Date: Sun, 8 Oct 1995 03:54:51 -0400
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <>
From: Steve Leibo <>
Subject: H-ASIA: Mutual Aid Societies
To: Multiple recipients of list H-ASIA <>

Mutual aid societies

Dialog from the H-Asia list, October 1995

Date: October 2, 1995 Barend ter Haar Subj:RE: H-ASIA: ? On Mutual Aid Societies

Mutual aid societies did much more: descend from the old Chinese she cult groups (on which Jacques Gernet’s recently translated book might be the easiest Western source to start from), entailed all kinds of mutual aid from money lending to helping out with funerals.

Start with David Ownby’s introduction to Secret Societies Reconsidered. The best reference is the Japanese book by Shimizu Moriatsu, Chugoku kyoson shakai ron (Iwanami, Tokyo, 1983 second print) with all relevant source quotations also in Chinese!!! It surpasses all Western and Chinese articles that I have seen to date. I suspect that the fieldwork led by Sidney Gamble in Beijing and Henan would also have relevant info. And so on and so forth.

Barend ter Haar

Subj:RE: H-ASIA: ? On Mutual Aid Societies
From: Gene Cooper <>
To T.T. Nguyen

There is a discussion of so-called rotating credit societies in Fei Hsiao-t’ung’s Peasant Life in China, a classic of Chinese ethnography of the 1930s. That would be a good place to start.

Gene Cooper
U of Southern Cal. Donald R. Deglopper
subj:RE: H-ASIA: ? On Mutual Aid Societies

Chinese mutual aid societies or rotating credit associations are amply described in many late 19th or early 20th century English-language accounts of Chinese society. Arthur H. Smith’s Village Life in China (first published around 1896, reprinted three times in the US in 1968, 1969 and 1970) devotes a chapter to them. Sidney Gamble’s Ting Hsien: A North China Rural Community (reprinted by Stanford University Press in 1968) gives a good account. See the listings in G. William Skinner’s Modern Chinese Society: An Analytical Bibliography (Stanford UP, 1973). Ellen Oxfeld’s recent book Blood, Sweat and Mahjong (Cornell UP 1993) not only mentions rotating credit associations in a few paragraphs, but is exceptionally well annotated and so provides a good guide to most of the recent anthropological literature on Chinese economic organization.

Donald R. DeGlopper(202) 707-9831
Library of
Washington DC 20540

Date: October 2, 1995
Subj:RE: H-ASIA: Mutual Aid Societies

Rotating credit societies/associations are very much alive and well today in Taiwan. I don’t have any scholarly references, but I would guess that a query to the CHINA list ( would yield either some personal information or scholarly sources.

Joseph Adler
Kenyon College

subj:Mutual Aid Society
From: Ming-te Pan <mpan@GONZAGA.EDU>

Due the technical problem of the main frame on our campus, I have not received any incoming messages for 5 days. I missed the original question about mutual aid society (hehui or huzhuhei). I am interested in rural credit system in China and my dissertation was about the rural credit system in the late imperial China and the Republican era. I would like to offer my two cents on the issue.

Hehui originated in Buddhist temple in the 3rd-4th centuries. Lien-sheng Yang has an article Four Money Raising Methods of Monasteries (I do not have the reference with me. I believed it was first published in The Journal of Harvard Asiatic Studies (late 1950s?), and later collected into his book on economic institutions in China published in 1960s. I will provide the accurate citation when I find it out from my notes.

This system then became a common institution for people to raise fund for various purposes, such as ancestor worship, pilgrimage, raising capital for starting business, paying for examination traveling expanses...

Japanese also picked up this way of raising fund. It was called mujin or mujin ko, or ko in Japanese. Japanese institutionalized this in late 19th century. Many of the ko latter became institutions similar to credit union. Today, in Taiwan and Hong Kong this remain a major way of raising funds.

Wang Zongpei has a book titled Zhongguo he hui shi (I am not certain about accuracy of the title. I will find out from my notes). Yang Mengxi also has a book on this subject. Both of the books were published in the 1930s. They basically explain different ways of subscribing and bidding shares in the society, and how much profit (interest) can be realized in each scenario. In terms of ethnographic accounts, in addition to what has been suggested, Chuugoku noosoon kankoo chosa published by Iwanami, complied by the Mantetsu and Tokyo University Joint study team, contains quite a few accounts with regard to different practices in the North China. Fukutake Naoshi’s collected work also mentioned this practice in the 1930s. Taiwan kokan chosa kai published Taiwan kokan chosa, shihoo hen (The investigation of old custom in Taiwan, civic law) (1911?) also has a section about this financial institution and its practices.

My dissertation (1994) Rural Credit System and the Chinese Peasant Economy (1600-1950), UC Irvine also has a section on this practice during the Qing and early Republican Ear.

Ming-te Pan
Gonzaga University
Spokane, WA 99207

Date: October 2, 1995
Subj:mutual aide societies
From: Madeline Hsu <mhsu@ocf.Berkeley.EDU>

An example of a modern-day mutual aide society could be found as close at hand as recently as 1992 among the teachers at the Stanford Center in Taibei. They still practiced pooling money and giving the whole to the teacher prepared to offer the highest interest rate.

Madeline Hsu, Yale University

Subj:Mutual Aid Association
From: Ming-te Pan <mpan@GONZAGA.EDU>

Listed in the following are the complete titles that I mentioned in my previous post.

1. Fukutake Naoshi. 1951. Chugoku noson shakai no kozo (The structure of Chinese village society). Tokyo: Yuhikaku.

2. Wang Zongpei. 1935. Zhongguo zhi hehui (The rotating saving association in China). Nanjing: Zhongguo hezuo xueshe.

3. Yang Ximeng. 1935. Zhongguo hehui zhi yanjiu (Studies in Chinese rotating saving association). Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan.

4. Yang Lien-sheng. 1961. Buddhist Monasteries and Four Money-Raising Institutions in Chinese History in Studies in Chinese Institutional History. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

5. Chugoku noson kanko chosa kankokai (Niida Noboru, ed.) 1952-58. Chugoku noson kanko chosa (Investigations of customary practices in rural China). 6 vols. Tokyo: Iwanami. There is a handy index volume for this 6 massive volumes of records. One can find the entries related to huzhuhui or hehui under the category of Market and Credit.

I hope this will help. Ming-te Pan
Department of History
Gonzaga University
Spokane WA 99258