value of the land went to the tenant farmers. Clearing their debts, the Zhang family still had 230 yuan in hand, and the whole family moved to Dafeng that year.
At the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, the Zhang family contracted to cultivate four tiao of company land. In the case of the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, one tiao was equivalent to twenty-five mu of land, making 100 mu of land in total. They had signed a contract in advance on this land before the whole family finally migrated. At that time, the land was divided into three categories according to the quality of soil, and the amount of deposit was decided according to this. The best land cost three yuan per mu, the second grade land cost two yuan per mu, and the third grade land cost one yuan per mu. Most of the company's land belonged to the third grade. Therefore, to contract 100 mu of land, they paid 100 yuan. In addition to this, the company charged tenants 7.5 yuan commission on each tiao of land, or thirty yuan for 100 mu of land. In total, the Zhang family spent 130 yuan to contract 100 mu of land. After this expenditure, they still had 100 yuan in hand, which was enough for their living expenses until the first harvest in the autumn. Among the tenant families at that time, the economic condition of the Zhang family could be classed as average.
Dazhong Zheng (zheng means market town) was originally called Dazhong Ji (ji means periodic market). When the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company was established in 1918, this area was still uncultivated grassland. It took several years for Dazhong Ji to develop fully into a permanent market town and have its name changed to Zheng. During the first few years when reclamation had just started, rainfall often caused flood damage due to incomplete drainage facilities. In addition there was repeated insect damage. In 1920 and 1921, the area was continuously hit by floods, and many tenant farmers went back to their home in Haimen. Many of them, from small children to old people, walked home pushing small carts and carrying cooking utensils on a pole. Of course, tenant farmers who had sold all their land and their houses in Haimen could not go back and were forced to remain in Dafeng. In 1925, the company repaired the drainage facilities, and the farmers began to have better harvests. As a result, farmers gradually began to return to Dafeng. Such coming and going was very common among Haimen farmers. After 1925, once the management of the company had been firmly established and the drainage conditions had been improved, the number of tenant farmers coming to Dafeng began to increase again.
In the first year the Zhang family came to Dafeng, they lived in a hut called gun long ding. Since this hut was made of miscanthus, they spent very little building it. That year saw a good harvest of twenty-three dan of crude cotton (one dan is 100 jin or about fifty kilos). After handing six dan of it over to the company as farm rent, they still had seventeen dan left in hand. During the first few years, since the condition of the soil was poor and the land was covered by miscanthus grass, it was very difficult to estimate the yield exactly, so the company's management was not so strict. The company collected farm rent according to the contract only in years when there was a good harvest. If not, the actual rent was much lower. One dan of crude cotton sold for fifteen yuan, so that the Zhang family made 255 yuan that year. In the light of this, it is possible to say that the company's farm rent was much lower than that of the feudal landlords of the past. As mentioned before, the company staff also cultivated the company's land themselves. Therefore the company could not set the farm rent unreasonably high, as it would have affected the incomes of their staff.
In 1928, due to insect damage, the Zhang family harvested only five dan of crude cotton. The company collected a few jin of crude cotton per tiao of land as a matter of form, but in effect did not collect farm rent that year. The Zhang family's income for the year was 175 yuan. That was not enough for them to live, and they were forced to borrow money from the company and its staff. The company loaned the distressed farmers money and in the spring they lent them food and cotton seed.
Among the tenant farmers of the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, the area of farm land varied between tenants, the largest contract being for seventeen tiao (425 mu) of land, and the smallest for only one tiao (twenty-five mu). Most of the tenant farmers contracted two or three tiao and the staff members of the company contracted between two and ten tiao. Among the tenant farmers, some families were relatively well off and they had enough funds to improve the soil, and thus their yield increased year by year. Such families amounted to about half of the total number of tenant farmers. A proportion of the families had too little funds to invest in their land, and they were often forced to work for someone else during the busy farming season, leaving their own land uncared for. Thus they had very little income, and as a result, they often fell into debt.
As a whole, however, the tenant farmers' standard of living was slightly better than that of the local farmers in the west of the Doulonggang area. In the busy farming season, the tenant farmers put out a special flag as an invitation and employed local farmers as part-time workers, mainly when they needed to plough the fields or harvest the cotton. Most of the part-timers were local farmers from the Xinghua area. Part-time employment was divided into two kinds, long-term and short-term. Most of the local farmers were engaged in rice production, and since the harvest time for rice was the same as that for cotton, it was difficult for them to be employed long-term, so that work on a short term basis was more common.
