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Law, Empire and Chinese Traditional Forensic Knowledge: A Case Study of Nagasaki Qing Navy Incident

Sat, June 25, 1:00 to 2:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: 1F, 103


In August 1886 (Meiji 19), the Qing Dynasty's navy landed at the Nagasaki harbor port for military repairs. Afterwards, the local policemen and Chinese soldiers fought hand-to-hand in sword battles within the city. There were at least 80 deaths on both sides, and the soldiers were arrested. This incident stirred up anti-Qing sentiment and was a distant cause to the First Sino-Japanese War. With the proof provided by Chinese Wuzuo (仵作Force Medical Examiner), the Qing Government obtained advantages in the dispute resolution finally.

Previous studies have been focused on the process and political influences of the Incident based on either Chinese or Japanese materials. The current dominating historiography attributes China’s success in resolving the dispute to military supremacy. The debate about report of autopsy as critical evidence between Chinese Wuzuo and Japanese forensic doctors has been neglected for a long time. This paper will make use of document materials including some that have never been examined to reconstruct the whole incident especially the clash of forensic results between the Qing and Japanese Governments. I will employ this case to examine how the “primitive” Chinese and Japanese body knowledge were integrated into the “civilized” modern medical system and the Western rule of evidence. Moreover, since Extraterritoriality was imposed in Nagasaki, not only the Qing and Japan, but Great Britain and Germany were also involved to compete for sovereignty and imperial honor. This study also illustrates how knowledge of Chinese law and medicine was recognized within the modern international legal system.