“Rent-in-Perpetuity” System and Xiamen Title Deed: A Study of Sino-Anglo Land Transactions in China’s Treaty Ports
Through examining the deeds used in Sino-Anglo land transactions on Gulangyu (鼓浪屿, Kulangsu), this chapter demonstrates the role of Huaqi (华契, a particular Chinese-language deed) in legalising foreigners’ land rights and safeguarding Chinese lessors’ interests. Huaqi ensured the consistent influence of the local traditions and indigenous customs on foreigners’ land development. Huaqi’s ambiguity and intricacy in demarcating the property arose with the increasing mobility of the residents. The registration of the title deed allowed the Consulate to efficiently manage their nationals’ properties. The changing formats and formalisation of the title deed indicated the institutionalisation process of the “rent-in-perpetuity” system in Xiamen. The chapter concludes that complex local contexts led to diverse ways of managing and supervising Sino-foreign land transactions in China’s treaty ports, mixing traditional Chinese ideology with Western practices.
This research originates from one chapter of the author’s doctoral dissertation entitled “Urban Transformation in Semi-colonial China: Gulangyu International Settlement (1903–1937),” which was completed in 2006. It was presented in a few conferences and substantially revised for this publication. Special thanks are attributed to Donna Brunero for her editorial comments, and Jason Tzu-cheng Kuo for his proofreading assistance and constructive feedback. Any error in this chapter is solely the responsibility of the author.