Appendix 2.1: Text and Translation of Pertinent Laws
Date unknown, close to the founding of the Qing Dynasty (1644): Prohibition on bondservant families from arranging marriage for their offspring on their own.
国初定, 凡家仆将女子私家与人, 不问本主着, 鞭一百。不论年份远近, 生子与未生子, 俱离异, 给予本主。
As determined at the founding of the empire, any family bondservant who privately marries daughter off, without going through the master, will suffer 100 lashes. Regardless of how many years have passed, whether or not she has borne children, she will be required to divorce and be given to the master.
Thirteenth Year of the Yongzheng Emperor (1735): Sub-statute stating that masters of all households are required to arrange marriages for their female slaves , or face penalties.
凡绅衿庶民之家, 如有将婢女不行婚配, 致令孤寡者, 照不应重律, 杖八十。系民的决, 绅衿依律纳赎, 令其择配。
Any commoner or degree-holding household, if he fails to arrange a marriage for his female slave [binü], rendering her alone and desolate, according to the statute against doing inappropriate things, will be beaten by 80 blows of the heavy bamboo. The sentence will be carried out if [the offender] is a commoner. If he is a degree-holder, he shall be able to redeem the punishment with a fine as provided by the statute. [The head of the household] shall be ordered to arrange the marriage.
Seventh Year of the Qianlong Emperor (1742): Statue stating that indentured servants are ineligible to be redeemed once their masters arranged for them to marry a female slave.
乾隆元年以后民人白契所卖家人, 婢女招配着, 亦照旗人有妻室不准赎身之例, 作为家奴。
Any white-contract bondservant [indentured servants] purchased by commoners after Year One of the Qianlong Emperor , once they have been arranged to marry a female slave [binü], just as bannermen cannot ransom themselves once they have married, will become generational slaves.
Appendix 2.2: Text and Translation from Deeds of Sale
立婚书人吴阿谢, 今有使婢名唤小女, 年长一十四岁。今因钱粮无措, 自情愿浼中出卖与侄名下为婢, 听自领去, 永远使唤。三面得价礼银拾两整。自卖之后, 倘有不测, 天之命也。本家并无异说。今恐无凭, 立此婚书存照。
Sixth Year of the Shunzhi Emperor (1469)
The architect of this contract [literally, ‘marriage certificate’] Wu A’xie, currently has a serving girl [bi
] named Xiaonü, 14 years of age. Due to constraints of food and finance, wishes of his own volition to sell [her] to his nephew as slave, to be taken away by him and follow his orders for always. Three parties [seller, buyer and broker] agreed on ritual gift payment of 12 taels of silver exactly. After the sale, if any misfortune befalls [the girl], it will be seen as fated. This family [sellers] will not object. Regrets [regarding the sale] have no standing from now on, this contract is created to constitute proof.
Shunzhi Year 6 Month 8 Day 21, Architect of the marriage certificate, Wu A’xie (signed or stamped)
Broker, Wu Chubai (signed/stamped)
Wu Zesheng (signed/stamped)
Scribe, Nan Rushu (signed/stamped)
立卖契人吴士鋐、士镕, 今有婢名唤小女, 年一十四岁。今因钱粮无措, 自情愿浼中转卖与亲人李名下为婢, 当日得受礼银拾两整。自卖之后, 听自永远使唤。倘有风烛不常, 听自天命。如有不明等事, 尽是卖人之当, 不累受人之事。今恐无凭, 立此婚书存照。
Sixth Year of the Shunzhi Emperor (1469)
The architect of this sales contract Wu Shihong and Shirong, currently, has a serving girl [bi
] named Xiaonü, 14 years of age. Due to constraints of food and finance, wishes of his own volition to sell [her] to a relative surnamed Li as slave on the same day receiving a ritual gift payment of 12 taels of silver exactly. After the sale, [the girl will] obey [his] orders for always. If any misfortune befalls [the girl], it will be seen as fated. If there is any unsavoury business, this is the seller’s responsibility, the buyer will not be liable. This family [of sellers] will not object. Regrets [regarding the sale] have no standing from now on, this contract is created to constitute proof.
Shunzhi Year 6 Month 8 Day 29, Architect of this marriage certificate Wu Shihong (signed/stamped)
Wu Shirong (signed/stamped)
Broker, Li Junmei (signed/stamped)
Wu Chubai (signed/stamped) [Same as contract above.]
Wu Zesheng (signed/stamped) [Same as contract above.]
嘉善县大安坊立卖女文契宋明远, 今因急用, 情愿将自己长女, 身年拾岁, 八月十九日未时生, 央中卖到程处为使女, 凭媒三面议定当日得受身价银拾贰两正。其银立契之日, 现银收足。其女即日过门, 恁从带往徽州, 更名使唤。并无年庚八字在外。成人长大, 悉从程姓择配。自相情愿, 并无异言反悔。倘有来历不明, 不涉买主之事。如顽蛮不从, 听凭责罚。或有不测, 各听天命。倘有逃失, 原中寻还。今恐无据, 立此卖契为证。
Tenth Year of the Yongzheng Emperor (1732)
The contract of a daughter’s sale of Song Mingyuan of Da’an Ward, Jiashan County, due to straitened circumstances, wishes to have his eldest daughter, age 10, born between 13 and 15 hours of the nineteenth day of the eighth month, be sold by a broker to the Cheng household as a female servant [shıˇnü
] [….] Once the girl crosses the door of her new home, she is permitted to be taken to Hui Prefecture, have her name changed, and follow orders [from the Cheng family]. When she is of age, it is understood she will submit to the Cheng family’s arrangements for her marriage. The parties mutually agree to these terms; there is no objection or regret. If there are suspicions of unsavoury origins [i.e. kidnapping, illegal sale], the buyer bears no responsibility. If [the girl] is mischievous and disobedient, it will be up to her to observe [the buyer’s] discipline. If misfortune should befall her, it will be considered fate. If she escapes, she will be searched for and brought back. From here on any regrets [regarding the sale] have no basis; this contract of sale is created to constitute proof.
