China and Inner Asia
Sun Yat-Sen University, United States
Drawing on various materials such as homicide reports, local judicial archives, folk documents and fieldwork, this paper examines the customs of "returning bone seeds" and "compensating for bone prices" once popular in Western Hunan to understand the similarities and differences between chieftain area and Miao area in terms of outlook on human life, social organization and mobilization, institutions of dispute resolution, and social operation. Moreover, it describes how, with the gradual establishment of Qing Dynasty’s direct ruling order in the two areas, the interaction between the imperial legal system and the local etiquette and customs as well as dispute resolution culture of the original chieftain area and Miao area shaped the significantly different legal cultures and judicial practices between the reformed chieftain and Miao areas. Furthermore, it argues for a profound impact of these legal dynamics on the definition of modern ethnic identity and the changing "Chinese borderlands."