Eighteenth-century chinese commentators were eloquent on the subject of official corruption, characterizing it as one of the greatest scourges on the Qing state and society. Xu Wenbi (n.d.), in an administrative handbook based on his experiences as magistrate of Yongchuan county in Sichuan province from 1764 to 1768, bemoaned the devastating effects of corruption on the Chinese populace, writing: “Wherever corruption manifests itself, there are a hundred stratagems to suck out the lifeblood of the people. How can one imagine that the wealth of the region would not be exhausted in the space of a few years?” (Xu n.d., 1:26a). Yin Huiyi (1691–1748), who served as Henan governor from 1737 to 1739, stated that avoiding corruption should be the primary goal of any provincial official. “An official who has been appointed to a post should, first and foremost, remain pure,” he wrote, adding, “No matter whether his rank is lofty or humble, in the end, incorruptibility should be his most precious jewel” (Yin 1940, 4–5). Using similarly strong language, the renowned official, essayist, and historian Qian Daxin (1728–1804) pronounced that “when a single individual is corrupt, an entire dynasty may erupt into chaos” (Qian n.d., 2:10a–11a, 1:124–25).

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