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Writing and Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment (review)

Writing and Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment (review) 126 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 RobertE.HegelandKatherineCarlitz,editors.Writing and Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment.UniversityofWashington SchoolofLawAsianLawSeries18.Seattle:UniversityofWashingtonPress, 2007.xv,343pp.Hardcover$65.00,isbn978-0-295-98691-3. Forthepasttwodecades,historianshavebeenfruitfullyminingthelegalcase recordsfirstmadeavailableinChinesearchivesinthelate1980s.Althoughthis materialhasgreatlyexpandedourknowledgeoftraditionalChineselaw,society, andculture,usingthesecaserecordsentailsnosmalldegreeoffrustration.While caserecordsbringustantalizinglyclosetothelivesofeverydaypeople,thevoices withwhichtheyspeakareneverdirect.Rather,theymustbereadthroughveilsof narrativemanipulationonthepartofthosewhocametothemagistrate'syamen seekingredressfortheirgrievances,thescribesorlitigationspecialistswho c omposedtheirplaints,andjudicialofficialswhoeditedplaints,testimony,and theirowndecisionsbeforepassingacasereportalongforconsumptioninthe highercourts.Eachofthesestagesinvolvedthestrategicshapingoflanguage and appealstonormativevaluesinordertoachievethedesiredoutcomeforany givencase. Thispathbreakingconferencevolumeaddressesthisaspectoflegalwriting directlybymakingthetextualityofcaserecordstheprimaryobjectofanalysis.In whatamountstoaconversationamongsevenhistoriansandfiveliteraryscholars, thearticlesexplorenotonlytheconstructednatureoflegalcaserecordsasliterature,butalsotheroleplayedbylawinliteratureaswellasinreligiousrituals.As RobertHegelstatesinhisintroduction,thevolumehasnosingleanalyticor theoreticalapproachotherthan"ahumanisticconcernforthecontextsinwhich judicialproceduresoccurredandweredescribedinwriting"(p.19)alongwithan awarenessofhowdeeplylawwasembeddedinitssocialcontext.Whilethis objectivemakesforanadmittedlydisparatecollectionofchapters,italsopresents anenticingvistaontonewandquitepromisingresearch. AlongwithHegel'sintroductionandaretrospectiveconclusionbyJonathan Ocko,thetextisdividedintothreeparts,eachofwhichexploresspecificnarrative structures,tropes,anddiscursiveelementsfoundinlegalwriting,primarilyfrom thesixteenththroughthenineteenthcenturies.Thefirstsection,"Rhetoricand Persuasion,"offersessaysbyMaramEpsteinontheportrayaloffilialsonsinlegal cases,JanetTheissontheimageoftheshrewanditsimplicationsforvaluesof masculinity,YasuhikoKarasawaontherelationbetweenoralandwrittencultures, andHegelontheuseofrhetoricalquestionstoexemplifyethicalpositions.The nextsection,"LegalDiscourseandthePoweroftheState,"presentsessaysby ThomasBuoyeontheroleoffilialityandthejudicialimpulsetowardleniencyin legalreasoning;PengshengChiuonthediscourseoninsolvencyandnegligencein theserviceoflong-distantmerchantinterests;MarkMcNicholasonpovertytales, © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press Reviews 127 fraud,andpoliticalcrime;andPaulKatzonindictmentsmadetothecourtsofthe underworld.Finally,"LiteratureandLegalProcedure"includesessaysbyJamesSt Andrécomparingtherhetoricalstrategiesemployedincaserecordsandpopular legalfiction,DanielYoudonmoralambiguityinlateimperialliterature,and KatherineCarlitzonpopularconceptsofjusticeasreflectedinthreediachronic