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A Double-edged Sword: The History of the Shi Banner Family and the Shi Lineage during the Qing Period

Special Issue
Cheng-Heng LU (Emory University)
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The New Qing History school is distinguished by the use of non-Chinese language materials and emphasis on Manchu elements to examine the Qing Empire in the context of global history. The South China Studies or Historical Anthropology school explores the relationship between state and society from social and religious perspectives, through fieldwork and the use of materials produced in local society. Though the two schools have contributed tremendously to the history of late imperial China, they have rarely been in dialogue with one another due to the lack of appropriate case studies. By combining newly discovered Manchu and Chinese materials with fieldwork in Quanzhou and Taiwan, this article seeks to bridge the gap between two schools within the context of imperial history. The case of Shi Lang and the Shi lineage illustrates the interaction between the Eight Banners system and lineage institutions during the Qing period. The Shi lineage was first formally established in the mid-Ming in the context of the wokou (Japanese piracy) crisis and reforms to the system of tax registration. During the Ming-Qing transition, Shi Lang rebuilt his lineage's ancestral hall in its original location even before the coastal evacuation order was repealed, indicating his commitment to the lineage organization. At roughly the same time, Shi Lang and his immediate family were also enrolled into the Eight Banners system. The Shi banner family, a sub-group of the larger lineage, thus came to play a vital intermediary role between imperial authority and local society. It controlled the Fujianese navy and was authorized by the Qing Empire to manage the larger Shi lineage in Quanzhou. The Qing Empire tolerated its intermediary's illegal behavior while forbidding them from leaving the Eight Banners system. After the eighteenth-century, the Shi banner family gradually lost its monopoly over the Fujian navy and its ethnic identity was also transformed. Its role as an intermediary declined. As its economic power increased, the Shi lineage in Fujian began to stress the contributions of its members rather than their kinship with high-ranking officials in Beijing. Thus Eight Banners system interacted with local lineages in Quanzhou to create an imperial intermediary. But this was a "double-edged sword" that eventually created a separation between the Shi banner family and the larger Shi lineage.

Journal of History and Anthropology