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Law and Society in China

Vai I. Lo

Law and Society in China examines the interplay between law and society from imperial to present-day China. This synoptic book traces the developments of law in Chinese societies, investigates the role of law in social governance, and discusses China’s ongoing reforms towards the rule of law with Chinese characteristics. In fostering a comprehensive, rather than piecemeal and disconnected, understanding of the interaction between law and society in China, this book will reduce misconceptions about and enhance appreciation for Chinese law.
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Chapter 2: Law in imperial China

Vai I. Lo


Chapter 2 introduces law in imperial China. It first provides a historical account of Chinese dynasties and then introduces four major Chinese schools of thought (including Taoism, Mohism, Confucianism and Legalism). In highlighting the major characteristics of imperial Chinese law, the chapter discusses the integration of li and fa, differentiated prerogatives and obligations, humanism and benevolence, impartiality and renqing, emphasis on administrative and criminal law, and patriarchal governance and mediation. The last section discusses the interaction between law and society in imperial China.

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