A Study of Essentials for Examining Corpses


This work was printed in the fourth year of the Yongzheng reign (1726) of Qing. The author was Zhu Gang (circa 1674‒1728), courtesy name Zicong, who was a native of Licheng, Jinan. It lacks a title page and the title, Jian shi kao yao (A study of essentials for examining corpses), is taken from the spine of the book’s case. This title also appears on the front page of juan 1, but without the author’s name. Only page numbers are printed in the central columns of the pages. The main author and compiler was Zhu Gang and the editor was Yu Shiyuan. Preceding the text are two prefaces, both written in 1726, one by Bulantai (died 1752), a Manchu provincial governor of Shandong, Shaanxi, and Hunan, and the other by the author. In his preface, Bulantai provided a brief biography of the author and his own comments. Zhu Gang accompanied his father Zhu Hongzuo to his official postings and studied classics at a young age. He was a vice censor in chief at the Bureau of Review of the Bureau of Justice. Later he was appointed to inspect various provinces, twice as surveillance commissioner. During the Yongzheng reign (1723‒35) he was provincial governor of Yunnan and Fujian. At his death he was posthumously bestowed the title of minister of the Bureau of Military Affairs. Zhu Gang was known for his poetry but was also knowledgeable in forensic medicine. In his preface he explained why he compiled the work. During his postings he read various works and studied methods of examining corpses. He found existing authorities incomplete and incorrect. Later he read Xi yuan ji shuo (Collected records of redressing injustice), a very detailed eight-juan work published in 1687 by Chen Fangsheng. However, because it brought together many works, Zhu Gang found it wordy. So he selected sections relating to redressing injustices or other matters; sections from Du lü bei xi (The portable bodkin for untangling the difficulties of the code); and other works that were relevant for postmortem examinations. He compiled them into a single work, convenient for reading and checking the various methods of autopsies and examining possible causes of death. Sections on injuries, illustrations, and fatal or nonlethal wounds were provided following the standards newly established by the Bureau of Justice of the time. This copy is the only existing one, and it is in good condition.

Last updated: January 10, 2018