Category Archives: Blogs

Call for Papers – “Religions”

Dear Colleagues: The ISCLH blog is forwarding a call for papers from the journal Religions. The special issue “Religion and Law in China, Past and Present” is a modest attempt at exploring the dynamic between law and religion in Chinese history and contemporary China. The papers try to illustrate how law and religion, in the Chinese context, are not only in tension with each other but also reflect one another.

For details, please visit: or contact Hui ZHAO at The deadline for submissions is 15 April 2015.

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Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History (June 2015)

Dear Colleagues:

Please visit the link below for more information on applying for the Hurst Summer Institute in Legal History.  The biennial workshop will be held from June 14-27, 2015 at University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Applications will be accepted from: 12/1/14 – 1/15/15.

More Information and Application Details:

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Chinese Legal Documents Series

The ISCLH Blog is proud to introduce the new Chinese Legal Documents Series.  This special series invites researchers to introduce a document from their own collections, provide a translation, and discuss what these texts might be used to study.  Our goal is to showcase the research of members, offer a small corpus of legal texts for the training of students, and give readers a wide view of what the study of Chinese legal history looks like.

Our inaugural post comes from Max Oidtmann, historian of China and Inner Asia teaching at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar.  Originally from the Xunhua Archives in Qinghai, Professor Oidtmann’s document is an 1874 proclamation by a local magistrate attempting to resolve a thorny property dispute between two monasteries. The document offers a valuable snapshot of governance on the imperial periphery and serves as an example of bottom-up attempts by the Qing to rebuild a multi-ethnic society in the aftermath of the Muslim rebellions.

The full document is presented below.  (A printable PDF version is also available for download here.)  We welcome any comments and suggestions you might have and would be especially eager to hear from those who have used this document in the classroom.  Finally, please e-mail Maura Dykstra if you are interested in contributing a future document for the series.

Max Oidtmann, “A Document from the Xunhua Archives,” Chinese Legal Documents Series (International Society for Chinese Law and History) 1, No. 1 (Nov. 2014)
Permanent Link:

A Document from the Xunhua Archives
Max Oidtmann

In 1873 the Qing government regained control over Xunhua subprefecture (循化聽), a sprawling jurisdiction that encompassed a diverse population of Salars, Tibetans, and Mongols in addition to Han and Hui commoners. Local Muslims had ejected the Qing and its military forces from Xunhua and much of the rest of Xining Prefecture following the spread of the Great Muslim Rebellion to Gansu from Shaanxi in 1864. The Xunhua Subprefectural Archives, now held in the Qinghai Provincial Archives, Xining, document the Qing government’s attempt to pacify and govern this region from 1873 through the fall of the dynasty in 1911. This archive currently contains 5,319 fascicles (juan) totaling approximately one hundred thousand pages of documents in both Chinese and Tibetan.

During the busy summer months when the subprefect was resident in Xunhua, registers of daily business (號薄) list as many as sixty to seventy separate matters, many of which touched on the affairs of local Tibetans. The Xunhua archives reveal that by the mid-nineteenth century, Gansu provincial officials played—often reluctantly—the key role in what had become a Qing-centered pluralistic legal order in the Amdo region. Tibetans from all walks of life—lay people and monks, herders and farmers, Gelukpa hierarchs and village elders, men and women—sought out Qing officials at all levels of the provincial administration to resolve local conflicts. Qing magistrates, working together with the monastic rulers of places such as Labrang and Rongwo, as well as Hui gentry and military commanders, drew on diverse traditions of jurisprudence to adjudicate conflicts. In the process, they created a uniquely Qing body of “jurispractices” (a term I borrow from Katherine Hermes’ study of native American law[1]) and legal precedents.

