- Fellowship year:2013-2014
- University: Johns Hopkins University
- Dissertation Topic/Category: China
- Dissertation Title: Printing and Legal Culture in Qing China, 1644-1911
My dissertation explores the compilation, printing, dissemination, and reading of legal books in the Qing period. The first three chapters examine official and commercial editions of the Great Qing Code, the most important book in the Qing legal world. I have documented and studied more than one hundred different editions of the Code. Based on this research, I have made the rather surprising discovery that commercial editions were not only published in larger quantities, but were also of better quality and updated more frequently. Commercial editions included much more legal information than imperial authorized editions, including private commentaries, case precedents, and administrative sanctions. By the 1800s, commercial publishers had established a standard format for the compilation and publication of the Code, a format quite different from that of imperial editions. These commercial editions of the Code dominated the book market.
The last two chapters of my dissertation focus on the popular dissemination of legal knowledge. I explore several genres and texts, such as Rhyming Songs of the Great Qing Code and handbooks for litigation masters. I also examine government policies and popular beliefs concerning the dissemination of legal knowledge, as well as community lectures on legal topics sponsored by the Qing state and local elites. These easily accessible popular legal imprints and lectures, I argue, enabled people with limited education to understand basic laws and legal procedures.