Circulating the Code: Print Media and Legal Knowledge in Qing China

Circulating the Code: Print Media and Legal Knowledge in Qing China

by Ting Zhang


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Contrary to longtime assumptions about the insular nature of imperial China’s legal system, Circulating the Code demonstrates that in the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) most legal books were commercially published and available to anyone who could afford to buy them. Publishers not only extended circulation of the dynastic code and other legal texts but also enhanced the judicial authority of case precedents and unofficial legal commentaries by making them more broadly available in convenient formats. As a result, the laws no longer represented privileged knowledge monopolized by the imperial state and elites. Trade in commercial legal imprints contributed to the formation of a new legal culture that included the free flow of accurate information, the rise of nonofficial legal experts, a large law-savvy population, and a high litigation rate.

Comparing different official and commercial editions of the Qing Code, popular handbooks for amateur legal practitioners, and manuals for community legal lectures, Ting Zhang demonstrates how the dissemination of legal information transformed Chinese law, judicial authority, and popular legal consciousness.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780295747156
Publisher: University of Washington Press
Publication date: 04/15/2020
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Ting Zhang is assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Chronology of Dynasties and Qing Reign Periods xi

Introduction 3

1 Qing Legislation and Imperial Editions of The Great Qing Code 11

2 Commercial Publications of the Code 41

3 Reading the Code 84

4 Law and Legal Information in Popular Handbooks 111

5 Popular Legal Education 144

Conclusion: The Impact of Printing on Law and Legal Culture 179

Epilogue 189

Glossary 199

Notes 211

Selected Bibliography 227

Index 239

What People are Saying About This

Li Chen

Takes recent developments in the field of Chinese legal history to a new level by combining the study of law with the study of book history and print culture.

Cynthia Brokaw

Makes a very important corrective to our understanding of the dissemination of legal information in the late imperial period by defining the ways in which such information was transmitted broadly, even to illiterate commoners. Circulating the Code expands our understanding of the range of works printed during the commercial publishing boom of the late Ming and Qing.

Madeline Zelin

Overturns several stereotypes about Chinese law, most importantly that Chinese people did not know what the law was.

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