The Many Faces of the Prison God in Late Imperial China

Invitation au séminaire EFEO du professeur Chen Hsi-yuan 陳熙遠 (Institut d’histoire et de philologie de l’Academia Sinica) qui prononcera une conférence intitulée : « The Many Faces of the Prison God in Late Imperial China ».


In traditional China, every local government had a facility to accommodate prisoners, and every local jail had a built-in shrine to worship the Prison God.  Conceivably, the Prison God was the sole deity available for the inmates to say prayers.  Some might confess their (true) crimes and seek for absolution; some other prayed for fair or better treatment behind bars; and some would long for a quick imperial pardon.  Those who were suffering from wrongful convictions might pray for eventual exoneration.  Since the local magistrate was the chief priest of the official cults as well as in charge of law enforcement, he needed the Prison God’s divine assistance in keeping prison inmates in safe and secure custody.  Willingly or not, the Prison God was invited to share the responsibility of enforcing the law or preventing miscarriage of justice.

This paper examines the establishment of the Prison God Shrine from the Capital down to local governments, and traces the Prison Gods’ worldly identities, including Gao Yao, the Minister for Law of the legendary sage-king Shun; Xiao He, initially a local yamen runner who eventually became the first Chancellor of the Han Empire; and Ašitu, a Manchu warden who released prisoners on a one-day parole to allow them to enjoy their family reunion on the New Year’s eve.


  • Jeudi 5 octobre 2017, de 16h à 18h


  • Maison de l’Asie – Grand salon du 1er étage
    22 avenue du Président Wilson – 75116 Paris

Cette conférence sera animée par Paola Calanca (EFEO/CECMC) et Stéphane Feuillas (Université Paris Diderot).


Affiche de la conférence (format PDF)

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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