In the immediate aftermath of the Muslim rebellions in Gansu, Qing officials faced a particularly daunting wave of litigation brought by both Muslims and non-Muslims. During the course of the rebellions, land and other properties had changed hands—often involuntarily, people had been murdered or disappeared, families had separated, individuals had converted from one teaching to another, widows remarried, and the shifting fortunes of Muslim “rebels” and the Qing dynasty “braves” had left a tortuous record of loyalties and betrayals at all levels of society. The return of the Qing represented for some people an opportunity to right these perceived wrongs. The archival record makes it clear that the Tibetan communities of Amdo had not been immune from the turmoil of the Muslim rebellions. Many lay and monastic communities had allied themselves with the Muslims at one point or another. Other communities had suffered the depredations of attacks by Muslim forces and allied Tibetans. Moreover, the exigencies of the decade of rebellion only exacerbated historic tensions between Tibetan communities.

Many of these tensions arose from the complex and overlapping claims of the estates owned by the region’s reincarnate lamas.During the 1870s-1880s, one of the thorniest cases to emerge from the ashes of the Muslim rebellions involved the estates of two major reincarnate lineages—the Gyangro Lama of Khagya monastery and the Sétsang Lama of Terlung monastery. Successive generations of both lineages had acquired estates, tenants, and mansions in the valleys between the two monasteries. Yet their claims to these properties frequently overlapped or were disputed by local residents. Managers of the two monastic estates also claimed exclusive rights to supervise and order the religious affairs of Khagya monastery.Despite the fact that both lineages (and all monasteries involved) subscribed to the teachings of the Gelukpa school and had often had amicable relations historically, by the 1870s, they had mustered military forces and were escalating attacks on each other. Further complicating the issue were mutual insinuations made by each lineage that the other side had allied with the Muslims of Hezhou during the rebellions, as well as the influence of two hostile monastic polities of regional import—Labrang and Rongwo, both of which attempted to take advantage of the conflict.

The document translated below is a proclamation from the spring of 1874 represents one early attempt by the Xunhua subprefect (at this time a Manchu bannerman named Anfu) to resolve the case. At this particular juncture, the subprefect had delegated the task of negotiating a resolution to the Khagya-Terlung conflict to the senior “nangso” (Tibetan lay official) of Rongwo. The proclamation includes a detailed community compact that was intended to clarify the various obligations the various villages owed to each other and to their respective monastic supervisors.

Despite the involvement of prestigious monks from outside the immediate area of the conflict and the sanction of the magistrate, this compact only held for a matter of months.This case would continue to trouble Xunhua subprefects until 1892. Yet the compact represents the first of a series of important inter-communal accords in Xunhua that attempted to resolve the Gyangro-Sétsang conflict. Throughout the rest of the Qing dynasty and well into the Republican period, these accords would serve as the primary legal basis for resolving intra and inter-communal conflicts. However, like any legal statute or precedent, they also occasionally provided the focus for subsequent friction when the concerned parties found that their understandings of the accords, often based on unofficial or incomplete Tibetan-language translations, differed not only from each other but from the subprefecture’s own records.

Reading the Xunhua Archives the researcher is often struck with the strident demands of local Tibetans for the Qing state to “take charge” (作主) and adjudicate conflicts according to the “Tibetan laws and statutes” (番例番規). However, in practice, the demand for “Tibetan” jurisprudence generally provided discursive cover for the creation of a body of decisions, pledges, and community compacts in which the “Tibetan” statutes played only a supporting role. For instance, in the document below, a detailed settlement of community boundaries was far more central to the resolution of the case than the exchange of compensation in accordance with the Tibetan statutes for the deaths and destruction that had attended the outbreak of the conflict months earlier.

