Scenes of Corpses: Forensic Examinations in Early Modern Chinese Literature
The past decades have seen a growing number of studies on literature, law, and medicine in premodern China and a similar interest in literary depictions of human anatomy in European history. Building on those studies, this ongoing project examines the representations of dead bodies in forensic literature of early modern China. In particular, it focuses on the scenes of corpse examination (shichang 屍場) in written, visual, and performance materials produced from the 17th to the 19th centuries. The project anatomizes various aspects of those scenes––dead bodies for examination; different participants including families, coroners, and spectators; various modes of viewing; and the media that enabled those experiences. With a focus on the dead bodies in forensic scenes, this project aims to reveal how forensic practices influenced the representation of personhood and justice in early modern Chinese literature and society. This presentation introduces the questions and materials for the project and invites critiques.