The study of the legal framework of inheritance may appear rather unexciting in comparison with some of the other contemporary developments in family law and social policy such as the single-child programme, freedom of divorce, adoption and the state's attempt to elevate the social status of the married-in son-in-law (Palmer, 1986a). Moreover, inheritance law might be regarded as occupying only an insignificant position in a socialist society which does not permit individuals to hold heritable proprietary rights in the principal means of production, agricultural land. However, describing China's law of inheritance in these terms seriously underestimates both the intrinsic importance of the corpus of legal rules governing this mode of property devolution and the light which the operation of the law can throw on domestic, kinship and other close interpersonal relationships.