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Lüxing 呂刑

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The penal law of Marquis Lü (Lüxing 呂刑) is known from a chapter of the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents". The chapter dates from the time of King Mu 周穆王 (trad. r. 1001-947) of the Western Zhou period 西周 (11th cent.-770 BCE) and refers to the Minister of Law (sikou 司寇), a certain Marquis of Lü. The latter's suggestions were adapted by the king, in order to have a tighter control over his officials and the regional rulers. The law was an expansion of earlier texts, allegedly dating as far back as the Xia period 夏 (21th - 17th cent. BCE).
The basic method of government and administration was still a kind of "moral education" (dejiao 德教), for which reason the application of penal matters was deliberated very seriously before pronouncing a judgment. The spirit of benevolence was also seen in the tendency to use harsh penalties only in the most serious cases. The old regulations for the death penalty were therefore reduced from 500 articles to 200. As a further alleviation, the king allowed to buy oneself free from punishment (see shuzui 贖罪), and for this purpose, detailed amounts of gold serving as fines (fajin 罰金) were recorded. Yet this mode of commutation was only applicable in case of doubt. A particular paragraph was dedicated to the five misdoings (wu guo zhi ci 五過之疵) of state officials, namely the abuse of power, private grudge, female solicitation, bribery, or "lobbying". All of these were to be punished severely. Even if the verdicts were extremely harsh according to modern standards, the codification of the law and the enforcement of a kind of lawsuit made law of these times more reliable and constitutional.


Source: Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥 (ed. 1998), Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), p. 121.

August 27, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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