Subject: 知縣 zhīxiàn mandarin as local magistrate
Setting: late Qing empire, China 19thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Feuerwerker 1976 p61
"Cases under the penal law in the first instance were tried by the local magistrate, who could pronounce and execute sentence only in minor cases, that is, if the penalty were no more than beating. In all more serious cases the magistrate could make only provisional findings and refer the cases to the prefect who in turn transmitted them to the provincial judicial commissioner (an-ch'a shih). Judgments made by the judicial commissioner required the concurrence of the governor and governor-general. Cases of homicide and those in which the possible punishment was more severe than imprisonment were required to be referred by the province to the Board of Punishments which exercised final jurisdiction in all matters except cases punishable by death. These were decided by a body known collectively as the Three High Courts (the Grand Court of Revision, and representatives from the Censorate and the Board of Punishments), but their judgment had to be ratified by the emperor personally."
* Feuerwerker 1976 p66
"There may appear to be a contradiction between the references just made to numerous underlings and the statement that the chou and hsien magistrates were the lowest officials in the hierarchy of imperial government. The latter implies that China was only superficially governed at the local level, while the former suggests a plenitude of attention. What I mean to suggest is not that there was no 'government' in Chinese society below the district level, but rather that imperial control of that 'government' through the person of the magistrate was indeed often superficial. His responsibilities were all-encompassing, but his omnipotence was only theoretical. Even more than his sovereign whose relations with his official servants -- the bureaucracy -- were sometimes ambiguous, the magistrate -- by law a stranger in the district he was sent to govern, and a short-term resident too -- could be a a captive of local interests rather than their master.
"At times the magistrate might not even know the local dialect. he certainly was not familiar with local problems and rarely had time in the usual three-year incumbency to overcome that handicap. To meet the tax quotas, to maintain order, to adjudicate the civil and criminal cases presented to him, to handle the enormous quantity of paperwork which the administrative code required in the exercise of these functions -- to do his job well, he was dependent on the day-to-day functioning of numerous clerks, messengers, guards, doormen, police, and servants and on the goodwill and cooperation of the local elite. Only to a limited extent could he and his personal servants and advisers understand or control the local interests, which might themselves be in collusion, represented by those two groups of permanent residents of his district."
* Racinet 1988 p82
"Mandarins are the public officials of civil and military rule, graded according to the importance of their work and decorated with the insignia of their grade. The official dress consists of a robe embroidered with dragons or serpents. It is fastened with a belt and partly covered by a shorter, more austere robe, over which a cape is worn.
"The decoration awarded by the emperor for military or civil service are: first, the yellow robe and the peacock feather -- given only to the highest dignitaries; and next, the lan-lin feather. Soldiers who distinguish themselves are allowed to wear a fox's tail."
* Racinet 1988 p82 f2.1 caption
"A mandarin dressed in everyday summer clothes. As custom dictates, he is holding a fan in one hand and a handkerchief in the other."
* Yang 1999 p54
"Fan (Shan, 扇). Fans used by martial artists were made of wood (bamboo and other kinds), or more commonly, metal. The outer edge was extremely sharp, and often spring-loaded darts were hidden in the ribs.
"Fans were perhaps the most easily hidden weapons, because they could be kept in plain sight. A martial artist with a fan in his hand could at one moment be the elegant scholar, and in the next, a deadly fighter.
"Fans, with their razor-sharp edges, could be used to cut, strike or slide. Spring-loaded darts were utilized for surprise attacks. In China, fans are both practical and beautiful, and their use began very early in Chinese history."