Prosecuting Functionaries in Eastern Han China: Evidence from the Newly Excavated Wuyi guangchang Documents

Wed May 18th 2022, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Event Sponsor
Center for East Asian Studies
Admission Information

The Wuyi guangchang documents are so-called because they were unearthed in 2010 by workers digging in Wuyi (May the First) Square in downtown Changsha in preparation for the number 2 subway line. Archaeologists determined that the materials had been deposited in an Eastern Han well close to other finds, that there were approximately 7000 media made of wood and bamboo at the site, and that they were dated to the mid-Eastern Han, approximately 100 CE. These primarily legal documents are in the process of being published. The present paper introduces these materials and focuses on those concerned with the prosecution of local officials. It is argued that they committed the offences of corruption (embezzlement of funds for which they were responsible), bribery (they were bribed), injured or killed suspects, failed to capture suspects accused of crimes, or engaged in activities, such as drinking and feasting, and buying and selling, that were forbidden by law. These documents provide fascinating insights into daily lives of the urban residents in an important city in south-central China in a period when there is very little reliable historical evidence.

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About the speaker: 
Robin D.S. Yates, Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, is James McGill Professor of East Asian Studies and History and Classical Studies, McGill University, and former Chair of the Society for the Study of Early China and Editor of the journal Early China. He specializes in the history of Chinese law, the social and cultural history of pre-modern China including slavery, the history of Chinese military science and technology, and the history of Chinese women. He is currently researching and publishing on the newly discovered and recovered legal and administrative documents dating from the Qin and Han periods.