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Judge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad Stories from the Period 1250-1450 (review)

Judge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad Stories from the Period 1250-1450 (review) 240 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 discussionofthewriter'ssearchforanewnationalsubjectvis-à-visaHegelian "lyricaltotality"(Huang's)skillfullycircumventtheissueofincrediblehumancost andmassiveinjusticeincurredinthenameofrevolution(p.135). ThelastculturalbastarddiscussedinthisbookisWangXiaobo,whosefiction inthe1990soffersarefreshingandinspiringperspectivetotheunderstandingof theCulturalRevolution.WangXiaobounabashedlyexploresthemostprivateand attimesbizarrehumanemotionsandbehaviorsundertheshiningbeamsofthe bigredsun.Althoughhistory,orthehistoryoftheCulturalRevolution,isvery muchWangXiaobo'spreoccupationinhisfiction,inevitablyhemustreconcileit withtheindividual'sinabilitytotranscendhistoryand,hence,thetyrannyof revolutionagainsttheindividual.AsHuangconcludeshisanalysis,"WangXiaobo, afterall,showshimselftobeoneofthefewcontemporaryChinesewriterswho haveconstantlysuspected--andwithgoodreason--thevirtualnatureofthe individualinhistory,whichoftenhasbeentakenbyothersasapositivereality beyondanydoubt"(p.179).Historyasagrandnotionis,infact,nothingmore thananemptysignifierusedtodisguisethebittertruththatChineseindividuals arebutdispensablepawnsinMao'sgreatdreamofproletarianrevolution. Inhisepilogue,HuangwarnsofthedangerofunderminingorevendismissingtheimpactoftheCulturalRevolutiononcontemporaryChineseliterature, particularlywhenencounteringcertainworksthatdonotfitneatlyinanykindof categoryorlinearviewofliterarydevelopment.Theseworksmaybevoicesthat attempttospeakthroughthesilencesurroundingthelegacyoftheCulturalRevolution(p.188).Inclosing,HuangalsoremindshisreadersthattheCulturalRevolutiondoesnotrepresentanabruptbreakinthelongcourseofChina'sstrivefor modernity,but,instead,theCulturalRevolutionisverymuchapartofthisgrand project. LingchieLettyChen Lingchei Letty Chen is an associate professor of modern Chinese literature at Washington University, specializing in cultural identity politics and cross-cultural studies. © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press WiltL.Idema.Judge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad Stories from the Period 1250­1450. Hackensack,NJ:WorldScientific,2010.xxxv,417pp. Hardcoverus$52.00/£39,isbn978-981-4277-01-3.Paperbackus$32.00/ £21,isbn978-981-4304-45-0.Ebookus$68.00,isbn978-981-4277-58-7. Reviews 241 ForanyoneinterestedintraditionalChinesestoriesofcrimeanditsdetection, prosecution,andpunishment,thereisnobettersourcethanthestoriesofMagistrateBao.ThehistoricalLordBao(alsocalled"Judge"BaoinEnglish,BaoGong )livednearlyathousandyearsago;talesofhismiraculouspowersofdetectionandhisutterlyunshakeablesenseofjustice(reflectedinhisnicknameQingtian"Clearsky"havecirculatedforcenturiesinoralandtheatrical performancesaswellasinvariousprintforms.Foreachnewgenerationofraconteursandwriters,LordBaohasbeenthestandardforimpartiality,punishing wrongdoersfromalllevelsofsocietyuptoandincludingtheclosestrelativesofthe emperorhimself. TherealBaoZheng (999­1062)servedasanofficialduringtheSong empire,havingpassedthecivilserviceexaminationsin1027.Hedeclinedhisfirst appointmentinordertofulfillhisdutiesasafilialson,andthenwentontoestablishareputationforincorruptibilityinbothprovincialandcentraladministrative offices.InhispositionasprefectofKaifeng,theareaaroundthecapital,hemade enemiesofrelativesoftheSongemperorRenzong'sfavoriteconcubineandseveral courteunuchsaswellforhisrefusaltobelenientwiththem.Withintwocenturies ofhisdeath,hehadbecomeanimportantfigureinthereligiousbeliefsofNorth China;aschiefjudgeoftheunderworldandheadofitsbureaucracy,hisaidwas