During the late nineteenth century litigation in Qing courts led to attempts by committees (委員會) of Qing officials and local Tibetan and Muslim elites to sort out the contradictory claims of religious estates. Investigative parties were sent out and detailed surveys of Tibetan communities collected. The desire to create clear boundaries around monasteries (a desire that originated with the Gelukpa elites as much as it did Qing officials), however, often had the unintended consequence of forcing indigenous Tibetan households and villages to enter into exclusive relationships with particular monasteries and monks. Pious activities such as pilgrimage or alms-giving were abruptly politicized and frequently restricted in the interest of clarifying the rights of monastic estate to a certain people and territories. The end result was the reification of monastic domains and their agglomeration into ever-larger organizations. By the end of the nineteenth century, Tao Baolian (陶保廉), the son of the Gansu governor-general Tao Mo (陶模), would warily describe the large monastic domains of Labrang and Rongwo as the “Warring States.”[2] Paradoxically, the existence of these massive entities was at least partially the result of the Qing’s own colonial legal order in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands.

The Document

“Let the Rong’ar hönpo and the Khagya chiliarch be informed:

With regards to the case concerning the feud between the [Rong’ar] hönpo and the Khagya chiliarch over three villages, this office ordered elders from both sides to fairly mediate. Upon receiving the terms of their recommended settlement, I made some minor emendations in the interest in ensuring its fairness and arrived at a final judgment. The stipulations shall be listed separately for dissemination to each party and must be observed by all concerned parties, including the hönpo and the chiliarch. Act in accordance with this judgment and there will be permanent peace and no further cause for argument or inconvenience. Promptly observe this command!

The decision stipulates as follows:

  • Each household of Menlung must provide Khagya monastery with one dou of barley and fifteen catties (jin) of butter each year for eternity.
  • Xiangka must perform one day of the monlam at Khagya monastery during the first month of the new year.
  • Menlung is to be considered a tribe of Khagya monastery and, in accordance with past precedents, will be governed by Khagya.
  • Fifty plots of land purchased by Khagya from Xiangka shall be returned to Khagya monastery.
  • Irrigation water shall be supplied to Xiangka by Khagya according to the existing schedule; Xiangka will host one day of monlam each year at Khagya monastery, if on the scheduled days Xiangka does not receive water because the channel has been blocked, Khagya cannot request Xiangka to host monlam.
  • Tangkar is to be considered a tribe of Rong’ar and, in accordance with past precedents, shall be governed by Rong’ar.
  • All additional matters are to be handled according to precedent.
  • Herders from Menlung who pasture on Khagya’s alpine meadows shall be permitted to graze their animals there according to tradition.
  • All those common people who have been taken captive shall be returned to their previous tribes.
  • Rong’ar shall compensate Khagya for all the property of Khagya monastery that they destroyed or looted.

If these stipulations are not observed you will be punished without mercy!”[3]








[1] Katherine A. Hermes, “The Law of Native Americans, to 1815,” in Michael Grossberg and Christopher Tomlins, eds., The Cambridge History of Law in America, vol. 1: Early America, 1580-1815 (Cambridge UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 33-34.

[2]Tao Baolian, Xinmao shixingji 辛卯侍行記(Lanzhou: Gansu minzu, 2002), 240.

[3] Qinghai sheng dang’anguan (青海省档案馆) Tongzhi 同治13/02 (1874-3/4), 6-YJ-187: 《循化廳為遵依議規給隆哇、卡加的諭》.

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New Publication: Margaret Kuo, Intolerable Cruelty: Marriage, Law, and Society in Early Twentieth-Century China

Intolerable Cruelty: Marriage, Law, and Society in Early Twentieth-Century China

Margaret Kuo

Rowman & Littlefield, 2012

Publisher’s Description:

At the outset of the Nanjing decade (1928–1937), a small group of Chinese legal elites worked to codify the terms that would bring the institutions of marriage and family into the modern world. Their deliberations produced the Republican Civil Code of 1929–1930, the first Chinese law code endowed with the principle of individual rights and gender equality. In the decades that followed, hundreds of thousands of women and men adopted the new marriage laws and brought myriad domestic grievances before the courts.