In the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, tenant farmers actually had the surface rights and they could trade them freely. In the case of companies north of Dafeng, companies did not approve of trade in the surface rights between tenants, although it was not specified whether the chong hua system was allowed or not in the contract (under this system, subsoil rights belong to the company and the surface rights belong to tenant farmer). By prohibiting the trade in surface rights, the company aimed at keeping any increase in the value of the land under their own control. In reality, however, tenant farmers often traded the surface rights in secret and the company had no way to control it. A lawsuit and struggle between the company and tenant farmers over these land rights took place in Yuhua Land Reclamation Company, next to Dafeng, in 1932-3. Both the company and the local government were afraid that the farmers would intensify their struggle, so they tried to refrain from prosecution or punishment in cases of trading surface rights among the tenant farmers. Thus most of the legal issues were left unsettled.
Those chief managers who had the contract to carry out large-scale basic construction works, such as excavating drainage rivers or building embankments against the sea, were called lantou. Most of the lantou were local farmers. Since the standard of living of the Haimen farmers was higher than that of the local farmers, Haimen farmers generally did not engage in such hard work. In the case of the quhe, the rivers which ran between districts, some were dug by lantou, and some were also dug by the tenant farmers themselves. In the case of the paihe (drainage streams, which ran within a district) and tiaogou (ditches, which ran between each tiao of land), most of them were dug by the tenant farmers themselves. The company paid them sixteen yuan in wages for digging the ditches for each tiao. In addition to this, the company provided them with seven to eight yuan for opening up each tiao of land, and four yuan for developing it into home lots.
In 1936, the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company finally distributed its 250,000 mu of land to each stockholder. Among them, Zhou Fujiu, one of the founders of the company, gained the largest amount, 50,000 mu of land. The Zhang Jian family gained very little land. Many of the big stockholders were actually groups formed by a number of smaller stockholders, and so most small stockholders gained only a few tiao of land. Within the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, there were a small number of farmers who possessed their own small amounts of farm land. They owned altogether 50,000 mu of land spread over the three districts of Yuanfeng, Jifeng and Yufeng. This was because in 1923, the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company had once sold off part of their land including these three districts to the Yuhua Land Reclamation Company. In 1930, this land was sold back to the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company, which gave it as security to the Shanghai Bank and the newly established Shangji Land Reclamation Group. After the Shangji Group had improved the land and drainage system, the Shanghai Bank sold off the land to the farmers again at a price of 400 yuan per tiao. This is how a small number of landowner farmers appeared in the area.
Among the Zhang family's relatives, only the Zhang family itself and two paternal cousins came to the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company. (The family's second son stayed in Zhongyang Zheng, Haimen.) One cousin came to Dafeng before the Zhang family and the other cousin came after them. Within the Zhang lineage, the number of siblings and cousins belonging to the same generation as Zhang Yan reached more than forty. However, only five of them came to Dafeng and most of them stayed in Haimen. In response to my question to Zhang Yan about whether he was, in the long run, satisfied with coming to Dafeng or not, his answer was that it was not a matter of whether he was satisfied or not, because they came to Dafeng at that time only to make a living. According to Zhang Yan, the number of children in his own and his brothers families were as follows: the eldest brother had six, the second brother (in Haimen) had one, he himself had six, and his younger brother had six, totalling nineteen. The number of these children's children in turn amounted to thirty, so that there were nearly fifty people in the two generations together. If they had stayed at the Tonghai Land Reclamation Company, it would have been impossible to sustain so many people there and for them all to flourish. Therefore, Zhang Yan concluded, perhaps he could say that he was satisfied with coming to Dafeng.
After the Zhang family migrated to Dafeng, their economic life improved year by year. In the period from their migration to the present, they had rebuilt their house five times altogether. At first, they lived in a hut, gun long ding. Then, around 1950, they built a two-room thatched cottage, with woven reed walls and bamboo beams. Five years later, they replaced the bamboo with wood, and added one more room. After the land reform, they built another three-room thatched cottage in another spot, so that then they had six rooms in total. In 1971, they built a five-room tile-roofed house. The Zhang family's history of rebuilding may reflect the general standard of living of the tenant farmers which generally began to improve after 1953.