soughtforimpartialassessmentofthedead--andthelivingaswell.By1250, legendsconcerninghisinsightsandfairnesswerethestuffofprofessionalstorytellersandbegantofindtheirwayintoearlyprintedliterature.Althoughmostextant textsareclearlyofmorerecentvintage,therandomdiscoveryofasoddenmassof paperinaMingofficial'sgravein1967dramaticallychangedscholarlyunderstandingofLordBao'sfictionalcareer. Whendriedandstraightenedout,thisfindturnedouttoincludeaforgotten collectionofeightstoriesofmagistrateBaoinaformknownasshuochang cihua (balladstoriesfornarratingandsinging),talestoldinalternating sectionsofsimpleproseandlinesofseven-syllable(orten-syllable)verse,neither formpresentingmuchdifficultyforthereader.Mosthavetodowithhomicide. TheyhadbeenprintedinBeijingduringtheChenghua period(1465­1487), althoughtheirrhymesandinternalgeographicalinformationsuggestthatatleast someofthetaleshadoriginatedintheJiangnanregion.Thesewerethefirstclear examplesofaformpreviouslyknownonlyfromreferencesinYuanandearlyMing periodwritings.Theywereinitiallyreproducedinfacsimileandthenmadeavailableinapunctuatedandannotatededition,fromwhichthesetranslationswere made.1 Idema'svolumetranslatesalleightcihua storiesconcerningBaoZhenginthis collection.Theyfallintotwogroupsonthebasisoftheirlength:theshorterpieces providebasicbackgroundforthejudicialhero;thelongerfouraremorecomplex talesofdetectionandjudgment.Thefirstnarrateshisearlylifeasachildso homelythathisfathercannotstandtolookathimthroughhismaturationtothe 242 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 pointthathetakeshisfirstadministrativepost.Thesecondrecordshowheprovidesreliefforfaminevictims;inthethirdhereunitestheemperorwithhisbirth mother,nowabeggar.Despitetheirfantasticelements,theyestablishBaoasa defenderofproperConfucianvalues,filialrespect,andcarefortheunfortunate.In thefourthhecombatsaweretiger,aforetasteofthelongerstoriesofthesecond group.Thefifthtaleiscommonlyknownfromanextanttheatricalversion.Here thecorpseofamurdervictimhasbeenreducedtoashesandfiredintoapot;the potspeakstoLordBaotodemandjustice.Thelastthreestoriesallinvolverelatives orconnectionstothethroneand,inIdema'sopinion,maywellbeofmorerecent compositionthantheearlier,simplertales--theyrefertoBaohavingresolved increasingnumbersofcriminalcases.Somemayalsohavebeenwrittenin responsetoearliertitlesintheseriesasparodiesofasort(p.xxiv). Together,theseeightstoriesillustratethetraitsforwhichJudgeBaoisrightly knowninearlierliterature.Heisimpartialinmetingoutpunishment,nomatter whetherinthemortalrealmorthesupernatural.Hisresourcefulnessknowsno bounds;hereliesontrickeryandintimidation,evenphysicaltorture,misrepresentations,andleadingstatementstoforceinformationfromtheobjectsofhissuspicion.Furthermore,healwayssucceeds,whichfactjustifiesallmeansinvokedto reachthatgoal.Baohandlesbothsimplepottersandanimperialprincewith similarjudiciousnessandclarityofinsight.Thesecharacteristicsareundoubtedly factorsintheongoingpopularityofthesetalesinprintanddramaticformsand commonloreeventoday. Judge Bao and the Rule of Law beginswithalengthyintroductionthatplaces theform,subject,provenance,andlikelyreceptionofthestoriesdeeplywithinthe contextofthelatefifteenthcentury.Incontrasttotheviewthattheserepresent recordsoforalperformance,Idemaarguesconvincinglythatthesetextswere intendedtoberead--bypeopleoftheclassrepresentedbythetombinwhichthey werefound,lower-levelofficials.Presumably,theywereseenasentertainment fiction.Thesetaleswereprintedinlarge,easilyreadcharacters,andeventhough theirmanyillustrationswerefarfromthefinestinartisticquality,theywerehardly cheapeditions. Idema'sintroductionalsodiscussestheindividualstoriesinsomedetail, tracingearlier(andlater)versionsandconcluding,withhischaracteristicinsight, thatthesestoriesdifferfromotherextantversions.Severalareknownfromzaju