Intolerable Cruelty thoughtfully explores key issues in modern Chinese history, including state-society relations, social transformation, and gender relations in the context of the Republican Chinese experiment with liberal modernity. Investigating both the codification process and the subsequent implementation of the Code, Margaret Kuo deftly challenges arguments that discount Republican law as an elite pursuit that failed to exert much influence beyond modernized urban households. She reconsiders the dominant narratives of the 1930s and 1940s as “dark years” for Chinese women. Instead, she convincingly recasts the history of these years from the perspective of women who actively and successfully engaged the law to improve their lives.

Table of Contents:

Part I: Law and the State

Chapter 1: Introduction

Chapter 2: GMD Legal Exceptionalism: Conceptual Underpinnings of the Republican Civil Code

Chapter 3: The Rise of Public Opinion: The Case of GMD Surname Legislation

Chapter 4: The Process of Civil Adjudication: Marital Justice and the Republican Civil Court System

Part II: Law and Society

Chapter 5: Spousal Abuse: Divorce Litigation and the Emergence of Rights Consciousness

Chapter 6: Running Away: Cohabitation Litigation and the Reconfiguration of Husband Patriarchy

Chapter 7: Bourgeois Affairs: Separation and Support Litigation and Injury to Reputation

Chapter 8: Natural Eunuchs: Husband Impotence Annulment Litigation and Legal Opportunism

Chapter 9: Conclusion


Margaret Kuo is associate professor in the Department of History at California State University, Long Beach and EDS-Stewart Fellow at the Center for the Pacific Rim, University of San Francisco.

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New Publication: Sun Joo Kim and Jungwon Kim, Wrongful Deaths: Selected Inquest Records from Nineteenth-Century Korea

Wrongful Deaths: Selected Inquest Records from Nineteenth-Century Korea

Sun Joo Kim and Jungwon Kim

University of Washington Press, 2014

Publisher’s description:

This collection presents and analyzes inquest records that tell the stories of ordinary Korean people under the Choson court (1392-1910). Extending the study of this period, usually limited to elites, into the realm of everyday life, each inquest record includes a detailed postmortem examination and features testimony from everyone directly or indirectly related to the incident. The result is an amazingly vivid, colloquial account of the vibrant, multifaceted sociocultural and legal culture of early modern Korea.

Table of contents:


Translators’ Notes

Map of Nineteenth-century Korea

Introduction Choson Korea in Its Last Century

Case 1 An Adulterous Widower Meets a Violent Death Yang Hang-nyon (P’yongyang, P’yongan Province, 1866)

Case 2 A Family Activist Confronts a Local Magnate Ms. Pak (Yongin, Kyonggi Province, Late Eighteenth Century)

Case 3 A Defiant Slave Challenges His Master with Death Yi Pong-dol (Anui, Kyongsang Province, 1842)

Case 4 Two Widows Fight Madam Chang and Ms. Un (Yech’on, Kyongsang Province, 1842)

Case 5 A Heartless Wet Nurse Abuses an Infant Mun Chong-ji (Chunghwa, P’yongan Province, 1866)

Case 6 A Widower Seeks Private Settlement Ms. Chong (Yongch’on, Kyongsang Province, 1889)

Case 7 Adultery Leads to Murder Ms. Paek (Anak, Hwanghae Province, 1897)

Case 8 An Illegal Burial Begets a Son but Kills a Relative Kim Kap-san (Hoeyang, Kangw n Province, 1899)






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New Publication: Chen Hwei-syin-The Legal System of the Qing Dynasty: New Perspectives 陈惠馨[清代法制新探]

《清代法制新探》一書在 2012年10月出版之後,能夠在一年半內再版,顯現當代人對於清代法制研究興趣與好奇。當代越來越多清朝法制相關文獻出版,說明清朝法制的多樣性與系統性。 20世紀的人們所認識的清代法制是《大清律例》,也因此許多研究者強調傳統清朝僅有刑法,沒有民事法規;或者認為清朝因為沒有民事法規,因此審判者可能是恣意的處理人民牽涉財產的糾紛?

