This seminar explores the nature and role of law, judicial institutions, and legal culture in Chinese society during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In the process, we will consider Imperial Chinese law from several vantage points: as an instrument of state authority, as an expression Confucian ideology, and as a site of contestation between state and society as well as between individuals. Our exploration will entail both the formal elements of law (codified statutes and formal court procedures) and the more informal realm of customary practice at the local level. A major goal of the seminar in this regard is to examine how scholarship and scholarly debate on these issues have changed over the past several decades, particularly with the availability of new archival sources.
Readings, consisting of several of the major English-language works in the field along with a number of translated primary sources, average approximately 250 pages per week for the first seven weeks of the semester. Evaluation will be based on the completion of a research paper of between 20 and 25 pages (50%) and participation in weekly discussions (50%). Although not strictly required, some prior course work in Chinese history is strongly recommended. This seminar will satisfy the College's second writing requirement (SWR).