China and Inner Asia
Bryn Mawr College, United States
During the course of empire-building, the Ming dynasty established an elaborate set of military regulations, including those in the Great Ming Code, Itemized Regulations for Trying Penal Matters, and Regulations for Military Administration. Most of the military law, however, targeted the Han population. When the imperial forces expanded into non-Han regions—such as the “Miao Territory” centered at the Laershan Mountains, they needed to adapt the general imperial law into local circumstances. This paper examines the localization of the Ming military law in the Miao Territory centered at the Laershan Mountains on the borderland of west Huguang, east Guizhou, and southeast Sichuan. By analyzing the regulations of several key military officers in the area, it demonstrates how imperial regulations were changed to adjust to the local situations and how Miao customs and the environmental features were considered in the making and enforcing the law. The paper argues that the imperial legal order in the Miao Territory resulted from the contest and negotiation of various socio-political forces and the adaptation to the mountainous environment.