The migration process in Tongde Village

Tongde Village is one of twenty-one villages which belong to Dazhong Zheng. In 1985, there were 977 households, and 2,989 people in the village. The village was divided into nine xiaozu (which literally means a small group, equivalent to the former production team). People engaged in agriculture and sideline businesses make up 17.3% of the entire labour force of the village. The output of agriculture and sideline businesses constitutes 28.8% of the total output of the village from agriculture, sideline businesses and industry. Since Tongde Village is very close to the County headquarters, the village recently has been undergoing a rapid process of industrialisation and urbanisation. Considering that only some sixty years ago, this area was just a vast undeveloped grassland, the changes taking place there are surprisingly rapid.
I carried out my fieldwork at A Xiaozu, which is comparatively far from the center of Dazhong Zheng, so that this area still preserve traces of the former village life. In 1986, A Xiaozu had 130 households. Among them, there were seventy-three households in which both husband and wife came from Haimen, or 56% of the total; there were thirty-eight cases in which the husband and wife were local or came from places other than Haimen, or 29% of the total; there were eight cases of a Haimen husband and a local wife, or 6% of the total, and eleven cases of a local husband and a Haimen wife, or 9% of the total. Classifying the households in terms of the place of origin of the husband, Haimen households number eighty-one, or 62% of the total. As for the village as a whole, it is estimated that people from Haimen constitute close to 60% of the entire population.
In terms of surname, there are altogether thirty-seven different surnames in A Xiaozu. The people originally from Haimen County are divided into twenty-four surname groups, while those from other places are divided into twenty-one. (Some surnames were held by both local people and outsiders.) Among the Haimen surnames, the most popular is Chen which is held by twelve households. However, they are divided into two unrelated lineages. When the company was established, there were only a few surnames in the area. Where a number of households share the same surname, it usually means that they arrived in the area relatively early. About half of all the surnames are shared by only one or two households. These are surnames of people who came to the area after the dissolution of the company or after the revolution of 1949. This is why a single xiaozu may have many surnames.
The earliest migrant farmers, who came to the area in 1918 when the company was established, belonged to the Fang, Gu, Qin and Ni surname groups. Descendants of those four surnames have no way of knowing where in Haimen their ancestors come from. Among them, the Gu contracted two tiao and the Qin ten tiao of land respectively. The Qin later moved to Dazhong Zheng and started a woodworking business there. Apart from them, the descendants of the other earliest migrant farmers are still living in the area. During the 1920s, people with surnames such as Chen, Lu, Ding, Zhang, Wang, Xie and Shi came to the area one after another. Among them, the Lu contracted one tiao, the Wang six tiao, the Zhang one tiao, and the Xie three tiao of land respectively. Later, the Xie were brought to ruin because of opium smoking and the descendants moved somewhere else. Descendants of those seven surnames also do not know clearly where in Haimen their ancestors come from. What they do know is that the Cheng came from Fuming Zheng and the Ding from Tongxing Zheng in Haimen respectively.
As for the arrangement of housing for the tenants, the company let farmers build their own houses within the farm land which they contracted. Since there was plenty of land at the beginning of reclamation this meant that there was on average less than one house to each tiao of land. At that time, Haimen farmers and local farmers did not build their houses within the same tiao as each other. Later on, however, since the number of newly built houses increased continuously as time went by, Haimen farmers and local farmers started to build their houses and live within the same tiao. In 1970, the local government rearranged the location of the farmer's houses and designated the four tiao of land in A Xiaozu as a farmers' residential area. By concentrating the houses within a particular area, the local government aimed at efficient management of the farm land.