literarytreatmentsofasinglecaseofmassmurder. WhilescholarsofBritishandAmericanlawhavebeenexploringtherelationshipbetweenlawandliteratureforsometime,thisvolumeisthefirsttobring togetherscholarsusingasimilarperspectiveontraditionalChineselegalwriting. Ifthesuggestivenessoftheworkhereisanyindication,theChinesecontextiswell suitedforthissortofanalysis.Inhisownchapter,forexample,Hegelbeginsby remindingusthatjudicialofficials,fromthemagistrateupward,alleditedand refinedcasereportsinamannerthatunderscoredtheircompetenceasadministratorsintheeyesofsuperiorofficials.Magistrates,inparticular,weremotivatedby careerconsiderationstoportraytheirjurisdictionsaslawabidingandharmonious untilsuchharmonywasdisruptedbyviolenceonthepartofasingleindividual. ThenarrativetoolHegelusestohighlightsucheffortsistherhetoricalquestion, whichhastheeffectofimpartingadegreeofself-confidenceandguilelessnesson thepartofthespeaker.Byplacingsuchquestionsinthemouthsofneighborsand witnesseswhothemselvesdeniedanyculpabilityinacrime,the"creativerewriting oforaltestimony"(p.83)workedtoframethecommunityaspeaceful,thusreflectingwellonthemagistrate'stalentinguidingthepeopletoproperbehavior. Muchoftheworkhereisfranklyexploratory,asisindicatedbyoccasional contradictionsbetweenchapters.Forexample,Epsteinarguesthatincasesof husbandsmurderingtheirwivesforallegedlyshowingdisrespecttothehusbands' parents,reportscommonlycontrastedthefilialdevotionoftheson/husbandwith theshrewishandnonfilialdispositionofthewifeinordertojustifyanappealfor leniencyinthehighercourts.Oneoutstandingcasefollowedthispatterndespite thehusbandhavingdispatchedhiswifewitheightblowstotheheadandfacewith anaxe,ostensiblyforinsultinghismother.Inthisinstance,thereportsayslittleof thehusband'scharacterortendencytowardviolencebutgoesonatlengthin regardtotherepeatedtransgressionsofthewife,somuchsothatonesympathizes withthehusbandforhavingtoleratedherbehaviorforsolong.Incontrast,Theiss's chapterarguesthatwhiletheshrewishwifewas,indeed,acommonfigureincases ofdomestichomicide,suchreportsalsotendtoplaceultimateresponsibilityfor suchbehavioronthehusbandandhisfailuretoexertcontroloverhisspouse.In caseswherethemagistratesoughttojustifylenience,theshrewishnessofthewife wasthusdownplayedinfavorofstressingthesudden,unpremeditatednatureof violenceonthepartofthehusband.Thispracticewastrueevenincaseswherethe husbandclaimedtohavebeenmotivatedbyhiswife'sbadbehaviortowardhis parents(p.55).Thus,takentogether,EpsteinandTheissseemtosuggestthat while shrewishness,filiality,anddeadlyviolenceallplayedaroleinthenarrative 128 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 constructionofadomestichomicidereport,themannerinwhichtheseelements wereemployedwasvariableand,therefore,isinneedoffurthermapping. Giventheauthors'commonprojectofexaminingthenarrativeandrhetorical structuresoflegalwriting,itcomesasnosurprisetofindanoccasionaltendency toinferlinkagesbetweenpopularconceptionsofjusticeasreflectedinfictionand attitudestowardthelateimperiallegalsystem.Youd,forexample,identifiestwo themescommonlypresentinlegalfictionthatarelargelyabsentfromactualcase records:aconcernwithrequital(bao)andthefrequentappearanceofa"justice hero"whosetsarightthecorruptionandincompetenceofothersinorderto deliverjustice.Youdthenconsidersseveralfictionalworksthatcontradictthese normsbydepictingjudicialcaseswithmorallyambiguousoutcomesasameansof