China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Famously, in the “Faults of the Qin,” written by the ru scholar Jia Yi (c. 200 – 169 BCE), the founder of the Han attributes the success of his revolt to the people’s exasperation with the “rule of law” that characterized the Qin. Cited in the Shiji and Hanshu, Jia Yi’s thesis has for generations inspired formulaic explanations for the success of the Han, who were said to have replaced the Qin “legalistic regime” with the humane rule of filial piety and li promoted by Confucius and his followers. Despite the resilience of the conceit of the sharp divide between the “inflexible Qin” and the “moral Han,” recent scholarship on excavated manuscripts has highlighted important elements of continuity between the two dynasties, while reconstructing the various ways in which specific legal practices shaped the social structures and daily lives of both Qin and Han communities.
This panel, by bringing together several young Qin/Han scholars from different academic backgrounds, proposes approaches that integrate the texts of the received tradition with the evidence of the excavated manuscripts. In addition to offering a reconstruction of the historiographical phases of the so-called “Confucianization of Law,” it presents a study of the Liye wooden slips documenting the legal strategies whereby the Qin state sought to control outsiders; a problematization of the very concept of “social contract” based on an analysis of the Yuelu Academy texts, and a reassessment of the “received” notion of "linked liability" through a new examination of the Zhangjiashan corpus.