Strengthening the Rule of Virtue and Finding Chinese Law in 'Other' Places: Gods, Kin, Guilds, and Gifts

Mary Szto

Hamline University - School of Law

February 21, 2011

Discussions about the rule of law in China today often do not consider traditional institutions and practices. Before the tumultuous events of the 20th century, traditional Chinese law (TCL) was remarkably continuous and stable for centuries. It was a blend of ritual and law focused on flourishing, virtue formation, and self-rule. Ritual was communion with, and law accountability to, the invisible spirit world. This blend spanned multiple jurisdictions, from state codes and courts to divine petitions and courts, to ancestral rites and family codes, to merchant codes and courts. Chinese law can be found in these 'other places', including gifts and feasts. Effective legal reform today should also include an exploration of current rituals and invisible accountability, multiple fora and a strengthening of the rule of virtue. Present-day practices of lavish gifts, banquets and wine become comprehensible within this framework.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 28

Keywords: Chinese law, Chinese religion, ritual, Emperor, ancestor worship, City God, clan, merchant guild, banquet, wine, gifts, luxury goods, rule of law, rule of virtue, Confucius, Daoism, underworld courts, spirits, contracts, business, cross-cultural

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41, K12

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Date posted: February 22, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Szto, Mary, Strengthening the Rule of Virtue and Finding Chinese Law in 'Other' Places: Gods, Kin, Guilds, and Gifts (February 21, 2011). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1766023 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1766023

Contact Information

Mary Szto (Contact Author)
Hamline University - School of Law ( email )
1536 Hewitt Avenue
Saint Paul, MN 55104-1237
United States
651 523 2850 (Phone)
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