China and Inner Asia
Jiangsu Normal University, United States
"Burying rocks" was widely practiced by non-Han ethnic groups—including the Miao—in the Yueliangshan (Moon Mountain) area on the borderlands of Guizhou and Guangxi in the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It stood for an important form of the “folk legislation," customary rules, and "case laws" of the Miao people. Since the Miao did not have written languages, they practiced the ritual of "burying rocks" to maintain the collective memories of the community. The "buried rock" in the Moon Mountain area developed sophisticated network, stipulated normative and punitive rules, and carried dispute resolution procedure. It was constructed into biding and comprehensive "customary law of the Miao Territory" in Southeastern Guizhou. When the Qing dynasty enforced territorial control over the Moon Mountain areas, it turned the Miao rules into government regulations. As the form of “proper law,” the imperial “Miao regulations” primarily applied to serious cases such as homicide and those relating to cross-ethnic conflicts, but left the resolution of most disputes into hands of Miao ethnic authorities. Therefore, the Manchu, Han, and Miao rules together formed the legal landscape of the Miao Territory.