By Philip A. Kuhn
Midway throughout the reign of the Ch'ien-lung emperor, Hungli, within the so much wealthy interval of China's final imperial dynasty, mass hysteria broke out one of the universal humans. It was once feared that sorcerers have been roaming the land, clipping off the ends of men's queues (the braids worn by means of royal decree), and chanting magical incantations over them so one can thieve the souls in their proprietors. In a desirable chronicle of this epidemic of worry and the authentic 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 circumstances with a survey of the social and financial historical past of the period. Drawing on a wealthy repository of files present in the imperial documents, he offers intimately the harrowing interrogations of the accused--a ragtag collection of vagabonds, beggars, and roving clergy--conducted below torture through provincial magistrates. In tracing the panic's unfold from peasant hut to imperial court docket, Kuhn unmasks the political threat lurking at the back of the queue-clipping scare in addition to the complicated of folks ideals that lay underneath well known fears of sorcery.
Kuhn indicates how the crusade opposed to sorcery offers perception into the period's social constitution and ethnic tensions, the connection among monarch and bureaucrat, and the interior workings of the country. no matter what its meant reasons, the writer argues, the crusade provided Hungli a fantastic probability 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 respectable behavior.
This wide-ranging narrative depicts lifestyles in imperial China because it used to be truly lived, usually within the individuals' personal phrases. Soulstealers deals a compelling portrait of the chinese language people--from peasant to emperor--and of the human condition.
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Extra resources for Soulstealers: The Chinese Sorcery Scare of 1768
21 The dossier of the past due beggar Chang in Soochow used to be now meticulously supplied with testimony to certify the reason for demise. Depositions have been acquired from the police ("we on no account mistreated him"), from a fellow prisoner (the police "by no ability mistreated him"), the Tales of the China Clipper . 25 county physician ("an incurable illness"), and the coroner ("died of disease"). A coffin used to be supplied at county fee, and his local county was once notified in case relations desired to declare the physique. One legal lifeless, extra published for loss of facts: not often a memorable piece of judicial paintings. but Justice of the Peace Tu should have felt relieved difficult topic were disposed of. notwithstanding he used to be obliged to guard himself from later fees of negligence by way of issuing a public proclamation approximately queue-clipping, there has been no cause to carry beggars Ch'iu and Ch'en. A foolish and trivial enterprise. Superstitious rumors between ignorant commoners. A pesty baby who used to be most likely imagining issues besides. A useless prisoner-but prisoners died forever. A reason for destiny hassle? very unlikely. An Incident at Hsu-k'ou-chen Monk Ching-chuang lived and worshiped on the Dharma Cloud Temple in Hu-chou Prefecture, Chekiang Province, simply down the river from the scene of mason Wu's come upon with sorcery. 22 within the spring of 1768, it used to be time to refill temple provides (devotional fabrics resembling incense) in Soochow and to go to kin and pals there. in addition to six significant other clergymen, Ching-chuang employed boatman Yao to sail them to the city alongside the jap shore of Lake T'ai. Ching-chuang and his acolyte, Ta-Iai, carried with them a string of 1,000 copper money, and others carried profit various quantities. They set sail on may possibly four (the day after the beggars' arrest in Soochow) and, at the afternoon of tomorrow, anchored on the lakeside industry city of Hsu-k'ou-chen. Monk Ching-chuang and the boatman went ashore to shop for foodstuff and stopped to leisure on the Hsu-wang Temple. A fisherman, Chang Tzu-fa, entered the temple and requested no matter if Ching-chuang was once from Hu-chou. Fearsome rumors had lately confident neighborhood people that priests from Hu-chou have been coming to clip people's queues. was once Ching-chuang the sort of? Fisherman Chang threatened to grab him and discover. Ching-chuang and the boatman fled out the door. His suspicions proven, Chang pursued them in complete cry. The industry crowd swirled round the pair and commenced to pummel them, heavily injuring boatman Yao. A constable who ran to enquire seized Ching-chuang's assets and searched them, in addition to the remainder of the luggage on Yao's boat, yet chanced on no suspicious goods (queue-clipping apparatus such 26 . SOULSTEALERS as scissors, or powders for stupefying victims). nonetheless, with the group so gruesome, he couldn't permit the clergymen move. He positioned Ching-chuang, the boatman, and the unique accuser Chang onto the boat with all of the different clergymen to take the lot to the assistant magistrate's yamen at Mutu-chen, at the river path to Soochow.