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Property Rights in Medieval Japan: The Role of Buddhist Temples and Monasteries


Mikael Adolphson


Harvard University - East Asian Languages & Civilizations

J. Mark Ramseyer


Harvard Law School

April 2007

Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 584

Abstract:     
Medieval Japanese governments only haphazardly enforced claims to scarce resources. Necessarily, this presented landholders with a void. To obtain the enforcement the governments did not offer, many turned to institutions affiliated with the fractious Buddhist church instead. Temples and monasteries enjoyed an exemption from tax on their lands, and controlled an array of financial and human resources with which they could adjudicate and enforce claims to scarce resources. To obtain access to that exemption and those resources, landholders "commended" their land to them, and paid them a share of the harvest. In exchange, the temples and monasteries exempted them from tax, adjudicated disputes internal to the estate, and protected their estates against external threats. Effectively, the temples and monasteries competed in a market for basic governmental services.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 17

JEL Classification: H41, K11, K40, N45

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Date posted: May 9, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Adolphson, Mikael and Ramseyer, J. Mark, Property Rights in Medieval Japan: The Role of Buddhist Temples and Monasteries (April 2007). Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 584. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=985366 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.985366

Contact Information

Mikael Adolphson (Contact Author)
Harvard University - East Asian Languages & Civilizations ( email )
1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
J. Mark Ramseyer
Harvard Law School ( email )
1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4878 (Phone)
617-496-6118 (Fax)
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