12 November 2020

BOOK: Xiaoqun XU, Heaven Has Eyes – A History of Chinese Law (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020). ISBN 9780190060046, USD 39.95.


(Source: OUP)

Oxford University Press is publishing a new book offering a general overview of Chinese legal history.


Heaven Has Eyes is a comprehensive but concise history of Chinese law and justice from the imperial era to the post-Mao era. Never before has a single book treated the traditional Chinese law and judicial practices and their modern counterparts as a coherent history, addressing both criminal and civil justice. This book fills this void.

Xiaoqun Xu addresses the evolution and function of law codes and judicial practices throughout China's long history, and examines the transition from traditional laws and practices to modern ones in the twentieth century. To the Chinese of the imperial era, justice was an alignment of heavenly reason (tianli), state law (guofa), and human relations (renqing). Such a conception did not change until the turn of the twentieth century, when Western-derived notions-natural rights, legal equality, the rule of law, judicial independence, and due process--came to replace the Confucian moral code of right and wrong. The legal-judicial reform agendas that emerged in the beginning of the twentieth century (and are still ongoing today) stemmed from this change in Chinese moral and legal thinking, but to materialize the said principles in everyday practices is a very different order of things, and the past century was fraught with legal dramas and tragedies. Heaven Has Eyes lays out how and why that is the case.


Xiaoqun Xu is Professor of History at Christopher Newport University.


Introduction: Law and Justice in Chinese History


Part One: Law and Justice in Imperial China, 221 BEC-1911 CE

Chapter 1: Five Punishments and Beyond: The Evolution of Penal Codes in Imperial China

Chapter 2: From the Imperial Capital to the Magistrate's Court: Judicial Practices in Imperial China

Chapter 3: The Emperor, the Family, and the Land: Law and Order in Imperial China


Part Two: Law and Justice in Late Qing and Republican China, 1901-1949

Chapter 4: The Best of the Chinese and of the Western: Legal-Judicial Reform in the Late Qing, 1901-1911

Chapter 5: The Rule of Law, Judicial Independence, and Due Process: Ideals and Realities in the Republican Era, 1912-1949

Chapter 6: Bandits, Collaborators, and Wives/Concubines: Criminal and Civil Justice in the Republican Era, 1912-1949


Part Three: Law and Justice in Maoist China, 1949-1976

Chapter 7: "Contradictions between the People and the Enemy": Criminal Justice as the "Proletarian Dictatorship"

Chapter 8: "Contradictions among the People": Mediation and Adjudication of Civil Disputes


Part Four: Law and Justice in Post-Mao China, 1977-2018

Chapter 9: The Legal System and the Rule of Law: Changes in Criminal Justice, 1977-1996

Chapter 10: "Naked Officials" and "Heavenly Net": Changes in Criminal Justice, 1997-2018

Chapter 11: "Look toward Money": Civil Justice in Post-Mao China, 1977-2018


Conclusion: Heaven Has Eyes


Chronology of Chinese History

Chinese Character List


Selected Bibliography



More info here

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