Li as Administrative Law: Political Stratification and the Construction of Qing Administrative Order in Seventeenth-Century China
Fudan Law Review, no. 3 (2016)
46 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2016 Last revised: 15 Jun 2016
Date Written: June 6, 2015
Li has long been understood as the bedrock of Chinese history and society by both historical actors and modern scholars. But what is li and how did it work? This article argues that li helped organize political order and informed bureaucratic operations in the Qing dynasty, and can be understood as a form of administrative law. Although scholars have previously associated li with penal law and with sociopolitical organization, they have shown neither how concepts were translated into practice in the context of the Qing dynasty, nor how these practices fit together as a system of administrative law. This article looks at the formation of the Qing system li as the political and administrative order, and explores the regulations for interaction, especially among and between the military, imperial relatives, and bureaucracy, and demonstrates how the names, ranks, and positions fit together in a cohesive system that came to be codified into law. The article first examines the expressions of contemporary state-makers and their ideas of order and state operations, and then shows how these were translated into practice in clothing, greetings, entourages, and ceremonies. The article then discusses why political actors agreed to such a setup and how they continued to reproduce it.
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