creatingdramatictension.Intheend,hestates,"meaningmustbefoundinthe uncertaintaskofnegotiatingthecontingenciesofalegalsystemshapedbyboth theidealsandtheimperfectionsofthehumanswholivedwithinit"(p.231). AlthoughYoudmakesnoexplicitclaimconcerningactuallegalproceedings,the presenceofsuchananalysisinavolumeofthissortclearlyinvitesspeculationthat similarattitudesandvalueswerepresentinthemagistrate'scourt.However,forthe timebeing,suchspeculationmustremainjustthat,speculation. Incontrast,thedifferencebetweenlawasentertainmentandlawasanelementofstatepowerisclearlylaidoutinStAndré'scomparisonoftheSong dynastycollectionoflegaldecisions,The Enlightened Judgments,andthe immenselypopularMingdynastycollectionoffictionalcases,One Hundred Court Cases Adjudicated by Bao Longtu.Intheformer,theoverwhelmingmajorityof caseshavetodowithlanddisputes.Inthelatter,findingthatmostcasescentered onsexandmurderisnotsurprising.StAndrégoesontomapouttheimplications ofthesecasesholdfornotionsofjusticeandjudicialproceedings,bothrealand fictional.IntheJudgeBaocases,thecriminalisalmostalwaysanoutsiderwhose actionsdisrupttheharmonyofthecommunity,thusleadingtoadesireformaximumpunishment.Inthesecases,thejudiciaryitselfisdescribedascorruptor,at best,incompetent,withtheglowingexceptionofthejusticehero,JudgeBao.In The Enlightened Judgments,ontheotherhand,thefactthatcasesmostfrequently involvedneighborsorfamilymembersinlitigationoverlandleadstheprotagonistsawayfromadesireforharshpunishment.Also,aswewouldexpect,rather thanframingthejudiciaryasfundamentallyincompetent,thesecasesrepresent thejudicialofficialasthesourceofjusticeinanotherwiseunrulyandlitigious society. Althoughchaptersinthisvolumearebriefandtendtoraiseasmanyquestionsastheyanswer,thatitselfisanenormouscontribution.Theessayssuggest freshwaysinwhichtoapprehendbothlegalwritingandthewaysinwhichsuch writingresonatedwithbothpopularculturalconceptionsandtheideologically drivenimperativesofthestate.Weareconsistentlyremindedherethatwhatwe haveinlegalfictionandlegalcasefilesarenotcaserecordsaccuratelyreflecting Reviews 129 socialrealitybutcasereportsfashionedbymultipleindividualswithmultipleends employingmultiplelayersoflegalstrategy,reasoning,andrhetoric.Intheend,itis agreatersensitivitytowardthisreflexiveaspectoflegalwritingthattheseessays collectivelydemand.Scholarsusinglegalwritingintheirownresearchneedto readthisbook. BradlyW.Reed Bradly W. Reed is an associate professor of late imperial and modern Chinese history. He specializes in legal history. PhilipC.C.Huang.Chinese Civil Justice, Past and Present.Lanham, MD: RowmanandLittlefield,2010.xviii,297pp.Hardcover$59.95, isbn 978-0-7425-6769-6. ThefinalvolumeofatrilogyonChineseciviljustice,1PhilipHuang'snewbook completeshisresearchonthesubjectoverthepasttwentyyearsandenriches Chineselegalhistoryandlegalstudieswithnewperspectives.Themostsignificant contributionofthebookliesintheargumentsandevidencepresentedthatcompel onetomovebeyondabinaryview,informedbyMaxWeber,ofthemodernist Westernlegalsystemvis-à-visthetraditionalistChineselegalsystem.Atthesame time,basedonsubstantialcaserecords,someofwhicharealsofoundinHuang's earlierworks,thebookrevealsconvincinglythecontinuityinChineseciviljustice fromtheQingdynastytothepost-Maoreformera,bothinlegalpracticesandin anunderlyingmodeofthinking. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png China Review International University of Hawai'I Press

