Post by G. Foliot on 2014-04-05 23:26:02

This panel was proposal for Annual Conference of Association for Asian Studies on Saturday, March 29 from 17:00 to 19:00 in Room 401 on the fourth floor of the Philadelphia Mariott.


Area of Study: China and Inner Asia

Schedule Information: Sat Mar 29 2014, 5:00 to 7:00pm Building/Room: Philadelphia Marriott, Level 4 - Room 401

Session Organizer: Luca Gabbiani (École française d’Extrême-Orient)

Session Participants:

  • Unraveling the “Eight Characters”: Wang Mingde’s (fl. 1674) “Mother of the Code”
    Alison Bailey (University of British Columbia)
  • "To Know or Not to Know?" The Notion of fanshi bu zhi in Ming-Qing China's Juridical Thought and Judicial Practice
    Luca Gabbiani (École française d’Extrême-Orient)
  • Legal Procedure of Fact-Finding in Criminal Justice in Qing China
    Zhiqiang Wang (Fudan University)
  • Denunciation and Social Hierarchies: Legal Coherence and the Establishment of Categories in Chinese Legal Science
    Frederic Constant (University Paris Nanterre)

Discussant: Jerome Bourgon (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Chair: Thomas Buoye (University of Tulsa)


China has a long tradition of codified law anchored in an age-old “science of law” (lüxue), which nourishes the process of legal codification. In the twentieth century, the study of this tradition has mainly been undertaken by the Japanese school of juridical Sinology, while in the West, the idea that China had never established a proper

structure of positive law imposed itself, and with it the sense that throughout the country’s long history, the workings of its ruling institutions had been largely based on moral principles.

Yet, to consider the legal codes promulgated by the successive Chinese dynasties as mere efforts to formalize moral norms does not come close to conveying the multifarious nature of Chinese traditional law. The Qing Code for example, was the product of a firmly established juridical technique, which decisively determined its
contents. The aim of this panel is to show that a positivist reading of the Qing Code is not only possible but also central to a global comprehension of the coherence of imperial China’s legal order, of which the Code, precisely, was the corner stone.

In recent years, English-language Sinology has shed new and interesting light on the nature and workings of traditional Chinese law, underlining the importance of local sources, most notably judicial archives. In the process though, Chinese positive law and its underlying “legal knowledge” have been marginalized. This approach limits our understanding of China’s traditional legal culture and the time is ripe for a renewed interest in this legal culture’s most fundamental texts.

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