The Early Roots and Development of Chinese Criminal Law: The Xia and Shang Dynasties

Li, Xiaotong and Le Roux-Kemp, Andra (2021) The Early Roots and Development of Chinese Criminal Law: The Xia and Shang Dynasties. Tsinghua China Law Review, 13 (2). pp. 100-122. ISSN 2151-8904

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The Early Roots and Development of Chinese Criminal Law: The Xia and Shang Dynasties
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Abstract

Little is known about the substance, nature, and procedure of early Chinese law. This is lamentable as it is generally accepted that the Chinese legal tradition is one of the oldest enduring legal systems of the world. To address this lacuna, available records and literature on the earliest known Chinese dynasties — the Xia Dynasty (夏, c. 2000–1600 B.C.) and the Shang Dynasty (商, c. 1600–1100 B.C.) — are surveyed, with the goal to cautiously and judiciously explore the social and legal life of the earliest of Chinese civilizations. Given that penal law (punishment) constituted the essence of early imperial Chinese law, the important legal principles and practices with regard to the criminal and penal laws of that time are identified and explained, and its legal development from approximately 2000 to 1100 B.C. outlined. Particular attention is paid in the analysis and discussion of this article to two early relics from the Chinese legal tradition — the Five Punishments (五刑), and respect for filial piety (孝). Despite the fact that so little is known about the early Chinese criminal and penal laws, it is shown in this article that these two relics from the early of Xia and Shang Dynasties have had a lasting influence on the subsequent development of Chinese law, not only in the imperial times, but also to this day.

Keywords:Chinese Law, Criminal Law, Legal History, Penal Law, Filial Piety
Subjects:M Law > M211 Criminal Law
Divisions:College of Social Science > Lincoln Law School
ID Code:44766
Deposited On:10 May 2021 11:27

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