Post by J. Bourgon on 2011-01-19 02:37:45

Report on “Legalizing Space in China: The Shaping of the Imperial Territory through a Layered Legal System”


Lyon, January 20-22, 2011


Fifteen scholars[1] around the world specializing in East Asian history and law gathered at the Institut d’Asie Orientale (IAO) of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Lyon on January 20-22, 2011, for intense and highly productive discussions on Chinese law codes.  The workshop served as a launch pad for a four-year project led by Jérôme Bourgon (CNRS-Universté de Lyon-IAO).  The main objective of the project, funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR) of France, is a juridical translation of the the Ming and Qing (statutes) and tiaoli (appended substatutes), codified from the fifteenth through the late nineteenth century. 

The project focuses on contextual and spatial dimensions.  It intends to link the translation of the codes with other legal texts and jurisprudential knowledge, thereby providing insights on how the codified laws, starting as local measures, were systematized and extended over time and in particular how they were applied in practice.  The discussion at the workshop centered on substantive and concrete questions about the implementation of the project.  Substatutes numbered 200 to 300 during the Ming period, growing to nearly 2,000 by the end of the Qing.  The sheer size of the code poses a challenge for any translation efforts, especially for a project like this one that envisions to include not only code articles but related regulations as well as judicial cases.  The participants agreed that ensuring accuracy and usefulness of translation would be more critical than attempting completeness, and decided to concentrate on the most frequently used parts of the code.  The project aims to compile a comprehensive glossary of legal terms, with English and French equivalents, which is expected to become a full-fledged dictionary of Chinese law. 

Special attention will be paid to examining the relationship between state law in the center with provincial and local rules, and also the connection between the Ming-Qing code and laws and regulations outside China, those of the Mongolian, Tibetan, and Korean people for example.  There was consensus among the particpating scholars that the project should investigate how legal texts were tied with actual judicial practice in situ across the Chinese imperial territory and the peripheries.  It is expected that such a defined focus will lead to a veritable mapping of the various legal rules in force in the sinicized world. 

The progress of the project, proceeding in tandem with the research of the individual members in their respective fields, will be continuously made available online.  The project website,, has been launched and will include databases of related materials, layouts of the Chinese legislation, and the maps of the administrative boundaries of the Ming and Qing Empires, among others.  As part of the project, a bi-weekly seminar devoted to translating and studying the code and related documents will start in Paris under the direction of Jérôme Bourgon and Frédéric Constant.  The first meeting, scheduled on March 11, 2011, at the Université Paris Diderot-Paris 7, will begin with articles from the Part One of the Chinese penal code, headed “Names an Rules” (Mingli lü).  The seminar is open to and welcomes all researchers and advanced students interested in studying the Chinese legal tradition through the original texts of Chinese law. It intends to invite Scholars able to help highlighting issues and translatingarticles of the Ming and Qing code.


For further information and inquiries, please contact Jérôme Bourgon (   






The participants in the workshop were Jérôme Bourgon (CNRS-IAO), Claude Chevaleyre (EHESS, Paris), Frédéric Constant (Université Paris X), Luca Gabbiani (Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient, Taipei Center  ), Yonglin Jiang (Bryn Mawr College), Marie Seong-Hak Kim (St. Cloud State University), Rui Magone (Max Planck Institut, Berlin), Kentaro Matsubara (University of Tokyo), Hélène Piquet (Université du Québec à Montréal), Pierre-Emmanuel Roux (EHESS, Paris) , Yigong Su (Tsing-hua  University, Beijing), Zhiqiang Wang (Fudan University, Shanghai), Yanhong Wu (Zhejiang Univesity, Hangzhou), Ning Zhang (Université de Genève), and  Xiaoye Zhang (University of Political Sciences and Law of China —Zhengfa daxue, Beijing).




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