By Philip A. Kuhn
Halfway throughout the reign of the Ch'ien-lung emperor, Hungli, within the such a lot filthy rich interval of China's final imperial dynasty, mass hysteria broke out one of the universal humans. It used to be feared that sorcerers have been roaming the land, clipping off the ends of men's queues (the braids worn via royal decree), and chanting magical incantations over them so that it will thieve the souls in their vendors. In a desirable chronicle of this epidemic of worry and the reliable prosecution of soulstealers that ensued, Philip Kuhn presents an intimate glimpse into the area of eighteenth-century China.
Kuhn weaves his exploration of the sorcery instances with a survey of the social and fiscal heritage of the period. Drawing on a wealthy repository of files present in the imperial files, he provides intimately the harrowing interrogations of the accused--a ragtag collection of vagabonds, beggars, and roving clergy--conducted less than torture through provincial magistrates. In tracing the panic's unfold from peasant hut to imperial courtroom, Kuhn unmasks the political risk lurking in the back of the queue-clipping scare in addition to the advanced of people ideals that lay underneath renowned fears of sorcery.
Kuhn exhibits how the crusade opposed to sorcery presents perception into the period's social constitution and ethnic tensions, the connection among monarch and bureaucrat, and the internal workings of the kingdom. no matter what its meant reasons, the writer argues, the crusade provided Hungli a appropriate likelihood to strength his provincial chiefs to crack down on neighborhood officers, to enhance his own supremacy over most sensible bureaucrats, and to restate the norms of legitimate habit.
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Additional info for Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768
5 Such is our picture of a vigorous, bustling age. To understand the background of the 1768 crisis, however, it will be important to explore its effects on social attitudes, a subject we still know very little about. The place to begin is the region of the lower Yangtze, where the soulstealing crisis began. The Society of the Lower Yangtze The area known as Kiangnan ("south of the river") in east-central China formed the prosperous core of what we now call the lower Yangtze macroregion. On the provincial map, this core included southern Kiangsu, a corner of eastern Anhwei, and northern Chekiang.
Once the case reached the provincial level, the bias against the accused was balanced by the worldly-wise skepticism of high officials far removed from the pressures and temptations of grubby county courtrooms. A case of sorcery? More likely, the usual nuisance of a credulous rabble abetted by greedy local police ruffians and incompetent county authorities: a case the province was now happily rid of. Yet the tide of public fear was stronger than Judge Tseng and his colleagues knew. The same day that Chil-ch'eng and his friends were arrested, persons elsewhere in Hsiao-shan had beaten an itinerant tinker to death because they believed that two charms found on him were soulstealing spells.
Here the state does not admit to believing in the substance of sorcery and maintains it is contending only with the pretense of it. Yet ordinary Ugandans fail to distinguish between pretending to be a sorcerer and actually being one; consequently, suspected sorcerers can be haled before civil authorities andjailed. 25 As we shall see, such agnosticism has some parallels in the antisorcery provisions of the Ch'ing Code. Be that as it may, provincial bureaucrats must have considered that their courtrooms had worked quite smoothly in the cases of early Tales of the China Clipper .
Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768 by Philip A. Kuhn