Transactions of the Japan Academy
Online ISSN : 2424-1903
Print ISSN : 0388-0036
ISSN-L : 0388-0036
The History of Codification in China
Report on a Book just Published
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2003 Volume 58 Issue 1 Pages 21-33


I had worked fairly long on my book: Collected Works on Chinese Legal History: Codification and Punishment, written in Japanese, Tokyo: Sobunsha, January 2003. On the occasion of its publication, I would like to briefly make an outline of the contents of its most important part: Chapter I entitled“The History of Codification”, wherein I have given for the first time a full-scale description of the history of Chinese law regarding its formal structure that covers from the beginning to the end of Imperial China, i. e., roughly from 400 BC to 1900 AD.
On the same subject, I had previously given a short account in an English article:“A Basic History of T'ang Legislative Forms”(Asia Major, Third Series-Volume V, part 2, 1992, pp. 97-110). The keynote is common between the two writings. Therefore, English readers had better refer to that article. It is to be noted, however, that on two points innovations are made in the present book.
1)A rigid definition is given to the term“secondary code”, which was rather loosely used in the previous article.
2)Attention is focused on the terminology“laws”and“precedents” which are used in contrast with each other in the Sung and Yüan historical sources.
As a consequence, various compilations consisting of extracts from ever enlarging accumulation of directive documents come to be classified into two categories:“secondary code”, on the one hand, whereby the source documents themselves are made void on the accomplishment of the compilation, and“manual of precedents”, on the other, whereby the compilation does not touch validity of the source documents that are left out of selection.
The descriptions of ling under the Han and of the Ta-Yüan t'ung-chih in the previous article (pp. 102 and 109) must be revised. Neither of them should have been designated as a sort of secondary code.

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