This article seeks to show that the frequent invocation by the Qing Board of Punishments of the adage that liu yang represents an exercise of imperial benevolence outside the law is not a mere formality without substantive meaning, but rather reflects the role played by the adage in the reasoning by which permission to remain at home to support an elderly or sick parent was granted or withheld. The Board may argue either that “benevolence” supplies a reason for a grant of liu yang in a given case or, on the contrary, that “benevolence” should not be extended to permit such a result. In addition, the article examines the role of the concepts of “pity” and “filial piety” in relation to the operation of “benevolence”.
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