Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China: A Study with Critical Edition and Translation of the Legal Texts from Zhangjiashan Tomb No. 247.

Author:Sou, Daniel Sungbin
Position::Book review
 
FREE EXCERPT

Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China: A Study with Critical Edition and Translation of the Legal Texts from Zhangjiashan Tomb No. 247. 2 vols. Translated and edited by ANTHONY J. BARBIERI-LOW and ROBIN D. S. YATES. Sinica Leidensia, vol. 126. Leiden: BRILL, 2015. Vol. 1: pp. cxiv + 377; vol. 2: pp. xiv + 1038. [euro]299, $389.

For decades, A. F. P. Hulsewe's Remnants of Ch'in Law has received much acclaim for its scholarly commitment to the study of early Chinese law. His work has been read and cited by many scholars who study not only legal and administrative but also social and cultural history. Thirty-one years have passed since Hulsewe's publication, and now we have a comparable study published by Anthony Barbieri-Low and Robin Yates. They have given us the first English publication of the two early Han dynasty excavated texts from Zhangjiashan, the Statutes and Ordinances of the Second Year and the Book of Submitted Doubtful Cases, which is an exceptional advent for Sinologists and for readers interested in China's early imperial history and Chinese legal studies. The former text is so far the most comprehensive legal text from early China, providing information on various early Han statutes that demonstrate a continuation of law found in earlier Qin statutes from Shuihudi, the later Tang codes, and the Qing dynasty. The latter text provides case records disclosing the legal process of the Han courts and a vivid description of one actual Han legal court.

This translation is significant for many reasons, but the most compelling is the rich content about early imperial China that will help readers expand and deepen their understanding of Chinese society and culture. As law is an important tool of statecraft that controls various aspects of society, this book is a valuable source for the study of legislation, politics, mores, and society as a whole (p. 67, p. 216). The chosen title, Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China, could not be more accurate. The reader should recognize these two books not merely as textbooks for administrative or legal history but as a door to understanding everyday life in the early Han dynasty.

This two-volume edition contains three sections. In the first volume, the first section includes a detailed index of translations for official titles, ranks, measurements, and regional names, along with a map. The second section, "Introductory Study," consists of eight subsections that cover general...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP