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Is There Evidence of Birth Control in Late Imperial China?

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In recent publications James Lee, Wang Feng, Cameron Campbell, and Zhongwei Zhao argue—contrary to what has long been the view of most sinologists—that people in late imperial China deliberately controlled their fertility through a combination of late starting, early stopping, and long spacing. The present article challenges this argument and the data offered in its support. It attempts to show that though they did not want as many children as possible, most Chinese couples did want to raise as many sons as possible. What is interpreted by the revisionists as evidence of birth control is better understood as evidence of poverty.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Arthur P. Wolf is Professor of Anthropology, Department of Anthropological Sciences, Stanford University.

Publication date: March 1, 2001

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