The Hand of Law and the Body of Family. Family, Fear and the Court of Law in Qing China
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Qing dynasty
collective body of the family
court of law
Confucian morality
generational hierarchy
social causes of crime

How to Cite

Sarakaeva, A. (2021). The Hand of Law and the Body of Family. Family, Fear and the Court of Law in Qing China. Corpus Mundi, 2(2), 83-119.


The article, through the lens of crimes and court cases, explores the complex relationship between the individual, family and state in China in the XVII-XIX centuries. The research is based on archival court cases and fiction literature of traditional China. The author examines crimes committed within the family, analyses the testimony of criminals and witnesses, as well as sentences and government decrees; compares the real transcripts of court hearings with the depiction of family conflicts, investigations and trials in adventure novels and short stories by Chinese writers. As a result, the author comes to a number of conclusions, in particular, that the Qing government gradually shifted the emphasis from the value of filial piety and generational hierarchy to the special importance of marriage relations; while in public mindset, on the contrary, the inertia of Confucianism and the desire to protect the integrity and autonomy of the family body from interference by state power were extremely strong. Speaking about the reaction of the Chinese family to the crime that occurred within its ranks, the author identifies several typical ways of responding, with the choice of method being often determined by the gender of the conflicting parties.
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