Chinese Law Bibliography: General
This is the first of four sections of the bibliography, dealing with general issues in the study of early Chinese law and its historical and administrative matris. Follow the arrows at the bottom of each page to read all the pages in chronological order.
Legal History In General
- Jean Escarra. Le Droit Chinois. Henri Vetch 1936
- A pioneering but philologically uncritical study; to be used with extreme caution.
- Arthur Waley. Three Ways of Thought in Ancient China. 1938
- One of the three (actually four, counting the Micians) is Legalism. Classic, attractive, and useful as a first orientation, though overly accepting of the supposed 04c date of the Shang-jywn Shu, the main variant of Legalism which it includes. Compares that text's recommendations in passing to the Hitler totalitarianism of that time.
- Kung-chuan Hsiao 1944-45 (tr F W Mote): A History of Chinese Political Thought. v1 Princeton 1979
- The Chinese original was published in 1944-1945. Accepts traditional datings for the classic texts, and so is out of focus chronologically, but still a useful and insightful survey of Chinese political and administrative thought. First readers might sample the author's contrast between Mencius and Sywndz (p194-213), the section on the Gwandz (p319-367) and part of a contrast between Lord Shang and the Han Feidz (p409-424). Our improved chronology sheds new light on these statements, but they do isolate the main issues.
- Léon Vandermeersch. La Formation du Lègisme: Recherche sur la Constitution d'un Philosophie Politique dans la Chine Ancienne. EFEO 1965.
- An advance on previous Western works, but still with unresolved problems as to the nature of the sources, including the Shang-jywn Shu. Should be used with care.
- Cho-yun Hsu. Ancient China in Transition: An Analysis of Social Mobility, 722-222 BC. Stanford 1965
- This influential work accepts the Dzwo Jwan as literally true of the period it purports to describe, and thus dislocates a whole complex of changes to a period between two and four centuries earlier than they, or their analogues, actually happened. Reiterated in 1999 in a slightly more careful, but still fundamentally misleading form; see the entry for Dzwo Jwan.
- Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe (ed). The Cambridge History of China. v1: The Ch'in and Han Empires. Cambridge 1986
- Scholarly opinion was not sufficiently settled at the time for his series to begin with pre-Imperial times; see instead below. The chapter on Chin and Han law by Hulsewé (p520-544) is useful when it deals with Chin and Han documents. Its general view of Chinese law as rooted in a concept of cosmic harmony does not apply equally to all early Imperial schools of thought.
- Zhengyuan Fu. China's Legalists: The Earliest Totalitarians and Their Art of Ruling. Sharpe 1996.
- Both credulous and careless, but with a useful purpose: to confront Sinologists and social scientists generally with the fact that Legalism as a practical philosophy is an exceedingly unpleasant affair. Goes Waley one better by exploring the similarities between Legalism and Marxism. The exchange between the author and a JAS reviewer in 2000 and 2001 is unlikely to go down in history as one of Sinology's great moments.
- Karen Turner. War, Punishment, and the Law of Nature in Early Chinese Concepts of the State. HJAS v53 #2 (1993) 285-324
- Comments on Chinese law as seen by recent Western theorists, and explores the relation of the legal power to the warmaking power in China. Usefully notes the linkage of legal history with administrative history.
- Michael Loewe and Edward L Shaughnessy (ed). The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 BC. Cambridge 1999
- The volume missing from the earlier Cambridge History. Its contents are uneven and sometimes contradictory, suggesting that the wait for a scholarly consensus might with advantage have been still longer. There is no chapter on law as such. There is an updated version of Cho-yun Hsu's theory of early social mobility (see above), about which no further comment seems necessary.
Authenticity and Historiography Issues
- Michael Loewe et al (ed). Early Chinese Texts. SSEC 1993.
- The current standard reference on the most important early texts; it dates most of them as early as reputable opinion allows. We have called this the Neo-Antiquarian view. See next.
- E Bruce Brooks. The Present State and Future Prospects of Pre-Han Textual Study. SPP #46 (July 1994) 1-74
- A long review of the above, pointing out that philological scrutiny has not yet been successfully applied to many of the texts, and presenting some sample alternative analyses. Establishes the importance of the accretional model of text formation (anticipated by some Chinese scholars, including Tswei Shu and Jang Sywe-chvng) in understanding the school texts of the period. Includes detailed suggestions for dating the material in the Dau/Dv Jing, Sywndz, and Han Feidz. The latter is of particular importance for the history of Chinese statecraft.
- E Bruce Brooks and A Taeko Brooks. The Original Analects. Columbia 1998
- The above suggestions fully realized as they affect the Analects of Confucius, a text with an especially long time span, placing its material within Warring States context (it covers the period 0479-0249) and providing a benchmark against which other texts can be dated.
- A Taeko Brooks. Spring and Autumns: The Chronicle of Confucius's Lu. Forthcoming
- Treats in extenso the first monument of Chinese historiography: the chronicle of the state of Lu for 0721-0479. Characterizes war and society in the multi-state system of Spring and Autumn China as it really was, not as the systematizing Dzwo Jwan (see next) portrays it. Among other things, the absence of legal institutions in the Spring and Autumn period is noted.
- A Taeko Brooks. Heaven, Li, and the Formation of the Zuozhuan. OE v44 (2003/2004) 51-100
- The Dzwo Jwan is the second monument of early Chinese historiography. This paper apportions the material of the DJ into several layers of composition which span most of the 04c, and include the period when the new bureaucratic state and its legal and military system became fully operative. Many DJ stories emerge as parables and recommendations for various stages in that process, including the role of law in society. Previous acceptance of those stories as literally true of the period they purport to describe has done more damage to our understanding of Chinese legal history than any other single factor.
- A Taeko Brooks et al. China's First Historian: Szma Tan and the Shr Ji. Forthcoming
- This collaborative work, presently in progress, will detail the dual authorship of the Shr Ji, the third major monument of early Chinese historiography, and note the shifting ideological bias which must be taken into account in using the Shr Ji as evidence for history. Law was one of Szma Tan's interests, and he wove a particular theory of law into his account of persons and events. His son Szma Chyen took a very different view, which he displayed in the chapters he wrote, and inserted into some of the chapters Tan had previously written. This ideological split personality needs to be made clear before the Shr Ji chapters are usable by historians.
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5 Feb 2006 / Contact The Project / Exit to Comparative Law Index Page