16 documents
Unless otherwise specified, the descriptions of sources in this section are extracted from Pierre-Etienne Will and collaborators,Official Handbooks and Anthologies of Imperial China: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming).
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TitleJuguan shenxing lu 居官慎刑錄, 8 j. [Records on Officials’ Leniency in Administering Justice]
Topic2.3 Judicial cases: historical casebooks
Historical periodLate Qing (1797-1911)
AuthorLiu Gongchen 劉拱宸 (Z. Bo’ai 伯璦)
Publication typeWoodblock

Rem.: The work is entirely devoted to the theme of using torture with moderation and being lenient in administering justice. J. 1 is devoted to imperial edicts, headed by a 1730 edict of the Yongzheng emperor recommending expert interrogation and the use of torture only as a last resort in the provinces, as had been done in the central judicial offices since the beginning of his reign on the recommendation of his brother Prince Yixian 怡賢親王, whose memory the edict is celebrating. It is followed by three main parts: (1) A series of very clear explanations of the laws concerning the system, application, suspension, and instruments for punishments and torture, based on the penal code and the Mingfa zhizhang (q.v.) (j. 2-3). (2) texts concerning punishments extracted from various works in the four categories of literature: laws on punishments and their reduction in the classics; edicts, memorials, historical facts, and biographies of model officials in the histories; philosophers; maxims by ancient authors in the collectanea; plus literary works from the reigning dynasty (j. 4-7). (3) Biographies of cruel officials (j. 8). The fanli specifies that the author has chosen not to use the many specialized treatises on justice (mingxing zhi shu 明刑之書) available; the rules quoted from the laws and precedents are meant to help the scholars entering government without much knowledge of the penal code and likely to be misled by their underlings. The book was not yet printed when the author died in office; his sons edited the text, requested the prefaces, and ensured the engraving. Liu Qixian’s preface says that “the way [the author] places exhortations and warnings at the surface of his opinions is both profound and subtle”; and he expresses the hope that after the publication future officials will know how to use the work as a mirror.


     Bio.: The prefaces indicate that the author served in Henan, where he started as a magistrate of Xihua 西華 at the beginning of the Xianfeng reign, later becoming prefect of Chenzhou 陳州and then Nanyang 南陽, a region with a notoriously difficult populace. Reportedly he had much reputation with his constituents for his leniency. Apart from the Juguan shenxing lu he is supposed to have composed many works “useful for the past and the present” (古今有用之書). He Shouci’s preface of 1874 indicates that Liu had died in office three years before.

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