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Guilty of IndigenceThe Urban Poor in China, 1900-1953$
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Janet Y. Chen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691152103

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691152103.001.0001

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Between Charity and Punishment

Between Charity and Punishment

(p.13) Chapter 1 Between Charity and Punishment
Guilty of Indigence

Janet Y. Chen

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how “poverty” (pin) emerged as a resonant concept for reforming elites in the early twentieth century. Deeply anxious about China's precarious future, officials and intellectuals began to view “poverty” as an issue imbued with national significance. Drawing from Japanese penology and a burgeoning industrial training movement, reformers experimented with various types of workhouses, endeavoring to revive the nation on the foundation of labor. These first workhouses initially incarcerated misdemeanor convicts, and then extended detention to the nonworking poor, especially targeting “vagrants” and “beggars”—the male, mobile, and most unproductive members of society. The creation of these institutions marked a striking departure from traditional practices, anointing the combination of detention and labor as the most promising method of creating productive citizens.

Keywords:   reforming elites, Japanese penology, industrial training, workhouses, labor, detention, productive citizens

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