Official documents and local gazetteers of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) recorded primarily the facilities and administrative organizations of prisons at the local level, without much mention of the actual daily operations in jails. On the other hand, in many of the late Ming vernacular tales, local prisons were described as a netherworld controlled by corrupt clerks and their ruthless underlings, where bribery and murders are recurring narrative motifs. These fictional references, nonetheless, often serve as source materials for scholars who conduct critical discussions of the prison as well as the legal systems of the time. In addition, they often mix up the two different provincial judicial systems of the Ming and Qing dynasties, treating them as one intact institution. In the light of the Mengshui zhai cundu, a characteristic casebook published at the end of the Ming dynasty, this paper attempts to explore the interactions between the sophisticated, if not tedious, provincial judicial review procedures and the administration of local prisons in late Ming China. It discusses the differences in the provincial judiciaries between the Ming and the Qing. Through authentic judicial cases, this paper examines the first hand experiences of prefectural judges and other legal officials assigned to the jails, and analyses the problems in the local prisons in Guangdong and, possibly the whole country, in late Ming China. It concludes with a discussion of the critical impact that the prison administration inflicted upon the quality of justice in the legal system.
|Original language||Chinese (Traditional)|
|Publication status||Published - Jul 2013|