- Ancient Chinese law = any Chinese laws used up until 1911 when the last -imperial dynasty ended.
- Differs greatly from common and civil law of western countries.
- Incorporates Legalist and Confucian aspects of governing and social structure/ order.
- The word law is translated loosely into two terms: The first, lü (律), means primarily “norm” or “model”. The second, fa (法), is usually rendered as “statute”.
- Ancient Chinese law was made principally maintain ranks and orders amongst nobles.
- Was also used to control society.
- First ever record of Chinese law is the Kang Gao (康誥), a set of instructions issued by King Wu of Zhou.
- Laws were coded and inscribed on bronze cauldrons and bamboo.
Key Legal Issues
- Judge (usually district magistrate) conducts a public investigation of the crime.
- The Chinese people despised the role of an advocate, the magistrate/ judge saw himself as someone seeking the truth, and not a part of either side.
- Legalism in the Qin dynasty was harsh and very penal. Punishments such as, death by boiling, beating, and permanent mutilation were common.
- Legalism in the Tang and later dynasties took a turn and placed more value in confucianism rather than harsh punishments. Being a civilized person became a focus of Chinese law.
- In the Tang dynasty, law became less of a punishment and more of a step into rehabilitating ones self to achieve becoming more civilized.
- Could not find a specific case, however it seems the majority of cases followed the same proceedings. The following info focuses on the cruel Qin dynasty.
- The court is open to the public, however they were so cruel that rarely any people showed up.
- The trials and courts were conducted by torture.
- In an ancient Chinese law case, the district rulers and officials would be present at trial as the chief justices and are appointed to preside in all cases which come before them.
- The judge sits behind a large table, the prisoner kneels before the table.
- The prisoner is regarded guilty until proven innocent.
- The prisoner may plead guilty or not guilty.
- The prisoner is asked many questions to try to incriminate him/ her.
- If the answer to a question is evasive, immediate torture is called upon.
- If the prisoner is assumed guilty and persists he is still innocent, the torture increases.
- Rarely any witnesses came forward as they were also subject to the possibility of torture.
- For a minor crime, the punishment would be public flogging.