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Unless otherwise specified, the descriptions of sources in this section are extracted from Pierre-Etienne Will and collaborators, Handbooks and Anthologies for Officials in Imperial China: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography, 2 vols., Leiden: Brill, 2020
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TitleZijing lu 自警錄 [A Record of Staying on One’s Guard]
Topic2.1 Judicial cases: general casebooks
Historical periodEarly Qing (1644-1796)
AuthorTang Yingqiu 湯應求 (ed.); Zhu Yun 朱橒 (ed.)
Publication typeWoodblock

The Zijinglu自警錄 (A record for self-alert), a book in four juan totaling over 90,000 Chinese characters, was compiled in 1737 by Tang Yingqiu湯應求 the county magistrate of Macheng麻城 of Hubei. The book is a record of lawsuit papers and official deliberation about a complex and intriguing lawsuit between the Yangs 楊and the Tus涂, two big clans in Macheng.

The case started with a woman Yang being married to a Tu. The woman was found missing one night after quarreling with her mother-in-law and husband. The Yang family accused the Tu of murdering her, while the Tu family alleged that she had actually eloped. As the Macheng county magistrate, Tang Yingqiu trailed the case and found no evidence to substantiate accusations from both sides. Then a corpse was found by a river bank, and the Yangs claimed that this was the body of the missing woman. Tang's forensic investigation convinced him that the corpse was in fact a male, not female. Tang's verdict was however overruled by his successors, and Tang found himself entrenched in a lawsuit battle that was to last for five years against his colleagues and supervisors. In the end, Tang was convicted of accepting bribery and tempering with the corpse, and sentenced to death penalty by strangling. Tang narrowly escaped the penalty, had his life saved and reputation rehabilitated, when his next successor found the woman, who was hiding in her brother's home for years. In a sense, this 18th-century Macheng case was similar to the case of "the return of Martin Guerre" in 16th-century France.

Tang published the Zijinglu in 1737, but the one that is extant is a reprint of 1828. At least two copies of this 1828 reprint are known to exist, one in the Library of the Institute of Legal History of the Chinese Academy of Science, and one in the Library of the Peking University.


The work is essentially a detailed dossier reproducing all manner of administrative documents related to a sensational criminal case involving a string of wrong accusations that took place in Macheng county (Hubei) and was going on while Tang Yingqiu was acting magistrate there, from late 1730 to 1737. Tang was wrongly accused of having been bribed to make a false autopsy report, condemned to strangulation, and jailed pending execution; yet the truth was discovered—the woman said to have been killed by her husband reappeared—and Tang was returned to his position. Yang Yaozu, who hailed from the same county as Tang and says he often heard about the case when he was young, could not find an earlier imprint said to exist in Guilin 桂林, but in the end was able to see a ms. copy at the home of the “famous Guangzhou muyou Zhu Yunmu” (who had edited the text). He decided to publish a new ed. to encourage future administrators to “stay on their guard.”

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422/443 results