Land reclamation and Haimen migrant farmers

The Dafeng Land Reclamation Company was the largest within the Northern Jiangsu reclamation area. According to statistics, the company's farm land occupied 20% of the total land held by the companies in the area, and its share of the cotton output was 30%. This explains why the company occupied such an important position in the area.
When the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company was just established, immigrant farmers from Haimen made up more than 90% of all the tenant farmers. Therefore, it goes without saying that Haimen farmers made a great contribution to developing the company and, furthermore, the entire Northern Jiangsu reclamation area. Of course, the circumstances of Haimen farmers were different in each company. Zhang Yan recollects that conditions in the Dafeng Reclamation Company were better than those in the other companies at that time. For example, in the case of the Yuhua Land Reclamation Company, since most of the company's staff were from Zhejiang Province and did not contract to cultivate the company's land themselves, this company treated their tenant farmers rather severely.
Today, as for Dafeng county, the percentage of Haimen people is smaller than that of the local people and all the Haimen people are able to speak the local language. At the beginning, however, where the local people were fewer than the Haimen people, it was the local people who learned to speak the Haimen language. This kind of phenomena is still continuing in some areas. For example, in A Xiaozu, where Haimen people make up the majority group, both the Haimen and the local languages are spoken in everyday village life. As for intermarriage between the Haimen and the local people, it only began to take place after the late 1960s. Since there are remarkable differences not only in language but also in various customs between the groups, this could not have happened at the beginning of reclamation. At that time, antagonism was the norm and it sometimes led to fighting.
One of the characteristics of Haimen people is that they have a strong sense of solidarity. Originally they had a custom of recognizing gan qing, literally "dry kinship", or a fictive kinship relationship between two people. This custom further flourished after they came to Dafeng, perhaps as a way of coping with an unstable immigrant society. This custom is not so popular among the local people. After two people recognise a gan qing relationship, they are supposed to attend and help each other whenever there are rites of passage. Therefore, in the case of Haimen marriages or funerals, the number of people that get together is much larger than in the case of the local people. Moreover, when there is any conflict between them, Haimen people unite against the local people. On one occasion a few years before the land reform, xiedou (armed fighting) broke out between Fufeng District (the local people) and Defeng district (the Haimen people) over management of water. The Haimen people immediately banded together and succeeded in preventing the local people from acting. This strong sense of solidarity of the Haimen people also played an important role in the struggle with the company for lower farm rents.
Another characteristic of Haimen people is that they lay stress on education. Even at the cost of sacrificing the family standard of living, they tried to get their children into schools to be educated. In 1937, Dafeng reclamation area opened experimental districts and enforced compulsory education there. The number of elementary schools run by Fufeng, Defeng and other districts amounted to twenty-two. Tongde Elementary School at Tongde Village was originally established in Defeng district at that time and later in 1969, it moved to the present site. In 1986, both the level of junior high school and the percentage going on to higher education in the former reclamation area is higher than that of the local farm area. However, due to the influence of the reclamation area, the educational level of the local farm area has recently been rising as well.
It is true that the strong sense of Haimen localism sometimes led to antagonism and fighting with the local farmers. On the other hand, their pioneer spirit played a positive role under quite severe conditions during the beginning of reclamation. Their strong sense of solidarity also functioned positively when they were in conflict with the company. Furthermore, their enthusiastic attitude towards education played an important role in enhancing the educational standard of the whole local area.
Because of the accumulation of earth and sand carried out to sea by the Yangzi River, the coastal land is still continuously expanding inch by inch towards the east. Since the first land reclamation project was started, nearly 100 years have passed and the newly emerged salty land now amounts to a considerable size. Today, local people call the former reclamation area the "old reclamation area" and the newly emerging eastern area the "new reclamation area". After Liberation in 1949, the county government started a new project of general development in the "new reclamation area" and organised the systematic migration of farmers to it from the west.
It is possible to say that the reclamation work carried out by these reclamation companies from the late Qing to the Republican periods constitutes a part of the long history of developing the coastal lands from ancient times to the present. Therefore, the reclamation of the area achieved by mainly Haimen immigrant farmers constitutes not only a part of the reclamation work carried out by these companies, but also a part of coastal history.
When we think of the history of migration and reclamation of the area, we cannot help but recollect what Zhang Jian once told his friend:

"Ever since I established the Dasheng Spinning Mill, I have often visited Shanghai. I soon realised that among the people pulling rickshaws or small carts in Shanghai, 90% of them are farmers from Haimen or Chongming. I once carried out a survey among them and found out that they are badly off. The reason why they came to Shanghai is that they had too little land to make a living and could not help leaving their home....I have already decided to realise one of my dreams, which is within the area of the five counties of Tongzhou, Rugao, Tongtai, Yancheng and Funing, to reclaim one or two million mu of land and plant cotton there....thus, supposing every household receives twenty mu of land, it is possible to supply farm land for 100,000 or 200,000 households; assuming that every household has five people, it is possible to sustain a livelihood for 500,000 or 1,000,000 people.[5]

Although the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company failed as a business entity in the long run, it can be said that one of Zhang Jian's dreams finally came true.