plays,butonlyfromtextspreservedintheMingpalaceforperformance-- undoubtedlyafterhavingbeencleanedupforimperialconsumption.Consequently,thetravelingscholarwhowindsupembodyingaclaypotinthecihua storywaschangedtoamerchantintheplayfromaroundthesametime;the imperialrelativesBaobattlesherebecomelocalofficials.Thatis,editorsinthe royalhouseholdconvertedthelargersystemicproblemsinthesestoriesintolocal offenses--whichareallsettorightbythecentralauthorityinthepersonofLord Reviews 243 Bao.Idema'sinterpretationiscinchedbythefactthatlaterversionsofthetalesall incorporatethedetailsasgiveninthecihua ratherthaninthesebowdlerizedplays (pp.xxvi­xxvii). Idema'svolumeisthemosthelpfulamongalengthyseriesofWesternlanguagepublicationsonthetopic.TheearliesttranslationofaJudgeBaoplay appearedin1832;inHuilan ji (Thechalkcircle),hejudgesbetweentwo motherswhobothclaimthesamechild,verymuchlikethejudgmentmadeby KingSolomonofasimilarcase.Perhapsbecausetheywereconsideredmore popularfictionthanartisticliterature,fewLordBaostorieshavemadetheirway intoEnglishuntilrecently.OneisthecollectionoffairlyfreetranslationsbyLeon CombertitledThe Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao: Chinese Tales of Crime and Detection(Rutland,VT:CharlesE.Tuttle,1964).TheseweretakenfromthebestknownQingperiodcompilationofLordBaostories,Longtu gong'an (Dragon-designBao'scases);this,inturn,wasbasedonBaijia gong'an (Onehundredcourtcases)fromaround1600.Othersappearinvariousanthologiesofshortstories(seep.xiii,n.13foralist).Later,duringthewaningyearsof the Qing,thetalestookonanewlifeinbook-lengthcollectionsoflinkedstories, perhapsreflectiveoftheheartfeltneedforstout-heartedandscrupulousofficialsas theManchuempirecrumbled.BasedontheoralperformancesofthenineteenthcenturyentertainerShiYukun (c.1810­1871)asrecordedinLongtu erlu (ArecordoforaltalesofDragon-design[Bao]),selectionsfromthe collectionknownasSanxia wuyi (Threeknights-errantandfive http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Judge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad Stories from the Period 1250-1450 (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (2) – Mar 1, 2010

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Abstract

240 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 discussionofthewriter'ssearchforanewnationalsubjectvis-à-visaHegelian "lyricaltotality"(Huang's)skillfullycircumventtheissueofincrediblehumancost andmassiveinjusticeincurredinthenameofrevolution(p.135). ThelastculturalbastarddiscussedinthisbookisWangXiaobo,whosefiction inthe1990soffersarefreshingandinspiringperspectivetotheunderstandingof theCulturalRevolution.WangXiaobounabashedlyexploresthemostprivateand attimesbizarrehumanemotionsandbehaviorsundertheshiningbeamsofthe bigredsun.Althoughhistory,orthehistoryoftheCulturalRevolution,isvery muchWangXiaobo'spreoccupationinhisfiction,inevitablyhemustreconcileit withtheindividual'sinabilitytotranscendhistoryand,hence,thetyrannyof revolutionagainsttheindividual.AsHuangconcludeshisanalysis,"WangXiaobo, afterall,showshimselftobeoneofthefewcontemporaryChinesewriterswho haveconstantlysuspected--andwithgoodreason--thevirtualnatureofthe individualinhistory,whichoftenhasbeentakenbyothersasapositivereality beyondanydoubt"(p.179).Historyasagrandnotionis,infact,nothingmore thananemptysignifierusedtodisguisethebittertruththatChineseindividuals arebutdispensablepawnsinMao'sgreatdreamofproletarianrevolution. Inhisepilogue,HuangwarnsofthedangerofunderminingorevendismissingtheimpactoftheCulturalRevolutiononcontemporaryChineseliterature, particularlywhenencounteringcertainworksthatdonotfitneatlyinanykindof categoryorlinearviewofliterarydevelopment.Theseworksmaybevoicesthat attempttospeakthroughthesilencesurroundingthelegacyoftheCulturalRevolution(p.188).Inclosing,HuangalsoremindshisreadersthattheCulturalRevolutiondoesnotrepresentanabruptbreakinthelongcourseofChina'sstrivefor