This article compares unofficial perspectives on torture during the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) Dynasties, as expressed in ledgers of merit and demerit, operas, ballads, proverbs, and popular customs. Because of the diversity of these unofficial sources — both in terms of their form and content and in terms of their audience and distribution — the perspectives they reveal are more varied and less reflective of state orthodoxies than are the views typically expressed in the codified law, administrative writings, and other official sources. Unlike official writings, which focused on administrative and legal “best practice” concerning how torture was supposed to be applied, unofficial sources focused greater attention on how torture was actually applied, highlighting the potential for abuse and the deleterious effects of torture on its victims.


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pp. 17-54
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