Writing and Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment (review)

China Review International , Volume 17 (1) – Mar 1, 2010

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126 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 RobertE.HegelandKatherineCarlitz,editors.Writing and Law in Late Imperial China: Crime, Conflict, and Judgment.UniversityofWashington SchoolofLawAsianLawSeries18.Seattle:UniversityofWashingtonPress, 2007.xv,343pp.Hardcover$65.00,isbn978-0-295-98691-3. Forthepasttwodecades,historianshavebeenfruitfullyminingthelegalcase recordsfirstmadeavailableinChinesearchivesinthelate1980s.Althoughthis materialhasgreatlyexpandedourknowledgeoftraditionalChineselaw,society, andculture,usingthesecaserecordsentailsnosmalldegreeoffrustration.While caserecordsbringustantalizinglyclosetothelivesofeverydaypeople,thevoices withwhichtheyspeakareneverdirect.Rather,theymustbereadthroughveilsof narrativemanipulationonthepartofthosewhocametothemagistrate'syamen seekingredressfortheirgrievances,thescribesorlitigationspecialistswho c omposedtheirplaints,andjudicialofficialswhoeditedplaints,testimony,and theirowndecisionsbeforepassingacasereportalongforconsumptioninthe highercourts.Eachofthesestagesinvolvedthestrategicshapingoflanguage and appealstonormativevaluesinordertoachievethedesiredoutcomeforany givencase. Thispathbreakingconferencevolumeaddressesthisaspectoflegalwriting directlybymakingthetextualityofcaserecordstheprimaryobjectofanalysis.In whatamountstoaconversationamongsevenhistoriansandfiveliteraryscholars, thearticlesexplorenotonlytheconstructednatureoflegalcaserecordsasliterature,butalsotheroleplayedbylawinliteratureaswellasinreligiousrituals.As RobertHegelstatesinhisintroduction,thevolumehasnosingleanalyticor theoreticalapproachotherthan"ahumanisticconcernforthecontextsinwhich judicialproceduresoccurredandweredescribedinwriting"(p.19)alongwithan awarenessofhowdeeplylawwasembeddedinitssocialcontext.Whilethis objectivemakesforanadmittedlydisparatecollectionofchapters,italsopresents anenticingvistaontonewandquitepromisingresearch. AlongwithHegel'sintroductionandaretrospectiveconclusionbyJonathan Ocko,thetextisdividedintothreeparts,eachofwhichexploresspecificnarrative structures,tropes,anddiscursiveelementsfoundinlegalwriting,primarilyfrom thesixteenththroughthenineteenthcenturies.Thefirstsection,"Rhetoricand Persuasion,"offersessaysbyMaramEpsteinontheportrayaloffilialsonsinlegal cases,JanetTheissontheimageoftheshrewanditsimplicationsforvaluesof masculinity,YasuhikoKarasawaontherelationbetweenoralandwrittencultures, andHegelontheuseofrhetoricalquestionstoexemplifyethicalpositions.The nextsection,"LegalDiscourseandthePoweroftheState,"presentsessaysby ThomasBuoyeontheroleoffilialityandthejudicialimpulsetowardleniencyin legalreasoning;PengshengChiuonthediscourseoninsolvencyandnegligencein theserviceoflong-distantmerchantinterests;MarkMcNicholasonpovertytales, © 2011 by University of Hawai`i Press Reviews 127 fraud,andpoliticalcrime;andPaulKatzonindictmentsmadetothecourtsofthe underworld.Finally,"LiteratureandLegalProcedure"includesessaysbyJamesSt Andrécomparingtherhetoricalstrategiesemployedincaserecordsandpopular legalfiction,DanielYoudonmoralambiguityinlateimperialliterature,and KatherineCarlitzonpopularconceptsofjusticeasreflectedinthreediachronic