《清代法制新探》一書嘗試跟讀者說明,清朝的法制並不僅有《大清律例》,清朝法制包含的面向更廣、更多元;在《清代法制新探》一書中所呈現的,僅是本書作者過去十多年來有關清朝法制的研究成果;本書的內容跟 20世紀多數清朝法制研究者一樣,主要以《大清律例》為核心分析


xiv 清代法制新探


在本書的第二版出版之際,希望透過上面提問邀請讀者們一起尋找解答;除了持續反思清代的法律是什麼?在中國影響法官斷案的原則與規則為何等問題外,還更進一步的思考,如果清代法制是有系統且完備的?那麼為何清代法制在中國運作二百多年之後,必須在西元 1900年前後,決定放棄自己社會所發展出來的法律體制,繼受西方法律體制?另外?為何這樣的繼受歷程目前還持續進行著?目前繼受外國法律的面貌為何?

二版自序  xv:
我封閉且完整的體系之後,在 1900年前後,該法律體系被自己社會所拋棄的原因,將可以讓我們對於法規範本質與侷限有更深刻瞭解。



陳惠馨 2014年7月10日於涵碧園

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New Publication: Zhao Jing 赵晶, 《Tiansheng ling》yu Tang Song fazhi kaolun 《天圣令》与唐宋法制考论

《Tiansheng ling》yu Tang Song fazhi kaolun 《天圣令》与唐宋法制考论

[A study of “Ordinances of the Tiansheng reign period” and the legal systems of the Tang and Song]

ZHAO Jing 赵晶

Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社










丛刊总序                                           徐世虹































































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New Publication: Michael H.K. Ng, Legal Transplantation in Early Twentieth-Century China

Legal Transplantation in Early Twentieth-Century China: Practicing Law in Republican Beijing (1910s-1930s)

Michael H.K. Ng

Routledge, 2014

Publisher’s description:

“Practicing law” has a dual meaning in this book. It refers to both the occupational practice of law and the practicing of transplanted laws and institutions to perfect them.

The book constitutes the first monographic work on the legal history of Republican Beijing, and provides an in-depth and comprehensive account of the practice of law in the city of Beijing during a period of social transformation. Drawing upon unprecedented research using archived records and other primary materials, it explores the problems encountered by Republican Beijing’s legal practitioners, including lawyers, policemen, judges and criminologists, in applying transplanted laws and legal institutions when they were inapplicable to, incompatible with, or inadequate for resolving everyday legal issues. These legal practitioners resolved the mismatch, the author argues, by quite sensibly assimilating certain imperial laws and customs and traditional legal practices into the daily routines of the recently imported legal institutions. Such efforts by indigenous legal practitioners were crucial in, and an integral part of, the making of legal transplantation in Republican Beijing.

This work not only makes significant contributions to scholarship on the legal history of modern China, but also offers insights into China’s quest for modernization in its first wave of legal globalization. It is thus of great value to legal historians, comparative legal scholars, specialists in Chinese law and China studies, and lawyers and law students with an interest in Chinese legal history.

Table of Contents:


1. Practice of Judgment

2. Practice of Policing

3. Practice of Lawyering

4. Obstacles to the Practice of Lawyering

5. Practice of Crime Experts


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Sept. in Hong Kong: Int’l Symposium on Law and Social Change in Ming-Qing China「明清中國的法律與社會變遷」國際學術研討會

International Symposium on Law and Social Change in Ming-Qing China

「明清中國的法律與社會變遷」國際學術研討會,” Sept. 5-6, 2014, in Chinese University of Hong Kong, organized by Chiu Pengsheng, Wing-kin Puk. Participants include quite a few of our Society members.


