Saturday, January 8, 2011: 9:20 AM
Room 303 (Hynes Convention Center)
In 1741 the popular and highly respected Governor of Zhejiang Province, Lu Zhuo, was impeached for corruption. The charges focused on several commonplace instances of officials bribing him with one or two thousand taels of silver to support their promotions and two extraordinary and intertwined cases in which the governor and his staff accepted substantial bribes to prejudice the outcome of lawsuits brought by two women from wealthy and prominent Zhejiang families who were related by marriage. The lawsuits brought by these two women targeted senior men in their families who were well known within
elite society, official networks and to the governor himself. In both cases, the female plaintiffs used the dominant discourse of chastity to frame their respective disputes over property and charges of adultery as violations of their rights and reputations as virtuous women. Both initially won (or bought) the governor’s support of their claims. Yet as the impeachment proceedings against Governor Lu unfolded, culminating in huge street demonstrations in protest against his conviction, both women were demonized as immoral shrews who destroyed the career of a successful governor. The rich collection of documents on these cases offers a fascinating glimpse of various aspects of legal culture that are rarely visible. This paper will explore a few of these: the motives and methods of bribery, the potential for and implications of women’s access to officialdom, the (mis)uses of gendered moral discourse in legal proceedings, and the ways in which the judicial system served as a site for the intensification and entanglement of family, local and dynastic politics.