Chapter

Framing the Family in Late Imperial China: An Anthropological Glance at Some Family Cases in the <i>Conspectus of Penal Cases (Xing'an huilan)</i><sup>*</sup><sup>1</sup>

Françoise Lauwaert

in Law and Anthropology

Published in print November 2009 | ISBN: 9780199580910
Published online February 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191723025 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199580910.003.0020

Series: Current Legal Issues

 Framing the Family in Late Imperial China: An Anthropological Glance at Some Family Cases in the Conspectus of Penal Cases (Xing'an huilan)*1

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This chapter takes up the methodological challenge to consider a series of 18th- and 19th-century juridical texts as a particular kind of anthropological corpus. The reading of a part of that literature unveils a rich and complex reflection on causality, responsibility, and guilt. But what is most remarkable for an anthropologist is the way in which these categories were altered, to the extent of being inverted, when applied to the field of kinship defined by three instances: mourning, genealogy, and gender. The main sources are various editions of the code of the Qing dynasty, imperial edicts, and a huge collection of cases entitled Conspectus of Penal Cases (Xing'an huilan). Compiled by two officials of the Board of Punishments, this book belongs to a genre called ‘government books’ (zhengshu) including manuals for the magistrates, technical treatises on administration, and compilations of cases judged in all the provinces of the empire.

Keywords: juridical texts; Imperial China; Penal Cases; Qing dynasty; kinship; mourning; genealogy; gender

Chapter.  13745 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Law

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