Venue: Kilborn Room, 3/F, Chung Chi College Administration Building


Here is the conference program:



時間 週五(9月5日) 時間 週六(9月6日)
8:30-9:00 *報到
9:00-9:20 開幕 9:00-9:20 *報到
9:20-11:00 法律演化與社會變遷(Legal Evolution and Social Change)主持人:李伯重

  1. 岸本美緒〈禮教、契約、生存:試析明清民事審判中的衡平原則〉
  2. 陳惠馨〈從明清法律文書看社會、法律制度的變與不變〉
  3. 寺田浩明〈明清法研究における法の概念について〉


9:20-11:00 社會中的法律(Law in Social Context主持人:梁其姿

  1. Matthew Sommer (蘇成捷), “’UNAUTHORIZED PRIVATE SETTLEMENT OF MATTERS OF OFFICIAL CONCERN’ (私和公事): The Ambiguous Status of Mediation in Qing Law. ”
  2. 張小也〈明清時期湖北區域社會的民事法秩序〉
  3. 杜正貞〈「禁立異姓為嗣」與地方習俗的產生——以浙西南宗族為例〉
11:20-13:00 制度與成效(Institutions and Performance主持人:張樂翔(Lawrence Zhang)

  1. 伍躍〈制度的選擇與利用--前近代中國社會成員的制度選擇--〉
  2. 張瑞威〈論法定貨幣的兩個條件——嘉靖一朝銅錢政策的探討〉
  3. Thomas Buoye (步德茂) , “’The Benevolence of Women’: The Politics of Capital Punishment in Imperial China. ”
11:20-13:00 族群、性別與法律(Ethnicity, Gender, and Law主持人:馬健雄

  1. 蘇亦工〈清律回民相關條款與清代的「回變」〉
  2. 賴惠敏〈清代旗人、蒙古與漢族婦女的立嗣權〉
  3. 田宓〈清代内蒙古「土地契約秩序」的建立—以「歸化城土默特」為例〉

法律的移植與創造(Legal Transplant and its Invention
主持人:李孝悌 (香港城市大學中文及歷史學系)
1. 孫慧敏 (中央研究院近代史研究所) 〈挪借與創發:明清時期的房屋租賃規範〉
2. 林學忠 (香港城市大學中文及歷史學系)〈國際法與晚清外交
3. 卜永堅 (香港中文大學歷史系)“International Law and Sino-Japanese Dispute over Taiwan in 1874

14:30-16:30 經濟與法律的互動(The Interaction between Economy and Law主持人:王迪安(John D. Wong)

  1. 夫馬進〈中國清代的合會(銀會)訴訟與日本江戶時代的仲間事訴訟〉
  2. 邱澎生〈明清中國「商業法律」的構成與演化〉
  3. 何志輝〈清代中期澳門華洋租約糾紛與商貿社會的衍變——以東波檔六宗中文檔案為素材〉
  4. 吳海傑, “Dirt of Whitewashing: Re-conceptualizing Debtors’ Obligations in Chinese Business by Transplanting Bankruptcy Law to Early Colonial Hong Kong (1860s-1880s).”
16:30-18:30 法律推理與修辭(Reasoning and Rhetoric in Law)主持人:徐忠明

  1. 譚家齊〈惜糞若金: 明末清初判牘中的糞便處理及相關爭議〉
  2. 谷井陽子〈清代律学的實用價值〉
  3. 陳利  Li Chen 〈隱權力、法律知識及幕友在清代司法場域的權力地位〉Invisible Power, Legal Knowledge, and Influence of Qing Legal Specialists.
  4. 尤陳俊〈明清訟師的貪利形象建構〉
16:50-17:30 綜合討論(主要討論未來出版計劃)主持人:
17:30-17:40 閉幕


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A recent conference on Chinese law and ethnicity at Bryn Mawr


An exciting conference, “Constructing Diversity: Ethnicity and Legal Culture in Chinese History,” was held at Bryn Mawr College on April 4-5, 2014, with an impressive roster of international speakers. Organized by William Alford, Yonglin Jiang, and Yanhong Wu.

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