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Luxurious NetworksSalt Merchants, Status, and Statecraft in Eighteenth-Century China$
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Yulian Wu

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780804798112

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804798112.001.0001

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Materializing Morality

Materializing Morality

(p.160) Five Materializing Morality
Luxurious Networks

Yulian Wu

Stanford University Press

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.

Keywords:   Salt merchant, She county, Huizhou, chastity arches, Manchu court, stone, public display, virtue, chaste widow, monument

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