Ten legal traditions(I): realistic, practical and pragmatic

(english.legalinfo.gov.cn) Updated : 2019-01-09

Ten Legal traditions(I): Realistic, Practical and Pragmatic

Dating back to more than 1000 BC, the time when the Western Zhou Dynasty (c.21st century-16th century BC) was established, the bases of law progressively shook off the influence of religion--trial by ordeal--and shifted to reality. In other words, it was from the Western Zhou Dynasty that China based its law on social facts and state affairs.

As a result, the legislation of ancient China was practice-oriented-ranging from governance, social affairs, crime control, society control and regulate conflicts etc.

Therefore, no fantasy and absurd content was embraced by law, meaning that there was no religious content in the laws and regulations, no matter the local Daoism generated during the Eastern Han Dynasty or Buddhism spread from India.

However, it is known that religion permeates into laws in western countries and even religious courts were set up. These are phenomena unheard of in ancient China. Once the religion interfered with the governance, administration and traditional customs, it would be frustrated politically before long. For example, during the reign of Emperor Wu Zong in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), due to the destruction of equal-field system (JuntianZhi, a historical system of land ownership and distribution in China), temples occupied many fields and expanded. Their collusion with local officials posed great threat to the governance of Emperor Wu Zong. Therefore, Emperor Wu Zong initiated the Buddhism persecution—destroying many temples and secularizing many monks. All this is resulting from the rising power of Buddhism and its interference of national politics. In addition, during the Qing Dynasty (1368-1911), Emperor Kang Xi and Emperor Qian Long both expelled the preachers of Catholicism only because these preachers threatened the Chinese tradition of worship of ancestors. Catholicism interfered with the social life of China which made itself expelled. All in all, the bases of legal tradition of ancient China were realistic, practical and pragmatic.

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