China as an emerging world power is currently undergoing a tortuous process of reform in its legal system. China’s difficulties are rooted in their worldview regarding justice and the supernatural. In contrast to the West, the Chinese do not regard divine powers as law-givers. In their view, since great antiquity laws have been created by human authorities for rulers to effectively control their subjects. This notion of rule by law is fundamentally different from the Western idea of rule of law based on protecting the rights of individual citizens. The Chinese emphasis on criminal justice is rooted in their conception of morality which is tied to their cosmology and supernatural beliefs.
This book focuses on criminal justice by drawing upon court cases which appear in historical records.
The author has included legendary stories, folk tales and wuxia (martial heroes or knights-errant) novels because they inform us in an interesting manner about the popular beliefs in justice and the supernatural, which guided the day-to-day action of the ordinary people. The author draws examples primarily from antiquity to the Song dynasty (960-1279) when these beliefs could very well be garnered from the rich sources of Zhe Yu Gui Jian (Exemplars in Judging Criminal Cases) containing 395 cases and Yi Jian Zhi (Accounts of Strange Happenings) containing 2,776 episodes, many of which involving the supernatural, as well as the captivating stories of the legendary Judge Bao who lived during the Song. This book concludes with a discussion of continuity and change down to the present in the context of a broad social and political landscape.