True Crimes in Eighteenth-Century China: Twenty Case Histories

Overview

The little-examined genre of legal case narratives is represented in this fascinating volume, the first collection translated into English of criminal cases - most involving homicide - from late imperial China. These true stories of crimes of passion, family conflict, neighborhood feuds, gang violence, and sedition are a treasure trove of information about social relations and legal procedure.

Each narrative describes circumstances leading up to a crime and its discovery, the ...

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Overview

The little-examined genre of legal case narratives is represented in this fascinating volume, the first collection translated into English of criminal cases - most involving homicide - from late imperial China. These true stories of crimes of passion, family conflict, neighborhood feuds, gang violence, and sedition are a treasure trove of information about social relations and legal procedure.

Each narrative describes circumstances leading up to a crime and its discovery, the appearance of the crime scene and the body, the apparent cause of death, speculation about motives and premeditation, and whether self-defense was involved. Detailed testimony is included from the accused and from witnesses, family members, and neighbors, as well as summaries and opinions from local magistrates, their coroners, and other officials higher up the chain of judicial review. Officials explain which law in the Qing dynasty legal code was violated, which corresponding punishment was appropriate, and whether the sentence was eligible for reduction.

These records began as reports from magistrates on homicide cases within their jurisdiction that were required by law to be tried first at the county level, then reviewed by judicial officials at the prefectural, provincial, and national levels, with each administrator adding his own observations to the file. Each case was decided finally in Beijing, in the name of the emperor if not by the monarch himself, before sentences could be carried out and the records permanently filed. All of the cases translated here are from the Qing imperial copies, most of which are now housed in the First Historical Archives, Beijing.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient - Geoffrey MacCormack
[T]he material translated... consists essentially of initial depositions in the case... In this lies their unique value in offering, as does no other source, contemporary accounts of ordinary life...
Canadian Journal of History - Ihor Pidhainy
A top-notch book.... Hegel has judiciously selected these cases to allow the reader access to 'glimpses of lived experience—both personal and administrative in Qing China.... Students will be drawn to its engaging case studies, while scholars of the law will enjoy it for comparative purposes.
Nan Nu - Lisa Tran
His highly engaging writing style makes this volume easily accessible for non-China specialists interested in Qing law, society, and culture.... The book is well suited for classroom use and would appeal to a wide audience.
Journal of Women's History - Ann Waltner
There are rich rewards for someone who reads it looking for evidence about women.
The Historian
The book will interest students who will find the tabloid-like content alluring and the Chinese legal issues relevant... It will also be valuable for scholars investigating China's criminal justice and administrative systems.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295989068
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Series: Asian Law Series
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert E. Hegel is Liselotte Dieckmann Professor of Comparative Literature and professor of Chinese, Washington University, St. Louis.

University of Washington Press

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Table of Contents

Preface and AcknowledgmentsTranslator's NotesIntroduction

Part I Judicial ProceduresCase 1: Xu Si: A Scuffle over a Debt (Jiangsu, 1792)Case 2: Li Huaiyu: The Missing Brother (Hunan, 1736)Case 3: Ms. Guo: Accidental Homicide Concealed (Zhili, 1794)Case 4: Li Cang: Blackmail and Arsenic (Shanxi, 1803)Case 5: Cao Ligong: Attempted Rape That Led to Murder (Zhili, 1803)

Part II Interrogation TechniquesCase 6: Du Huailiang: Adultery That Brought Disaster (Shandong, 1696)Case 7: Rui Meisheng: Manslaughter over an Outhouse (Anhui, 1722)Case 8: Jia Mingyuan: Accidental Homicide (Fengtian, 1796)

Part III Intent and Premeditated ViolenceCase 9: Luo Zhongyi: Kidnapping (Guangdong, 1728)Case 10: Wang Azhen: Murder for Extortion (Guangdong, 1779)Part IV The Failure of "Confucian" Family Values 122Case 11: Li Er and Li San: Two Pecks of Beans (Fengtian, 1738)Case 12: The Hong Brothers: A Quarrel over Manure (Hunan, 1738)Case 13: Ms. Wang: Incest and Violent Homicide (Jilin, 1738)Case 14: Ms. Ma: Disguised Poisoning (Shandong, 1795)Part V Control of Politically Marginal Groups and IndividualsCase 15: A Village Vendetta and Han Intercession (Guangxi, 1728)Case 16: Rebellious Religious Sectarians (North China,1791-1814)Case 17: Ji Yanghua: Secret Society Member (Shanxi, 1814)Part VI Social Mobility and CrimeCase 18: Jin San: A Spurned Lover (Sichuan, 1728)Case 19: Luo Fenpeng: A Phony Scholar-Official (Jiangxi, 1763)

Part VII Imperial Intervention Case 20: Li Yuchang: A Magistrate Murdered for His Integrity (Jiangsu, 1809)

Appendix 1. Banners and Other Social OrganizationsAppendix 2. Popular Religious MovementsAppendix 3. Cases Listed by Social ConflictChinese Character GlossaryBibliography of Studies in EnglishIndex

University of Washington Press

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