Yongzheng Year 10 Month 8 Day [?], Architect of contract of sale Song Mingyuan (signed/stamped)
Wife to the same, Surname Zhang (signed/stamped)
Relative to the same, scribe, Xu Shaofang (signed/stamped)
Broker, Wife of Xu family (signed/stamped)
Zhang Shishi (signed/stamped)
To be kept for always as proof.
立卖断婢女身契刘利益, 今有自己使唤婢女名唤红鸾, 年方一十四岁, 今因乏用, 托媒卖断与江处为婢。三面言议, 卖断出身价钱七拾壹千文正。其钱即日收足, 其婢女即听江家改名使唤教管, 日后或转卖或俟长成择配, 悉从江家之便, 益不得干预其事。至此婢系益自己使唤, 并未益重张典当受人财礼等情。如有来历不明, 系益出头承当, 与江家无涉。风水不虞, 听天之命。惟愿入门益利长发万金。恐口无凭, 卖断婢女身契乙纸为照。
Twenty-Fourth Year of the Daoguang Emperor (1844)
Contract for a binding sale by Liu Liyi, who currently uses a female slave binü named Hongluan [lit. Red Phoenix], aged 14. Due to lack of use, a broker is being entrusted to sell her to the Jiang family as slave [bi]. Three parties have agreed; the price of this sale of the body [person] is 71,000 wen exactly. Upon the receipt of payment, the binü will submit to having her name changed and following orders and instruction of the Jiang family. As to reselling her at a later date or arranging her marriage once she is grown, it is understood that the Jiang family’s desires will be followed, and Yi [Liu] will not interfere in these matters. Until now the girl has been used by Yi himself, and was not given to anyone as a gift or other use previously. If there is suspicion of unsavoury origins, it is up to Yi to come forth and take responsibility and it has no bearing on the Jiang family. If the girl meets misfortune, it will be considered fate. Best wishes for [the buyer] to acquire prosperity and blessings. Regrets have no standing; the binding contract of sale of the person of the binü constitutes proof.
Daoguang Year 24 Month 12 Auspicious Day, Architect of contract of sale Liu Liyi (stylized signature)
Binü under the above’s orders [i.e. obedient binü], Hongluan (stylized signature)
Broker, Huang Surnamed Li (stylized signature)
Surname Li (stylized signature)
Scribe, Lin Changchun (stylized signature)
立缴断婢女身契江清辉, 自己凭媒价买有婢女名唤云鸾, 年方十五岁, 身中并无暗疾, 兹经托媒将此婢女转缴与侯邑廿三都汤院地方郑处为婢。三面言议, 卖断出身价钱七十八千文正。其钱即日随契收足, 其婢女听郑家改名使唤, 长成之日, 亦听择媒收价。自卖之后, 不得以父母兄弟藉亲往来, 永断葛藤。但此婢女系辉自己凭媒价买, 非是拐带私逃, 亦未曾重张典当他人财物, 以及来由不清等情。如有来历不明, 其身价钱听从郑家收回, 辉自己出头抵挡, 与郑毫无干涉。倘有风水不虞, 听天由命。两家允愿, 各无反悔。今欲有凭, 立缴卖断身契乙纸, 付执为照。
Twenty-Sixth Year of the Daoguang Emperor (1846)
Contract for a binding sale by Jiang Qinghui, who is personally depending on a broker to buy [i.e. to broker the sale of] his binü named Yunluan, aged 15, who has no physical ailments or disabilities, asking the broker to kindly transfer responsibility of this binü to the Zheng household of Houyi 23rd Town Tang Court as slave [bi]. Due to lack of use, a broker is being entrusted to sell her to the Jiang family as servant [bi]. Three parties have agreed, the price of this sale of the body [person] is 78,000 wen exactly. Upon the receipt of payment, the binü will submit to having her name changed and following orders of the Zheng family. Once of age, [she] will also submit to [their] arrangement of marriage and receipt of payment accordingly. From the moment of sale, she will not have dealings with her parents and brothers of the same surname, forever severing this complex attachment. However, this binü was purchased by Hui [Jiang] himself with a broker, is not kidnapped nor a runaway, nor the property taken from another person, thus [her] exact origins are unknown. If there is suspicion of unsavoury origins, the value of the body [person] will be collected back accordingly by the Zheng family. Hui will come forth and take responsibility, and it will have zero bearings on the Zheng family. If the girl meets misfortune, it will be considered fate. Both families are acting of their own volition, neither has regrets. Desiring there be proof from now on, this binding contract of sale of the person of the binü is established and will be kept to constitute proof.
Daoguang Year 26 Month 4 Auspicious Day, Architect of the contract Jiang Qinghui (stylized signature)
Binü under the above’s orders, Yunluan (stylized signature)
Broker and guarantor, Lin Surnamed Chen (stylized signature)
Scribe, Zhu Changcheng (stylized signature)