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Enacting the “Incomprehensible China”: Modern European Jurisprudence and the Japanese Reconstruction of Qing Political Law

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 December 2018

Abstract

The great ambition of Japanese colonialism, from the time of its debut at the end of the nineteenth century, was the reformulation of Chinese law and politics. One of the most extraordinary examples of this ambition is The Administrative Law of the Qing Empire [Shinkoku Gyōseihō], a monumental enterprise undertaken by the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan intended not only to facilitate Japanese colonial administration of Taiwan but also to reorder the entire politico‐juridical order of China along the lines of modern rational law. This article examines the legal analysis embraced in The Administrative Law of the Qing Empire and recounts its attempt to reconstruct the Qing's “political law” (seihō) by a strange, ambiguous, and hybrid resort to “authenticity.” The strangeness of this Japanese colonial production comes from Japan's dual position as both colonizer of Taiwan and simultaneously itself colonized by “modern European jurisprudence”(kinsei hōri). In uncovering the effects of modern European jurisprudence on the Japanese enterprise, we will discover Japan's pursuit of its own cultural subjectivity embedded in The Administrative Law of the Qing Empire, epitomizing the campaign of national identities observable in the process of East Asian legal modernization.

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Copyright © American Bar Foundation, 2008 

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