published on May 15, 2018
The Literati-Official Victimization Narrative
Memorializing Donglin Martyrs in Eighteenth-Century Suzhou
This article describes the Confucian cycle of apotheosis in which deceased sages and worthies served as a model for the living who in turn aspired to become paragons for future generations, thereby achieving a form of immortality. It explores the way in which victimhood was strategically employed to perpetuate power relations beneficial to local landowners through a case study of support over a hundred and fifty year period by a major familial lineage in the Yangzi delta region for one of the most prominent victims of factional violence in the late Ming dynasty (1368–1644): Donglin current member Zhou Shunchang (1584–1626). Influential patriarchs in the Peng familial lineage of Suzhou cultivated indignation in local society about the injustices suffered by righteous literati-officials such as Zhou Shunchang. The driving motivation of the Pengs’ memorialization of Zhou was to decry physical harm of literati-officials by state agents and to perpetuate the Donglin current program of governance centered on the counsel of literati-officials. In continuing Zhou’s memory through textual and ritual interventions, the Pengs put forward a vision of local autonomy while simultaneously aligning their own interests with those of the Manchu Qing (1644-1911) rulers.