literarytreatmentsofasinglecaseofmassmurder. WhilescholarsofBritishandAmericanlawhavebeenexploringtherelationshipbetweenlawandliteratureforsometime,thisvolumeisthefirsttobring togetherscholarsusingasimilarperspectiveontraditionalChineselegalwriting. Ifthesuggestivenessoftheworkhereisanyindication,theChinesecontextiswell suitedforthissortofanalysis.Inhisownchapter,forexample,Hegelbeginsby remindingusthatjudicialofficials,fromthemagistrateupward,alleditedand refinedcasereportsinamannerthatunderscoredtheircompetenceasadministratorsintheeyesofsuperiorofficials.Magistrates,inparticular,weremotivatedby careerconsiderationstoportraytheirjurisdictionsaslawabidingandharmonious untilsuchharmonywasdisruptedbyviolenceonthepartofasingleindividual. ThenarrativetoolHegelusestohighlightsucheffortsistherhetoricalquestion, whichhastheeffectofimpartingadegreeofself-confidenceandguilelessnesson thepartofthespeaker.Byplacingsuchquestionsinthemouthsofneighborsand witnesseswhothemselvesdeniedanyculpabilityinacrime,the"creativerewriting oforaltestimony"(p.83)workedtoframethecommunityaspeaceful,thusreflectingwellonthemagistrate'stalentinguidingthepeopletoproperbehavior. Muchoftheworkhereisfranklyexploratory,asisindicatedbyoccasional contradictionsbetweenchapters.Forexample,Epsteinarguesthatincasesof husbandsmurderingtheirwivesforallegedlyshowingdisrespecttothehusbands' parents,reportscommonlycontrastedthefilialdevotionoftheson/husbandwith theshrewishandnonfilialdispositionofthewifeinordertojustifyanappealfor leniencyinthehighercourts.Oneoutstandingcasefollowedthispatterndespite thehusbandhavingdispatchedhiswifewitheightblowstotheheadandfacewith anaxe,ostensiblyforinsultinghismother.Inthisinstance,thereportsayslittleof thehusband'scharacterortendencytowardviolencebutgoesonatlengthin regardtotherepeatedtransgressionsofthewife,somuchsothatonesympathizes withthehusbandforhavingtoleratedherbehaviorforsolong.Incontrast,Theiss's chapterarguesthatwhiletheshrewishwifewas,indeed,acommonfigureincases ofdomestichomicide,suchreportsalsotendtoplaceultimateresponsibilityfor suchbehavioronthehusbandandhisfailuretoexertcontroloverhisspouse.In caseswherethemagistratesoughttojustifylenience,theshrewishnessofthewife wasthusdownplayedinfavorofstressingthesudden,unpremeditatednatureof violenceonthepartofthehusband.Thispracticewastrueevenincaseswherethe husbandclaimedtohavebeenmotivatedbyhiswife'sbadbehaviortowardhis parents(p.55).Thus,takentogether,EpsteinandTheissseemtosuggestthat while shrewishness,filiality,anddeadlyviolenceallplayedaroleinthenarrative 128 ChinaReviewInternational:Vol.17,No.1,2010 constructionofadomestichomicidereport,themannerinwhichtheseelements wereemployedwasvariableand,therefore,isinneedoffurthermapping. Giventheauthors'commonprojectofexaminingthenarrativeandrhetorical structuresoflegalwriting,itcomesasnosurprisetofindanoccasionaltendency toinferlinkagesbetweenpopularconceptionsofjusticeasreflectedinfictionand attitudestowardthelateimperiallegalsystem.Youd,forexample,identifiestwo themescommonlypresentinlegalfictionthatarelargelyabsentfromactualcase records:aconcernwithrequital(bao)andthefrequentappearanceofa"justice hero"whosetsarightthecorruptionandincompetenceofothersinorderto deliverjustice.Youdthenconsidersseveralfictionalworksthatcontradictthese normsbydepictingjudicialcaseswithmorallyambiguousoutcomesasameansof creatingdramatictension.Intheend,hestates,"meaningmustbefoundinthe