modernity,but,instead,theCulturalRevolutionisverymuchapartofthisgrand project. LingchieLettyChen Lingchei Letty Chen is an associate professor of modern Chinese literature at Washington University, specializing in cultural identity politics and cross-cultural studies. © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press WiltL.Idema.Judge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad Stories from the Period 1250­1450. Hackensack,NJ:WorldScientific,2010.xxxv,417pp. Hardcoverus$52.00/£39,isbn978-981-4277-01-3.Paperbackus$32.00/ £21,isbn978-981-4304-45-0.Ebookus$68.00,isbn978-981-4277-58-7. Reviews 241 ForanyoneinterestedintraditionalChinesestoriesofcrimeanditsdetection, prosecution,andpunishment,thereisnobettersourcethanthestoriesofMagistrateBao.ThehistoricalLordBao(alsocalled"Judge"BaoinEnglish,BaoGong )livednearlyathousandyearsago;talesofhismiraculouspowersofdetectionandhisutterlyunshakeablesenseofjustice(reflectedinhisnicknameQingtian"Clearsky"havecirculatedforcenturiesinoralandtheatrical performancesaswellasinvariousprintforms.Foreachnewgenerationofraconteursandwriters,LordBaohasbeenthestandardforimpartiality,punishing wrongdoersfromalllevelsofsocietyuptoandincludingtheclosestrelativesofthe emperorhimself. TherealBaoZheng (999­1062)servedasanofficialduringtheSong empire,havingpassedthecivilserviceexaminationsin1027.Hedeclinedhisfirst appointmentinordertofulfillhisdutiesasafilialson,andthenwentontoestablishareputationforincorruptibilityinbothprovincialandcentraladministrative offices.InhispositionasprefectofKaifeng,theareaaroundthecapital,hemade enemiesofrelativesoftheSongemperorRenzong'sfavoriteconcubineandseveral courteunuchsaswellforhisrefusaltobelenientwiththem.Withintwocenturies ofhisdeath,hehadbecomeanimportantfigureinthereligiousbeliefsofNorth China;aschiefjudgeoftheunderworldandheadofitsbureaucracy,hisaidwas soughtforimpartialassessmentofthedead--andthelivingaswell.By1250, legendsconcerninghisinsightsandfairnesswerethestuffofprofessionalstorytellersandbegantofindtheirwayintoearlyprintedliterature.Althoughmostextant textsareclearlyofmorerecentvintage,therandomdiscoveryofasoddenmassof paperinaMingofficial'sgravein1967dramaticallychangedscholarlyunderstandingofLordBao'sfictionalcareer. Whendriedandstraightenedout,thisfindturnedouttoincludeaforgotten collectionofeightstoriesofmagistrateBaoinaformknownasshuochang cihua (balladstoriesfornarratingandsinging),talestoldinalternating sectionsofsimpleproseandlinesofseven-syllable(orten-syllable)verse,neither formpresentingmuchdifficultyforthereader.Mosthavetodowithhomicide. TheyhadbeenprintedinBeijingduringtheChenghua period(1465­1487), althoughtheirrhymesandinternalgeographicalinformationsuggestthatatleast someofthetaleshadoriginatedintheJiangnanregion.Thesewerethefirstclear examplesofaformpreviouslyknownonlyfromreferencesinYuanandearlyMing periodwritings.Theywereinitiallyreproducedinfacsimileandthenmadeavailableinapunctuatedandannotatededition,fromwhichthesetranslationswere made.1 Idema'svolumetranslatesalleightcihua storiesconcerningBaoZhenginthis collection.Theyfallintotwogroupsonthebasisoftheirlength:theshorterpieces providebasicbackgroundforthejudicialhero;thelongerfouraremorecomplex talesofdetectionandjudgment.Thefirstnarrateshisearlylifeasachildso homelythathisfathercannotstandtolookathimthroughhismaturationtothe 242 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.2,2010 pointthathetakeshisfirstadministrativepost.Thesecondrecordshowheprovidesreliefforfaminevictims;inthethirdhereunitestheemperorwithhisbirth mother,nowabeggar.Despitetheirfantasticelements,theyestablishBaoasa defenderofproperConfucianvalues,filialrespect,andcarefortheunfortunate.In thefourthhecombatsaweretiger,aforetasteofthelongerstoriesofthesecond group.Thefifthtaleiscommonlyknownfromanextanttheatricalversion.Here thecorpseofamurdervictimhasbeenreducedtoashesandfiredintoapot;the