HOME

TheInfoList




The ''Tang Code'' () was a penal code that was established and used during the
Tang Dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum An interregnum (plural interregna or interregnums) is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organiza ...
in
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
. Supplemented by civil statutes and regulations, it became the basis for later dynastic codes not only in China but elsewhere in
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia, which is defined in both Geography, geographical and culture, ethno-cultural terms. The modern State (polity), states of East Asia include China, Japan, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, and Taiwan. ...

East Asia
. The Code synthesized
Legalist Legalist, Inc. is a Legal financing, litigation finance company based in San Francisco, California that funds commercial lawsuits on behalf of plaintiff attorneys, applying machine learning algorithms to evaluate its potential investments. History ...
and
Confucian , Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of th ...

Confucian
interpretations of law. Created in AD 624 and modified in AD 627 and 637, it was promulgated in AD 652 with 502 articles in 12 sections and enhanced with a commentary (the 唐律疏議) in 653. Considered one of the greatest achievements of
traditional Chinese law Traditional Chinese law refers to the laws, regulations, and rules used in China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geogr ...
, the Tang Code is also the earliest Chinese code to have been transmitted to the present in its complete form.Gernet (1996)
244-245


Origin and context

The Tang code took its roots in the code of the
Northern Zhou The Northern Zhou (; ) followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populou ...
(564) dynasty, which was itself based on the earlier codes of the Cao-Wei and
Western Jin Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town in the US *Western Creek, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western Junction, Tasmania, a locality in Australia *Western world, countries that ide ...
(268).Gernet (1996)
244
Aiming to smooth the earlier laws and reduce physical punishments (such as mutilations) in order to appease social tensions in the newly pacified Tang territories, it was created in AD 624 at the request of
Emperor Gaozu of Tang Emperor Gaozu of Tang (7 April 566 – 25 June 635, born Li Yuan, courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the ...
. After further revisions in 627 and 637 under Emperor Taizong, the code was completed by commentaries in 653, under Gaozong.


Organization and system of punishments

French historian and
sinologist Sinology or Chinese studies, is an academic discipline that focuses on the study of China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's ...
Jacques Gernet Jacques Gernet (; ; 22 December 1921, Algiers, French Algeria – 3 March 2018, Vannes) was an eminent French people, French sinologist of the second half of the 20th century. His best-known work is ''The Chinese Civilization'', a 900-page summary ...
has called the ''Tang Code'' "an admirable composition of faultless logic in spite of its size and complexity." The American sinologists Wallace Johnson and Denis C. Twitchett described it as "a very rational system of justice" in which "both the accuser and the officials involved had to be careful lest they themselves face punishment". The ''Tang Code'' contained more than 500 articles divided into twelve large sections (see right-side table). The penalty for an offence was determined according to two factors: * Offence : The Tang Code clearly associated each offence with a penalty. * Relational position : For relatives, this position was measured by the kind and duration of mourning that had to be observed for each degree of kinship. Relations outside the family were defined according to positions in a social hierarchy capped by the emperor himself. In this hierarchy, officials were higher than ordinary men, who were themselves superior to persons of servile status. For instance, a slave committing a crime against his master was punished more severely than if an ordinary person had committed the same crime. The same offence committed by the master against his slave, on the other hand, resulted in a ''lower'' penalty than the same crime committed by a common person. The local magistrate acted as examiner and sometimes as investigator, but his final role in legal cases was to determine the proper penalty for the offense that had been committed: he had to fix the nature of the offense as defined by the code, and to increase or reduce the associated penalty depending on the social relation between offender and victim. The historically famous 'five hearings' was a Chinese technique for eliciting the facts of a case. While questioning a witness, the magistrate would look closely for five kinds of behavior: "the person's statements, expression, breathing, reaction to the words of the judge, and eyes. Through careful observation, it was thought that the experienced magistrate could arrive at a knowledge of whether the person was, in fact, telling the truth." If a magistrate was unable to decide a case on the basis of evidence and witness testimony, he could seek the permission of higher officials to use judicial torture. The accused could be beaten no more than 200 blows in up to three interrogations held at least twenty days apart. But when the accused was able to withstand the full amount of torture without making a confession, the magistrate would use the same torture on the accuser. If the tortured accuser admitted making a false accusation, he would receive the same punishment that would have been inflicted upon the accused had this latter been convicted. The offence modulated according to the degree of social relation determined the final penalty which could range from flagellation using a
rattan Rattan, also spelled ratan, is the name for roughly 600 of s belonging to subfamily . The greatest diversity of rattan palm species and genera are in the closed- s of , though they can also be found in other parts of tropical and . Most ...
and
bastinado Foot whipping or bastinado is a method of corporal punishment Corporal punishment or physical punishment is a punishment , England Punishment, commonly, is the imposition of an undesirable or suffering, unpleasant outcome upon a group or ...

bastinado
with a bamboo stick, to
penal labour Penal labour is a generic term for various kinds of forced labour which prisoners are required to perform, typically manual labour. The work may be light or hard, depending on the context. Forms of Sentence (law), sentence involving penal la ...
, exile with penal labour, and death by strangulation (
garrote A garrote or garrote vil (a Spanish word; alternative spellings include garotte and similar variants'' Oxford English Dictionary'', 11th Ed: garrotte is normal British English spelling, with single r alternate. Article title is US English spelli ...
) or decapitation.


Facts

* The code imposed two years of forced labor on any private household found in possession of such works as the '' Luoshu Square'' or the ''
Yellow River Map The Yellow River Map, Scheme, or Diagram (, with variants for the second character) is an ancient Chinese concept. It is related to the Lo Shu Square. The origins of the two from the rivers Luo and Yellow River, He are part of Chinese mythology. ...
'', which are used in ''
Yijing The ''I Ching'' or ''Yi Jing'' (, ), usually translated as ''Book of Changes'' or ''Classic of Changes'', is an ancient Chinese divination text and among the oldest of the Chinese classics. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zho ...
'' and ''
Fengshui Feng shui, also known as Chinese geomancy, is an ancient China, ancient Chinese traditional practice which claims to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment. The term ''feng shui'' means, literally, "win ...

Fengshui
'' divination. The practice was preserved in the legal practice until the Song dynasty. *Specific rules governed the application of judicial
torture Torture is the deliberate infliction of severe pain or suffering Suffering, or pain in a broad sense, may be an experience of unpleasantness and aversion associated with the perception of harm or threat of harm in an individual. Suffering i ...

torture
. The only instrument permitted was the 'interrogation stick', which was approximately long and and wide at the large and small ends respectively. The magistrate himself would be punished if other means were used to try to force a confession.Johnson and Twitchett (1993), 128.


See also

*
Great Qing Legal Code The Great Qing Legal Code (or Great Ching Legal Code), also known as the Qing Code (Ching Code) or, in Hong Kong law The law of Hong Kong is unique, being a common law system preserved, after the handover to China in 1997, within the civil law ...


Notes


Bibliography

*{{citation, last=Gernet, first=Jacques, year=1996, url=https://books.google.com/books?id=jqb7L-pKCV8C, title=A History of Chinese Civilization, edition=Second, publisher=Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pages=801 pages, isbn=9780521497817 Originally published in French as ''Le monde chinois''. *Johnson, Wallace, trans. (1979), ''The Tang Code: Volume One: General Principles''. Princeton: Princeton University Press. *Johnson, Wallace and Denis Twitchett (1993), "Criminal Procedure in T'ang China", ''Asia Major'' 3rd series, 6.2, 113-146. Legal codes Legal history of China Tang dynasty literature