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To teach and to entertain: The production of legal culture in 16th and 17th century China

Wu, Yanhong
Scope and Method of Study:
Dawning primarily on literature in the sociology of culture, this research examines the meanings and the production of a special dimension of legal culture in 16th and 17th century China.
Findings and Conclusions:
This research examines the legal culture as presented in 348 case stories published in 16th and 17th century China. It demonstrates how it is significantly different from the hegemonic legal culture prevailed in this period as it focuses on crimes and the judicial process, takes an instrumental approach to courtrooms that represented legal order and judges who represented the governmental authorities, and places more confidence and hope in the universal rules of justice than in legal rules and legal agents. Focusing on human agents, the producers (mainly book merchants and grass-roots scholars), and utilizing the key concept �social resource�, this research reveals how this legal culture was produced. It argues that the producers actively translated their intentions into the production principles, i.e,�to teach� and �to entertain�. Guided by these principles, producers creatively appropriated and utilized the social resources they brought into the culture production process and shaped the features of the legal culture they produced. This research demonstrates how social members who had little legal and political power actively participated in the production and dissemination of legal culture in 16th and 17th century China fueled by economic prosperity and commercialization process. This research strenghthens and extends concepts and theories in the sociology of culture.