Bringing attention to the importance of li
(an articulated system of social domination and political legitimization, consisting of rituals, ceremonies, and rites) as the foundation of the Qing political system, Macabe Keliher’s book The Board of Rites and the Making of Qing China
(University of California Press, 2019) challenges traditional understandings of state-formation and helps us rethink how we tell the story of the founding of the Qing.
Focusing on how rituals and other practices of legitimization emerged, formed, and were then codified, the book is a deep dive into the early years of the dynasty. Using Chinese and Manchu-language archival materials, including edicts, memorials, legal codes, and court records, Keliher emphasizes how concerned with li the Qing really was, and in turn how very different from the Ming the Qing ended up being.
Covering all aspects of ritual, from court ceremony to sumptuary greetings, clothing regulations, and how members of the imperial family were dealt with, this is a lucidly written and wonderfully detailed book that will be of interest to those who work on the Qing—as well as anyone interested in ritual, state formation, early modern empires, and systems of domination more broadly.
is a historian of early modern and modern China. He is assistant professor of history at Southern Methodist University.
Sarah Bramao-Ramos is a PhD candidate in the History and East Asian Languages program at Harvard University. She in interested in book history, early modern translation, and anything involving a kesike.