“Manslaughter over an Outhouse”

(1722)

“Manslaughter over an Outhouse” is the judicial record of a case of manslaughter in the Anhui province of China in 1721. It is a combination of testimony, summary of interrogations and court hearings compiled by government agencies, and verdict. Although the testimony seems to be in colloquial form, it is not real-time testimony but rather a carefully edited report. The main purpose of the editing was to refine and standardize the language and terminology used in the report so that it could meet the legal definitions and procedures of the judicial system. It was also possible that the editor tried to simplify the contents of the report to avoid objection or questions from superior authorities. In any case, it is still a very useful historical source, as it tells far more about the daily lives of the people in eighteenth-century China than standard histories do.