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The Compelling IdealThought Reform and the Prison in China, 1901-1956$
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Jan Kiely

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300185942

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300185942.001.0001

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Architects of Penal Reformation in the Late Qing Empire and Early Republic of China, 1900–1920

Architects of Penal Reformation in the Late Qing Empire and Early Republic of China, 1900–1920

(p.6) 1 Architects of Penal Reformation in the Late Qing Empire and Early Republic of China, 1900–1920
The Compelling Ideal

Jan Kiely

Yale University Press

This chapter shows that the system of penal reformation originated at the end of the Qing dynasty and in the early Republic with the establishment of modern prisons, which were at the forefront of state projects to remake society through indoctrinating individuals. The Qing scholar-official designers of the system interpreted a Japanese blueprint of a high modernist plan for rehabilitative incarceration in the Neo-Confucian language of moral education and self-cultivation, producing a radical theoretical redefinition of punishment as a social-ethical educative project wherein the penal process became a core means of governance through moral suasion. The moralistic definition of reformation was represented as a modern technique that realized ancient principles and contributed to saving the state. As penal reform was linked with the regaining of national sovereignty, reformation was presented in the early Republic as vital to national renewal through the transformation of criminals into good citizens. By the early 1920s, penal reformation had become the officially enshrined, powerfully conventional ideal of the legal-penal bureaucracy with a generative administrative centrality. It was also widely accepted by new academics, legal experts, elite moralists, and advocates of mass social education, civics, and political indoctrination interested in remaking the minds of “the people” for national transformation.

Keywords:   penal reformation/rehabilitation, modern prisons, late Qing, early Republic, moral and political indoctrination

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