Blood and History in China

Blood and History in China: The Donglin Faction and its Repression, 1620-1627

John W. Dardess
Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Blood and History in China
    Book Description:

    From 1625 to 1627 scholar-officials belonging to a militant Confucianist group known as the "Donglin Faction" suffered one of the most gruesome political repressions in China's history. Many were purged from key positions in the central government for their relentless push for a national moral rearmament under the Tianqi emperor. While their martyrs' deaths won them a lasting reputation for heroism and steadfastness, their opponents are remembered for fatally degrading the quality of Ming political life with their arrests and tortures of Donglin partisans. John Dardess employs a wide range of little-used primary sources (letters, diaries, eyewitness accounts, memorials, imperial edicts) to provide a remarkably detailed narrative of the inner workings of Ming government and of this dramatic period as a whole. Comparing the repression with the Tiananmen demonstrations of 1989, he argues that Tiananmen offers compelling clues to a rereading of the events of the 1620s. Leaders of both movements were less interested in practical reform than in communicating sincere moral feelings to rulers and the public. In the end the protesters succeeded in commemorating their dead and imprisoned and in disgracing those responsible for the violence. A work of unprecedented depth skillfully told, Blood and History in China will be appreciated by specialists in intellectual history and Ming and early Qing studies.<

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6164-3
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. [Map]
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. viii-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    IN SEVENTEENTH-century China, the name “Donglin” meant three different but partly overlapping things. It stood for an ethical revitalization movement; it referred to a national Confucian moral fellowship; and it also labeled a Beijing political faction, whose activities are the main focus of this book. The name comes from the Donglin (“East Forest”) academy of Wuxi county, located about fifty miles west of Shanghai, in what is now Jiangsu province. The heyday of the Donglin in all of its dimensions were the early decades of the seventeenth century.

    The Donglin academy, from its refounding in 1604, disseminated through its widely...

  7. CHAPTER 1 The Ming Throne Imperiled The Three Cases
    (pp. 9-30)

    IN THE SUMMER of 1620, Ming government at its highest level came close to a point of meltdown. Many opinion makers of the time asserted that the ultimate blame for that lay with Zhu Yijun, better known as the Wanli emperor (r. 1573–1620).

    For decades, Wanli liked to do things, or not to do things, in his own way. He hated being pressured. Ming house law, the Ancestral Instructions(Zu xun),clearly required that oldest sons be designated as successors to the throne. Wanli had an oldest son, Zhu Changluo. Formally installing him as heir apparent should have been...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Beijing, 1620–1624 The Storm Clouds Gather
    (pp. 31-71)

    THE DEATH OF their patron Taichang in September 1620, after a reign of just one month, gave a severe jolt to the Donglin partisans’ hopes for political and moral dominance over the affairs of Ming China. However, Yang Lian and the other Donglin men had played so forceful a role in guarding the succession of his young son, the Tianqi emperor, through the “removal from the palace” crisis that they seem to have assumed that the unsteady new ruler would favor and rely on them as much as his father had. They acted as though they thought it possible to...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Political Murders, 1625
    (pp. 72-100)

    IN MID-JULY 1624, the political stalemate in Beijing was blown apart by means of a verbal high explosive: the shattering “Twenty-four Crimes” memorial submitted by Yang Lian. The twenty-four crimes were imputed to palace eunuch Wei Zhongxian. The memorial was addressed to Tianqi, and it asked him, in effect, how he could continue to protect and abet a national criminal. The repercussions of this memorial were such as to bring on one of the darkest episodes of political repression in the long history of China, highlighted by the public arrests and secret murders of twelve leading figures of the Donglin...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Murders Continue: 1626
    (pp. 101-125)

    IT IS ALMOST beyond belief that the shocking arrests, doubtful charges, tortures, and secret murders of six leading Donglin figures in 1625 failed to satisfy the Beijing authorities’ desire for retribution. Obviously, however, the authorities felt that they had not yet done enough. The year 1626, therefore, saw a second and equally grim round of arrests and murders, this time targeting seven of the most renowned and articulate scholar-officials of south China. Again, contemporaries recorded for posterity the harrowing stories of this new wave of martyrs, with undiminished relish for intense, day-by-day detail.

    By 1625–1626 an elaborate machinery of...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Repression, Triumph, Joy, Collapse (1625–1627)
    (pp. 126-149)

    THE TIANQI REGIME openly prided itself on three main achievements. First, it had worked mightily to cleanse China of the Donglin and all its lingering influences. Second, it had managed to finish the expensive rebuilding of three decaying palaces in the Forbidden City. Third, after years of Ming defeat, it had scored two encouraging military victories in Manchuria (at Ningyuan and Jinzhou). These things it somehow accomplished in the short space of three years. Then, in the fall of 1627, the Tianqi emperor died, and the whole Tianqi order collapsed forthwith. The triumphs, the new anti-Donglin vision for China espoused...

  12. CHAPTER 6 A Reversal of Fortunes
    (pp. 150-170)

    ON OCTOBER 2, 1627, the Tianqi emperor’s younger half-brother, Zhu Youjian, assumed the throne under the reign title Chongzhen. (As things turned out, his was the last reign of an intact Ming China.) He was sixteen years old, but, unlike Tianqi, he played an assertive part in government from the very beginning of his reign. He also seems to have kept his own counsel. He certainly tolerated no decision-making surrogates, as Tianqi had done. During the first several months of his tenure as emperor, he adroitly handled the dismantling of the “Cui–Wei” regime, a task made easier for him...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 171-194)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 195-204)
  15. Index
    (pp. 205-208)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-210)