uncertaintaskofnegotiatingthecontingenciesofalegalsystemshapedbyboth theidealsandtheimperfectionsofthehumanswholivedwithinit"(p.231). AlthoughYoudmakesnoexplicitclaimconcerningactuallegalproceedings,the presenceofsuchananalysisinavolumeofthissortclearlyinvitesspeculationthat similarattitudesandvalueswerepresentinthemagistrate'scourt.However,forthe timebeing,suchspeculationmustremainjustthat,speculation. Incontrast,thedifferencebetweenlawasentertainmentandlawasanelementofstatepowerisclearlylaidoutinStAndré'scomparisonoftheSong dynastycollectionoflegaldecisions,The Enlightened Judgments,andthe immenselypopularMingdynastycollectionoffictionalcases,One Hundred Court Cases Adjudicated by Bao Longtu.Intheformer,theoverwhelmingmajorityof caseshavetodowithlanddisputes.Inthelatter,findingthatmostcasescentered onsexandmurderisnotsurprising.StAndrégoesontomapouttheimplications ofthesecasesholdfornotionsofjusticeandjudicialproceedings,bothrealand fictional.IntheJudgeBaocases,thecriminalisalmostalwaysanoutsiderwhose actionsdisrupttheharmonyofthecommunity,thusleadingtoadesireformaximumpunishment.Inthesecases,thejudiciaryitselfisdescribedascorruptor,at best,incompetent,withtheglowingexceptionofthejusticehero,JudgeBao.In The Enlightened Judgments,ontheotherhand,thefactthatcasesmostfrequently involvedneighborsorfamilymembersinlitigationoverlandleadstheprotagonistsawayfromadesireforharshpunishment.Also,aswewouldexpect,rather thanframingthejudiciaryasfundamentallyincompetent,thesecasesrepresent thejudicialofficialasthesourceofjusticeinanotherwiseunrulyandlitigious society. Althoughchaptersinthisvolumearebriefandtendtoraiseasmanyquestionsastheyanswer,thatitselfisanenormouscontribution.Theessayssuggest freshwaysinwhichtoapprehendbothlegalwritingandthewaysinwhichsuch writingresonatedwithbothpopularculturalconceptionsandtheideologically drivenimperativesofthestate.Weareconsistentlyremindedherethatwhatwe haveinlegalfictionandlegalcasefilesarenotcaserecordsaccuratelyreflecting Reviews 129 socialrealitybutcasereportsfashionedbymultipleindividualswithmultipleends employingmultiplelayersoflegalstrategy,reasoning,andrhetoric.Intheend,itis agreatersensitivitytowardthisreflexiveaspectoflegalwritingthattheseessays collectivelydemand.Scholarsusinglegalwritingintheirownresearchneedto readthisbook. BradlyW.Reed Bradly W. Reed is an associate professor of late imperial and modern Chinese history. He specializes in legal history. PhilipC.C.Huang.Chinese Civil Justice, Past and Present.Lanham, MD: RowmanandLittlefield,2010.xviii,297pp.Hardcover$59.95, isbn 978-0-7425-6769-6. ThefinalvolumeofatrilogyonChineseciviljustice,1PhilipHuang'snewbook completeshisresearchonthesubjectoverthepasttwentyyearsandenriches Chineselegalhistoryandlegalstudieswithnewperspectives.Themostsignificant contributionofthebookliesintheargumentsandevidencepresentedthatcompel onetomovebeyondabinaryview,informedbyMaxWeber,ofthemodernist Westernlegalsystemvis-à-visthetraditionalistChineselegalsystem.Atthesame time,basedonsubstantialcaserecords,someofwhicharealsofoundinHuang's earlierworks,thebookrevealsconvincinglythecontinuityinChineseciviljustice fromtheQingdynastytothepost-Maoreformera,bothinlegalpracticesandin anunderlyingmodeofthinking.

Journal

China Review InternationalUniversity of Hawai'I Press

Published: Mar 1, 2010

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