On a spring afternoon in 1509 a local bandit found himself in the emperor's private quarters deep within the Forbidden City and in the presence of the Son of Heaven himself. This bizarre meeting was the doing of the eunuch Zhang Zhong, the emperor's personal servant and companion. In time court intrigue between competing palace eunuchs would lead to the death of this bandit-turned-rebel, setting off a massive uprising that resulted in China's largest rebellion of the sixteenth century. To understand how this extraordinary meeting came about requires a consideration of the economy of violence during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Here, for the first time in any language, is a detailed look at the role of illicit violence during the Ming. Drawing on court annals, imperial law codes, administrative regulations, private writings, and local gazetteers, David Robinson recreates in vivid detail a world where heavily armed highwaymen and bandits raided the boulevards in and around the Ming capital, Beijing. He then convincingly traces the roots of this systemic mayhem to economic, ethnic, social, and institutional factors at work in local society.
Subjects: Political Science, Sociology
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