Cover of Violence and Order on the Chengdu Plain by Di Wang
Violence and Order on the Chengdu Plain
The Story of a Secret Brotherhood in Rural China, 1939-1949
Di Wang


March 2018
280 pages.
from $29.95

Cloth ISBN: 9781503604834
Paper ISBN: 9781503605305



In 1939, residents of a rural village near Chengdu watched as Lei Mingyuan, a member of a violent secret society known as the Gowned Brothers, executed his teenage daughter. Six years later, Shen Baoyuan, a sociology student at Yenching University, arrived in the town to conduct fieldwork on the society that once held sway over local matters. She got to know Lei Mingyuan and his family, recording many rare insights about the murder and the Gowned Brothers' inner workings.

Shining a light on Shen Baoyuan's once-forgotten research, Di Wang unfolds a story of two voices—that of the struggling local boss of a rural Brotherhood; and that of the student researcher on the cusp of a new intellectual movement in China that bridged rural sociological study with political activism. Using the filicide as a starting point to examine the history, culture, and organization of the Gowned Brothers, Wang offers nuanced insights into the structures of local power in 1940s rural Sichuan. Moreover, he examines the influence of Western sociology and anthropology on the way intellectuals in the Republic of China perceived rural communities. By studying the complex relationship between the Gowned Brothers and the Chinese Communist Party, he also offers a unique perspective on China's transition to socialism. In so doing, Wang persuasively connects a family in a rural community, with little overt influence on national destiny, to the movements and ideologies that helped shape contemporary China.

About the authors

Di Wang is Professorof History at the University of Macau. He is the author of The Teahouse: Small Business, Everyday Culture, and Public Politics in Chendu, 1900-1950 (SUP 2008).