128 documents
Unless otherwise specified, the descriptions of sources in this section are extracted from Pierre-Etienne Will and collaborators, Handbooks and Anthologies for Officials in Imperial China: A Descriptive and Critical Bibliography, 2 vols., Leiden: Brill, 2020
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TitleCheng An huibian 成案彙編 [A Compilation of Leading Cases]
Short titleB3850600
Topic2.1 Judicial cases: general casebooks
Historical periodEarly Qing (1644-1796)
AuthorYaerhashan 雅爾哈善
Publication typeWoodblock

The impulse for this compilation came from Zhou Xuejian. Reading through “thousands” of cases when he was a vice-minister of Justice (1741-43), Zhou was able to see how difficult it was to reach satisfactory decisions using analogy for the ten to twenty percent of cases that raised problems; at the same time, he worried that the decisions reached might be known only in the provinces from which the cases had originated, and that as a result local officials would be limited to a parochial view of things. After he had been promoted Fujian governor in 1743, Zhou became extremely nervous regarding the proper delivery of his judicial duties; he would have liked to compile a collection of leading cases for guidance, but his busy schedule prevented him from doing so. The work was eventually accomplished by Fujian surveillance commissioner Yaerhashan, who shared Zhou’s ideas about law: colleagues were mobilized to forward and edit the leading cases they had themselves collected, and within five months an anthology of more than 2,000 cases was assembled. The work includes relevant memorials issuing from all Six Ministries, arranged according to the order of the statutes in the Penal Code. (Only the sections, not the relevant statutes, are indicated in the central margins.) The fanli is especially clear about the use of analogy (比附) or comparison (比照) in judging cases, and emphasizes the usefulness of maintaining a database of leading cases to illustrate the underlying reasoning and serve as models, if not as “precedents” with legal authority. The 2,691 cases are numbered; 53% belong to the “Justice” section (刑律), of which two-fifths are about violent crimes (with usually longer accounts); in general, the Ministry of Justice clearly dominates the process since it is in charge of adjudicating even cases that are also referred to other ministries. The mulu (in 2 j. at the beginning of the work) lists the cases one by one with rather long captions, some actually corresponding to two or more cases. Besides leading cases (成案), there are also “rejected cases” (駁案), i.e. whose eventual closure is not known.

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