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Homicide and Organised Murder in a Global Perspective

Violence in Ming-Qing China : An Overview

William T. Rowe
p. 85-98

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Ce document sera publié en ligne en texte intégral en octobre 2017.


Cultural underpinnings of late imperial violence
The state and violence
Violence and social change
Violent protest
Cultural responses to violence
Concluding remarks

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Let us begin with a basic fact : the level of violence in late imperial China was probably as high as that in any historical society in the world. Obvious as this may sound, it is easy to miss it. The entire central message of the package of literati values that we refer to as ‘Confucianism’, and especially after its elaboration into the so-called ‘school of principle’ or ‘neo-Confucianism’ (lixue) after the eleventh century CE, was certainly more energetic than most elite cultures in esteeming civil (wen) over military (wu) values, in condemning violent behavior, and establishing peaceful, ordered, harmonious social behavior as a moral imperative. The monotony of this message has led many historians (including me) to see this constructed norm as reflective of reality, whereas in fact it was a coping mechanism for dealing with a world which, as its inhabitants well knew, was violent and disorderly.

Some have argued that there was a class dynamic at work here : whereas genuine literat...

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William T. Rowe, « Violence in Ming-Qing China : An Overview », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, Vol. 18, n°2 | 2014, 85-98.

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William T. Rowe, « Violence in Ming-Qing China : An Overview », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies [En ligne], Vol. 18, n°2 | 2014, mis en ligne le 01 octobre 2017, consulté le 24 septembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/chs.1490

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William T. Rowe

Johns Hopkins University
Krieger School of Arts & Sciences

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