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What RemainsComing to Terms with Civil War in 19th Century China$
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Tobie Meyer-Fong

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780804754255

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804754255.001.0001

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Bones and Flesh

Bones and Flesh

Chapter:
(p.99) Chapter Four Bones and Flesh
Source:
What Remains
Author(s):

Tobie Meyer-Fong

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804754255.003.0004

This chapter asks what happened to the dead during the Taiping War. It examines the political meanings attached to corpses in Late Imperial China. The presence of unburied corpses represented a profound failure on the part of the dynasty and signaled a crisis of political legitimacy. Additionally, cannibalism—both rumored and real--indicated the total breakdown of society. Stories about coffins and corpses, lost and miraculously returned, heralded the virtue of the dead and their families. The act of burial conferred legitimacy upon those who did the burying: local officials and philanthropists.

Keywords:   Taiping Rebellion, corpses, cannibalism, coffins, virtue, moral parables, burial societies, philanthropy, cemeteries

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