This introductory chapter provides an overview of the three parts and thirteen chapters that comprise this volume, a series of focused case studies of personages and actions considered “bad” by early and medieval Chinese writers. The first part contains four chapters examining distinctive ways in which core Confucian bonds, such as those between parents and children and ruler and minister, were compromised and even severed. Through a colorful collection of ostentatious Eastern Han mourners, deviant calligraphers, audacious falconers, volatile Tang Buddhist monks, and inebriated Song literati, the second part explores the elasticity of orthopraxy and heteropraxy in early and medieval China. The final part showcases four distinctive explorations of cultural attitudes toward military action and warfare. Collectively, the volume compels a serious reconsideration of larger questions of what and whom was considered aberrant, arguing that more often than not, definitions were based on personal taste, conflicting systems of values, and political and social expedience.
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