Justice in chinese society was literally of cosmic importance. Traditional Chinese thinking considered man and nature organic elements of a seamless cosmic web. Injustice of any kind did not simply rend the web in one place but placed tension on the entire structure. To restore equilibrium, the injustice had to be perfectly redressed, no more, no less. To ignore the injury was to risk catastrophe. As one late-Qing official wrote, “The recent natural disasters and interferences with heavenly harmony [i.e., the droughts and famines of the late 1870s and early 1880s] are a product of the countless number of cases where no appeal could be made, where there were no impeachments of the delinquent officials, and where consequently the innocent suffer deep injustices in the underworld” (Xinzeng XAHL 1886, 50:5a).

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