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Protest with Chinese CharacteristicsDemonstrations, Riots, and Petitions in the Mid-Qing Dynasty$
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Ho-fung Hung

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231152037

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231152037.001.0001

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Resistance and Petitions, 1820–1839

Resistance and Petitions, 1820–1839

(p.135) 5 Resistance and Petitions, 1820–1839
Protest with Chinese Characteristics

Ho-Fung Hung

Columbia University Press

This chapter focuses on the third of the three waves of protest in mid-Qing China. It presents detailed studies of several cases of tax riots, retribution against state agents, and other collective violence against the state in 1820–1839, with a focus on retributive violence, which was more prevalent in this period. These protests resembled many of the antistate actions of the late eighteenth century as far as their violence and confrontational stance toward local governments are concerned. However, these protests seldom coalesced to become the building blocks of open revolt against the dynasty, as violent resistance in the late eighteenth century did. In contrast, many early nineteenth-century resisters restricted their antagonism to local authorities while maintaining their filial loyalty toward the central government. In particular, the surge of violent resistance in this period was concomitant with the rise of the practice of capital appeal (jingkong), in which local communities sent appellants to Beijing to petition representatives of the emperor against corrupt and abusive local officials. The chapter argues that this bifurcated disposition toward local and central authorities among aggrieved subjects—violence against the former and filial loyalty toward the latter—resulted from the successful regeneration of the empire's moral legitimacy under the reformist rhetoric of the Jiaqing and Daoguang emperors, even though this rhetoric never succeeded in arresting the worsening malfeasances of the bureaucracy.

Keywords:   Chinese protest, Qing dynasty, mid-Qing period, state-resisting protest, violent protests, tax riots, state agents, collective violence, retributive violence, local government officials

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