The exercise (an anthropological one) requires an awful lot of narrowing. In what are regarded as troglodyte or “primitive” (pre-Enlightenment) terrains (primitive meaning with shallow commercial and or industrial linkages to a broader nexus), all sorts of collectivities – from voluntary vigilantes to underground (identity-hidden) “gangs” (hui) in just about all truly marginal stretches of productive terrain or even just bridgeheads engage in and batten upon a kind of predation that looks remarkably like state-ordained, scheduled (pro rata) exaction. Literacy (admin-jargon esp.) is supposed to provide a useful cleaver, but the peasant world was never short of letters-for-sale lumpenintelligentsia nor of defrocked clerics willing to turn on their teachers and resell their all-important symbolic skill to the odd adventurer quo social gambler attracted to the idea of pushing for a place in the self-satisfied world of the rollkeeping class(es).
But, as if by some strange shared cranal gene buried within the underlayers of all societies, in most situations, most places, it was the redirection and reallocation of wrongfully (non-consensually) acquired property that was to be the best ultimate guide/determinant of the suitability of “bandit” label. The devious elder of a prominent patriline was often enough (in peasant grumblings..) correctly demeaned as a fraudster, a man who signed agreements only to break them, or pressured his agents to squeeze the odd farthing or peck beyond what had been agreed, but so this sort of stealing – and it could in scale far outstrip the highwayman’s proceeds – if it could be ritually sanctioned as or by sacrifice (donatism) to the surname collectivity – suddenly lost its bad name. Only leftist ideologues could go on venting steam at this class of wicked philanthropists, and even then the turn of phrase changed nuance: the (actual) robber or predator (fei) moves offstage and is reidentified; his follow-on enters as a TERRITORIAL boss (tuhao etc.), no longer a creature in hidden lair, rather a daylight oppressor, someone who may be (indeed often IS) a deputy of legitimate authority, and demands of his underclassmen. those who reside in his “demesne”, not unscheduled violent surrender of chattel, but what the European medievalist would easily recognize as ritual submissions in kind or in labor. “Feudalism” in Marxism-Leninism. Dispossession and dispossessors still at large, but the word(s) banditry and depradration no longer apply.
Here then is what the most fundamental parts of the epistemological
If “bandit” identity is to be imposed upon the malefactors with any accuracy, in the sense of scourgemakers anathemized by the consensual “all”, there must needst be a roster of ‘
But still even within a homogeneous stratum of kept-on-the-bottom and socially disdained, education-blocked work age Hakka males, there were very important differences (of mode) in personal appeal and leadership skills – meaning in practice that the lumpenintellectual dreamer (Yang) was not the only option. His ultimate ally (but never close friend), Wang Zuo, was on the other side of the earth, so to speak; an illiterate run-away apprentice with a flare for martial arts display (as a kind of para-opera); promising successor to the locale’s leading kongfu master/teacher, eventually founder of his own kongfu lineage, and (temporary) liege of the hard-to-delineate Horse-Swords “Bandit” Brigade, which however went over to Yuan Wencai in 1924: perhaps Wang as martial artiste was too much his own man for fraternity leadership? Or else, because, totally unlike his co-generational Yuan, Wang was not in the least romantir, but rather a kind if buccaneer, seizing the houses of the wealthiest landlords for his own use, while apparently leaving the lower orders of “gentry” to themselves as not worth the effort of antagonizing (by his greedy standards, they weren’t).