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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: March 2020

11 - State, Society and Trained Violence in China, 618–1500

from Part III - Social, Interpersonal and Collective Violence


Trained violence was a central forum for establishing the relationship between Chinese dynastic governments and their subjects. Because training in the use of violence (martial arts), along with access to weapons, determined an imperial subject’s effectiveness in carrying out violence in the service of the state, or in resisting the will of the state, imperial governments were always concerned to confine skills and weapons to those loyal to the state. Not only did different dynasties solve that problem differently at the beginning of their rule, the institutions governing training in violence changed over time in response to a government’s evolving society and external threats. Seen in this light, a state’s control over trained violence and access to weapons is a direct reflection of that state’s evaluation of its subjects’ loyalty and commitment to dynastic goals.