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Thinking with Cases

Thinking with Cases: Specialist Knowledge in Chinese Cultural History

Charlotte Furth
Judith T. Zeitlin
Ping-chen Hsiung
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Thinking with Cases
    Book Description:

    Case studies fascinate because they link individual instances to general patterns and knowledge to action without denying the priority of individual situations over the generalizations derived from them. In this volume, an international group of senior scholars comes together to consider the use of cases to produce empirical knowledge in premodern China. They trace the process by which the project of thinking with cases acquired a systematic and public character in the ninth century CE and after. Premodern Chinese experts on medicine and law circulated printed case collections to demonstrate efficacy or claim validity for their judgments. They were joined by authors of religious and philosophical texts. The rhetorical strategies and forms of argument used by all of these writers were allied with historical narratives, exemplary biographies, and case examples composed as aids to imperial statecraft. The innovative and productive explorations gathered here present a coherent set of interlocking arguments that will be of interest to comparativists as well as specialists on premodern East Asia. For China scholars, they examine the interaction of different fields of learning in the late imperial period, the relationship of evidential reasoning and literary forms, and the philosophical frameworks that linked knowledge to experience and action. For comparativists, the essays bring China into a global conversation about the methodologies of the human sciences.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6518-4
    Subjects: Law, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. Note on Citations and Abbreviations
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. IX-XII)

    This project bears witness to the challenges and rewards of international collaborative research in Chinese studies. A group of us first became intrigued with the idea that Chinese case narratives across different domains of expertise were worth investigating in 1997 during a daylong colloquium on case histories in medicine at the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies in Los Angeles. Participants in that colloquium, including the editors of this volume, together with Francesca Bray, began with questions about medical records as sources for social history and historical anthropology but quickly branched out to ask questions about the epistemology and rhetoric of...

  5. Introduction: Thinking with Cases
    (pp. 1-28)

    Evidence of keeping records about legal and medical cases in China is almost as old as Chinese writing itself. Consider the following story, pieced together from bamboo slips excavated around two decades ago from a tomb at Zhangjiashan, in modern Hubei Province. In 197 BCE, early in the reign of Gaozu, founding emperor of the Han dynasty, a police officer named Shi was ordered to apprehend a runaway slave named Wu. When Shi caught up with his suspect, the two fought with swords and both were wounded. Each man tried to justify his actions. Wu’s story: I should not be...


    • 1 Satisfying Both Sentiment and Law: Fairness-Centered Judicial Reasoning as Seen in Late Ming Casebooks
      (pp. 31-61)
      JIANG yonglin and WU yanhong

      In the last century of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) lawsuits were common across the Chinese empire, judging from the large number of legal case collections that were published during this period. The case collections functioned to assist both specialists and laypeople in understanding legal matters and in participating in litigation. Such works may be categorized into several genres, ranging from the most private to the most official in authorship. The latter included collections drawn directly from the archives of either the central government agencies or local offices for circulation to the working magistrates of the various local courts.¹ At...

    • 2 Developing Forensic Knowledge through Cases in the Qing Dynasty
      (pp. 62-100)

      If indeed “thinking with cases” has had a long specialist history in European law and medicine, much the same is true in China, making the topic of this chapter of particular interest to comparativists. Forensics, by definition, is at the junction of law and medicine: its object is to contribute to the solution of legal cases by using specialized knowledge and techniques borrowed from medical science and practice. Does the discipline of forensics “think with cases” in the same ways as law and medicine, in Europe as well as in China? As we shall see, in imperial China, at least,...

    • 3 From Oral Testimony to Written Records in Qing Legal Cases
      (pp. 101-122)
      yasuhiko KARASAWA

      A criminal case is an event before it is a case record. The written record, with its implicit claims to truthfulness, is in fact the result of a complex manipulation of the original process of investigation, interrogation, and analysis that constitutes court proceedings. In order to illuminate that process, this chapter examines one kind of document that was essential to the record of criminal cases in the Qing dynasty. These are the written records of oral testimony taken from defendants and key witnesses, which were written down separately based on the notes taken at their depositions and then woven into...


    • 4 Producing Medical Knowledge through Cases: History, Evidence, and Action
      (pp. 125-151)

      How did Chinese physicians develop a tradition of thinking with cases? On one level, the answer to this question reveals a common human project of understanding ailment and cure. However, the forms of truth to which Chinese medical cases aspired were shaped by the culturally specific domains of China’s classics, its official histories, and its law. The Chinese classics, both philosophical and medical, were works of high antiquity believed to express universal truths about the universe, human society, and ethics—truths that flowed inevitably from their status as canon. Orthodox dynastic history, for which the earliest Chinese models were court...

    • 5 Facts in the Tale: Case Records and Pediatric Medicine in Late Imperial China
      (pp. 152-168)
      ping-chen HSIUNG

      This essay looks at how the “case method” (as description, record, and analysis) evolved within one particular area of Chinese medicine—pediatrics—during the late imperial period. Focusing on four widely separated historical moments, it examines how the form, style, and authorship of case-based narratives and reasoning changed over time, from the earliest surviving examples in the second century BCE down to the eighteenth century. The classical precedent for the case-like medical story is found in the biography of the early Western Han physician Chunyu Yi as related by Sima Qian. In the Song dynasty, pediatric case records were important...

    • 6 The Literary Fashioning of Medical Authority: A Study of Sun Yikui’s Case Histories
      (pp. 169-202)

      This chapter examines the published casebook of a famous late-Ming physician, Sun Yikui (ca. 1522–1619), from the perspective of literary history. It has become commonplace in what we may call cultural studies of the European and American medical case to emphasize the narrative nature of this genre as part of a broader argument about the narrative structure of medical knowledge.¹ My study of Sun Yikui takes this insight as a basic point of departure but, in addition to exploring the narrative aspects of individual cases, analyzes the range of literary strategies and assumptions about the case’s contribution to knowledge...


    • 7 How to Think with Chan Gong’an
      (pp. 205-243)

      This pithy exchange between an unidentified Buddhist monk and the Tang dynasty Chan master Zhaozhou Congshen (778–897) is perhaps the best-known example of a Changong’an, or “public case.” Although the passage occurs in a collection of Zhaozhou’s sayings supposedly compiled by his disciples, its notoriety is due to a Song dynasty master, Wumen Huikai (1183–1260), who placed this exchange at the beginning of his famousgong’ancollection,Gateless Barrier of the Chan Tradition(Chanzong wumen guan, 1228).¹ Wumen’s compilation, consisting of forty-four such exchanges and anecdotes accompanied by Wumen’s comments, is one of the most important works...

    • 8 Confucian “Case Learning”: The Genre of Xue’an Writings
      (pp. 244-273)
      hung-lam CHU

      Xue’anwere latecomers to the family of cased-based andan-titled writings. The binomexue’antranslates literally as “learning” and “case,” making a generic title for a specific kind of text, the “case of learning.” It usually took the form of a collection that paired biographies of scholars with selected excerpts from their writings. The earliest knownxue’anwork was written in the late sixteenth century by a Confucian master about the learning of a couple of earlier Confucian masters, to further the understanding of interested Confucian students. Thereafter,xue’anworks about Confucian learning continued to appear down into the twentieth...

  9. Appendix: Printed Sources Discussed in This Volume
    (pp. 274-276)
  10. Character Glossary
    (pp. 277-288)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 289-316)
  12. Contributors
    (pp. 317-320)
  13. Index
    (pp. 321-331)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 332-333)