potspeakstoLordBaotodemandjustice.Thelastthreestoriesallinvolverelatives orconnectionstothethroneand,inIdema'sopinion,maywellbeofmorerecent compositionthantheearlier,simplertales--theyrefertoBaohavingresolved increasingnumbersofcriminalcases.Somemayalsohavebeenwrittenin responsetoearliertitlesintheseriesasparodiesofasort(p.xxiv). Together,theseeightstoriesillustratethetraitsforwhichJudgeBaoisrightly knowninearlierliterature.Heisimpartialinmetingoutpunishment,nomatter whetherinthemortalrealmorthesupernatural.Hisresourcefulnessknowsno bounds;hereliesontrickeryandintimidation,evenphysicaltorture,misrepresentations,andleadingstatementstoforceinformationfromtheobjectsofhissuspicion.Furthermore,healwayssucceeds,whichfactjustifiesallmeansinvokedto reachthatgoal.Baohandlesbothsimplepottersandanimperialprincewith similarjudiciousnessandclarityofinsight.Thesecharacteristicsareundoubtedly factorsintheongoingpopularityofthesetalesinprintanddramaticformsand commonloreeventoday. Judge Bao and the Rule of Law beginswithalengthyintroductionthatplaces theform,subject,provenance,andlikelyreceptionofthestoriesdeeplywithinthe contextofthelatefifteenthcentury.Incontrasttotheviewthattheserepresent recordsoforalperformance,Idemaarguesconvincinglythatthesetextswere intendedtoberead--bypeopleoftheclassrepresentedbythetombinwhichthey werefound,lower-levelofficials.Presumably,theywereseenasentertainment fiction.Thesetaleswereprintedinlarge,easilyreadcharacters,andeventhough theirmanyillustrationswerefarfromthefinestinartisticquality,theywerehardly cheapeditions. Idema'sintroductionalsodiscussestheindividualstoriesinsomedetail, tracingearlier(andlater)versionsandconcluding,withhischaracteristicinsight, thatthesestoriesdifferfromotherextantversions.Severalareknownfromzaju plays,butonlyfromtextspreservedintheMingpalaceforperformance-- undoubtedlyafterhavingbeencleanedupforimperialconsumption.Consequently,thetravelingscholarwhowindsupembodyingaclaypotinthecihua storywaschangedtoamerchantintheplayfromaroundthesametime;the imperialrelativesBaobattlesherebecomelocalofficials.Thatis,editorsinthe royalhouseholdconvertedthelargersystemicproblemsinthesestoriesintolocal offenses--whichareallsettorightbythecentralauthorityinthepersonofLord Reviews 243 Bao.Idema'sinterpretationiscinchedbythefactthatlaterversionsofthetalesall incorporatethedetailsasgiveninthecihua ratherthaninthesebowdlerizedplays (pp.xxvi­xxvii). Idema'svolumeisthemosthelpfulamongalengthyseriesofWesternlanguagepublicationsonthetopic.TheearliesttranslationofaJudgeBaoplay appearedin1832;inHuilan ji (Thechalkcircle),hejudgesbetweentwo motherswhobothclaimthesamechild,verymuchlikethejudgmentmadeby KingSolomonofasimilarcase.Perhapsbecausetheywereconsideredmore popularfictionthanartisticliterature,fewLordBaostorieshavemadetheirway intoEnglishuntilrecently.OneisthecollectionoffairlyfreetranslationsbyLeon CombertitledThe Strange Cases of Magistrate Pao: Chinese Tales of Crime and Detection(Rutland,VT:CharlesE.Tuttle,1964).TheseweretakenfromthebestknownQingperiodcompilationofLordBaostories,Longtu gong'an (Dragon-designBao'scases);this,inturn,wasbasedonBaijia gong'an (Onehundredcourtcases)fromaround1600.Othersappearinvariousanthologiesofshortstories(seep.xiii,n.13foralist).Later,duringthewaningyearsof the Qing,thetalestookonanewlifeinbook-lengthcollectionsoflinkedstories, perhapsreflectiveoftheheartfeltneedforstout-heartedandscrupulousofficialsas theManchuempirecrumbled.BasedontheoralperformancesofthenineteenthcenturyentertainerShiYukun (c.1810­1871)asrecordedinLongtu erlu (ArecordoforaltalesofDragon-design[Bao]),selectionsfromthe collectionknownasSanxia wuyi (Threeknights-errantandfive

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China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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