Main content start

Fengshui and Law in China's History

Tue May 28th 2024, 4:30 - 6:00pm
Event Sponsor
Center for East Asian Studies
History Department
Stanford Center for Law and History
Lathrop Library
518 Memorial Way, Stanford, CA 94305

Based on the author's recently published book, Laws of the Land: Fengshui and the State in Qing Dynasty China (Princeton, 2023), this talk explores fengshui’s invocations in Chinese law during the Qing dynasty. Facing a growing population, dwindling natural resources, and an overburdened rural government, judicial administrators across China grappled with disputes and petitions about fengshui in their efforts to sustain forestry, farming, mining, and city planning. Laws of the Land offers a radically new interpretation of these legal arrangements: they worked. An intelligent, considered, and sustained engagement with fengshui on the ground helped the imperial state keep the peace and maintain its legitimacy, especially during the increasingly turbulent decades of the nineteenth century. As the century came to an end, contentious debates over industrialization swept across the bureaucracy, with fengshui invoked by officials and scholars opposed to the establishment of railways, telegraphs, and foreign-owned mines. Demonstrating that the only way to understand those debates and their profound stakes is to grasp fengshui’s longstanding roles in Chinese public life, Laws of the Land rethinks key issues in the history of Chinese law, politics, science, religion, and economics.

This event is free and open to the public. Please RSVP here.

About the speaker:

Tristan Brown is a historian of early modern China at MIT. His research interests include the history of science, law, and religion, as well as environmental and economic history. His current project examines the social and cultural history of Muslim communities along the Grand Canal during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).