Inked: Song Soldiers, Military Tattoos, and the Remaking of the Chinese Lower Class, 960 to 1279


Henry Luce Foundation/ ACLS Program in China Studies Postdoctoral Fellowships




This is a study of common soldiers in the armies of the Song dynasty. While previous scholarship has focused on the institutional, strategic, and political aspects of the history of the Song military, this study focuses on the army as a meeting place between lower class commoners and elites. It shows the military to be a space where the identity of a new lower class was molded and negotiated in a constant struggle between common soldiers and the agents of the state. My research tells the story of the rise of the Song’s penal-military complex, a vast organization for social control that gave birth to the tattooed soldiers of Song, a new criminalized lower class. The study explores the relationships between class, gender, state building, violence, crime, and the military.