Mandarins and Heretics

The Construction of “Heresy” in Chinese State Discourse


In Mandarins and Heretics, Wu Junqing explores the denunciation and persecution of lay religious groups in late imperial (14th to 20th century) China. These groups varied greatly in their organisation and teaching, yet in official state records they are routinely portrayed as belonging to the same esoteric tradition, stigmatised under generic labels such as “White Lotus” and “evil teaching”, and accused of black magic, sedition and messianic agitation.
Wu Junqing convincingly demonstrates that this “heresy construct” was not a reflection of historical reality but a product of the Chinese historiographical tradition, with its uncritical reliance on official sources. The imperial heresy construct remains influential in modern China, where it contributes to shaping policy towards unlicensed religious groups.

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WU Junqing, Ph. D. (2014), Institute of Historical Research (University of London), is a Past and Present Junior Research Fellow at that institute.
1 Introduction 1
2 Mandarin Wine in Western Wineskins: Terminological Problems 7
3 A Pre-history: Black Magic and Messianism in Early Political and
Legal Discourse 18
4 Landscape of Late Imperial Religious Life 39
5 Black Magic in the Heresy Construct 57
6 Messianism in the Heresy Construct 93
7 Victims of the Heresy Construct 118
8 Heresy in the Modern Era: Transmission and Transformation 132
9 Epilogue 152
Bibliography 165
Index 178
Academic researchers and students who work on Chinese history particularly late imperial China, religious history, history of mentalities and Chinese historiography.

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