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

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

Ten Legal Traditions (IV): Educating People with Morals and Complementation of Morals and Law

Starting from the Zhou Dynasty, morals were upheld to respect and trust people and it initiated the respect and advocate of morals, which was the contribution of Emperor Zhou Gong (see picture)—to educate people with morals. This was developed into "morality given priority over penalty"(De Zhu Xing Fu) (Dong Zhongshu image) of the Han Dynasty and “moral and ritual, the foundation for teaching and politics; penalty, the use of teaching and politics” (De Li Wei Ben, Xing Fa Wei Yong) of the Tang Dynasty. In conclusion, ancient China put much value on morals and virtues in the practices of politics and law and educated people by morals (Emperor Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty followed Wei Zheng’s suggestion to use morals to teach people; picture of honest and upright official Lu Jiashu—educate his son with morals), which means the promotion of morals and virtues in society by which to educate people to be kind and to keep them away from the evil and be near to the good. So the people would be purified by morals and to reduce crimes.

However, moral alone is far from being sufficient in the governance of a country. There must be laws because morals are not mandatory while the laws are backed by the country to tackle with crimes, which is the complementation of the two-use law to punish crimes and use morals to educate people and with the combination of the two to govern the whole country.

It was also influenced by the ideas of valuing much of the morals-morality guiding and punishment supplementing. Until the Tang Dynasty, morals and rituals were treated as the foundations for teaching and politics; penalty was treated as the use of teaching and politics. They were closely related to be used to govern the country to make it stable. Therefore, the philosophers of the Tang Dynasty compared the relationship of morals and laws to natural phenomena-day and night and four seasons which are eternal. Morality guiding and punishment supplementing, as well as educating people with morals are outstanding legal traditions of ancient China which lies the peculiarity and superiority of Chinese legal system. In our times, President Xi Jinping also emphasized the importance of rule of law and rule of virtues which he mentioned many times. Therefore, it shows that education with virtues and rule of law are important legal traditions of ancient China.