Karen Turner
College of the Holy Cross
Legal Ideals and Practices
Panel: Converging Toward Empire
AAS Convention, New York City, 27 March 2003

Karen Turner


The paper draws from three mid-third century sources to examine the intersection between Xunzi's legal theory, represented in books 7-16, the systematic program for running a complex state proposed in the core chapters of the LSCC (1-12), and the procedures for implementing law preserved in a local official's procedural manuals from the Shuihudi site. All three texts articulate the value of clear laws and consistent punishments and maintaining separate public and private spheres as key elements for constructing a viable government. But whereas the first two provide for limitation of the scope of law, the Shuihudi materials, which offer a glimpse of the law in action, reveal that the sheer costs of maintaining a complex state and of keeping order at the local level required a draconian control of human and material resources that promised to thwart even most eloquent proposals for tempering the power of the emerging empire.


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28 July 2002 / Contact The Project / Conferences Page