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5 - The History of Punishment in China

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Terance D. Miethe
Affiliation:
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Hong Lu
Affiliation:
University of Nevada, Las Vegas
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Summary

China represents an interesting case study for a comparative historical analysis of punishment. As one of the earliest civilization in the world, China has passed through several distinctive periods including its successive historical classification as a primitive commune, a slave and feudal system, a semicolonial and semifeudal system, and a socialist country. The Chinese legal tradition is a mix of primarily traditional Confucian and Legalist ideas, and the contemporary Marxism–Leninism and Maoism of the socialist legal ideologies.

Throughout its long feudal history and the current socialist period, China has employed various types of punishment to maintain order, eliminate both internal and external threats to this order, and to facilitate social change. China stands out as an interesting context for social science research because this transitional society represents a fundamental paradox: Major social and legal reforms driven by the capitalist market economy are taking place within a traditionally Asian, moralistic, and communitarian society. In other words, how has China been able to maintain its long and steady history of social control in the face of a dramatically changing socioeconomic environment?

Our examination of economic, incapacitative, and corporal punishment in China begins with a general overview of its demographic and structural characteristics. This general profile is followed by a more detailed historical account of major societal changes and events that influenced the nature, prevalence, and justifications for different types of sanctions.

Type
Chapter
Information
Punishment
A Comparative Historical Perspective
, pp. 115 - 154
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2004

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References

Derek Bodde and Clarence Morris. 1973. Law in Imperial China. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press
Jerome A. Cohen, R. Randle Edwards, and Fu-mei Chang Chen (eds.). Essays on China's Legal Tradition. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Frank Dikotter. 2002. Crime, Punishment and the Prison in Modern China. NY: Columbia University Press
Michael Dutton. 1992. Policing and Punishment in China – From Patriarchy to “the People.” Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Wallace Johnson. 1979. The Tang Code. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press
Yongping Liu. 1998. Origins of Chinese Law – Penal and Administrative Law in Its Early Development. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press
Geoffrey MacCormack. 1990. Traditional Chinese Penal Law. Edinburgh, England: Edinburgh University Press
Brian E. McKnight. 1992. Law and Order in Sung China. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press

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