Conclusion: Anthropological implications

The process of the formation and development of an immigrant community discussed in this paper has many implications for the study of both the domestic and overseas migrations which took place in the past in Chinese society, even though this case is rather unusual in that the migration was organised by a company.
Many previous studies have pointed out the basic characteristics of Chinese migration, and this case seems to correspond to the popular model in a number of ways. On the other hand, there are some points in which this case differs. [6]
Ways in which this case fits the previous model can be classified as follows: (i) migration tends to occur between particular places; (ii) pull factors are essential in addition to push factors; (iii) migrants follow particular well-defined routes; (iv) there is a pattern of migration in which migrants start by staying temporarily, gradually settling down as their economic situation begins to stabilise; (v) this means that at the start they travel frequently back and forth between their home villages and the place they have settled, and that even after they have setttled down, some of them re-migrate within the settlement area seeking further opportunities.
Looking at the structure of the immigrant community, there are also features which correspond with the usual model. In their relationships with the the local inhabitants, at first the unstable communities of immigrants tended to strengthen their own kinship and quasi-kinship relationships such as gan qing, and there was even xiedou (armed conflict) between the groups at the start. However, as time went on, the immigrants and the local inhabitants began to intermarry. In spite of these changes, the basic dual structure of the local community, such as bilingualism and dual social identities from the second generation of the immigrants onwards, are still maintained.
On the other hand, there are some points which do not correspond with the usual model. Many studies have pointed out that lineage organisation plays a continuous and important role in pushing and pulling migrants, especially in overseas migration. However, as the case of Zhang Yan's family shows us, one of the realities is that, rather than the lineage itself systematically organising outmigration, only a few families from the whole lineage leave the village voluntarily. Those who actually leave the village are rather a small proportion of the lineage as a whole. Moreover, when a family migrates, they do not all move together at once, but those with initiative or physical strength go ahead and, if they are successful they take part or all of their family with them later on. This pattern is quite similar to that of overseas migration and indicates that the same strategy was adopted in the case of domestic migration as well.
In this case, there are no families which possess written genealogies. Furthermore, some of them do not even know exactly where their ancestors came from. This seems rather surprising but this implies that most of the migrations in the past are somewhat similar to this kind of simple pattern in their early stages. Lineage organisation in migration seems to begin to play a positive role only after the migration has continued for some generations so that the organisation of outmigration is monopolised by particular lineages almost as a kind of business. On the other hand, to cause the formation of lineage organisation within the immigrant community, several generations need to pass, and the presence of surrounding lineages has to force them to unite. It is only after some generations have passed, and the migrants' economic position has stabilised, that they try to re-establish a reciprocal relationship with their home village.
In this instance, since the migration from Haimen did not continue for many decades, lineage organisation did not play any significant role. As for the formation of lineage organisations within the immigrant community and the re-establishment of mutual relations with their home village, this development may be seen in the future, since migration in this case has, as yet, a relatively short history.
During the Ming and Qing periods, Chinese society experienced a rapid expansion of population and large-scale domestic migrations in many parts of China. Overseas migrations at this period were only a tiny part of these nation-wide movements of population. Generally we tend to assume that the expansion of the population comes first and that this eventually causes large-scale migration. As far as the push factor in migration is concerned, this assumption may be true. However, large-scale population expansion may also take place after large-scale migration rather than before it. The example of Zhang Yan's family history in this case study seems to support this.


For information on the Dafeng Land Reclamation Company and Haimen immigrants, I am greatly indebted to Professor Yan Xuexi at the University of Nanjing, who was my adviser while I studied there between 1985 and 1987. He also took me to Dafeng county and taught me how to carry out fieldwork in rural China. Mr.Wang Sufei, a graduate student of Nanjing University at that time and who came from Haimen himself, accompanied me to Dafeng and provided crucial support and assistance in my research. In addition to this, I am also indebted to the International Scholars and Students Department at Nanjing University and Messrs. Yao Enrong, Zhang Yan and Zhou Yingxi at the editorial office of the Dafeng County local gazette. Without the generous support and assistance of these individuals, I could not have carried out my fieldwork and completed this paper. It is based on a paper in Chinese which was presented at the International Conference on Zhang Jian held in 1987 at Nanjing University. For a report on the conference in Japanese see Nishizawa (1988). The Proceedings of the conference were published in China in 1993 (Nanjing Daxue Waiguo Zuezhe Liuxuesheng Yanxiubu ed. 1993).


1. See, for example, Huang Yifeng (1962), Cao Congpo (1962), Nakai Hideki (1976), Sun Jiashan (1984).
2. See, for example, Yao Enrong and Zhou Yingxi (1983, 1984).
3. Hu Huanyong (1934: 206-210), Yao Enrong and Zhou Yingxi (1983).
4. Hu Huanyong (1934: 206-210), Yao Enrong and Zhou Yingxi (1983).
5. Liu Housheng (1985:250-251).
6. I have discussed the anthropology of Chinese domestic and overseas migration elsewhere in a paper in Japanese. See Nishizawa (1992).

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Updated 4 June 2020