This chapter examines the salt merchants’ role in constructing chastity arches—stone structures honoring women who maintained chaste widowhood—in She county in Huizhou. In the High Qing era, the Manchu court systematically patronized the construction of monumental objects, such as stone arches, with the dual object of inculcating Confucian morality in their illiterate subjects and displaying their imperial legitimacy. The Huizhou salt merchants, seeing an opportunity to expand their influence, devoted themselves to chastity arch construction in the local community of Huizhou, thus publicizing the virtuous deeds that the court rewarded. While these merchants used their economic prowess to participate in the state’s cultivation project, their financial support of these arches was itself a product of the court’s salt monopoly policies. At the same time, these monuments gave these wealthy businessmen the opportunity to bolster their reputations, display their wealth, and lay claim to legitimate dominance in local society.
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