Reinterpreting the Chinese Legal Doctrine of Li: Beyond Rites, Ritual and Ceremonies
30 Pages Posted: 25 Nov 2011 Last revised: 29 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 25, 2011
For thousands of years Chinese scholars had characterized China’s system of regulation as li yi zhi bang. This literally means that China is governed by the doctrine of li. However, there a general misconception that the doctrine of li was conceived by Confucius, in fact it predates his birth. This paper aims to re-examine this doctrine with the aid of Chinese classics from 1100 B.C., in conjunction with Confucius’s works to explain the meaning and workings of this regulatory concept. Li is multifaceted, versatile, and dynamic doctrine because it more than mere rituals, rites, and ceremonies. It is a form of non-legal and non-rule based regulatory doctrine that centre upon virtue, actualized and practiced through unwritten codes of conduct and behavior. This regulatory doctrine is also varies according to the social hierarchy between individuals, the context of the application, and the heritage of a particular li. The ultimate goal of li to create a civil society, where everyone is in tune with the cosmic order that li is a sub set. Thus, this pre-modern regulatory doctrine has elements of natural law. Yet, the plurality of this regulatory doctrine appears to be similar to postmodernist views about law and regulation.
Keywords: jurisprudence, legal culture, legal traditions, regulation, governance, social norms, moral values, ethics
JEL Classification: K10, K19, K20, K30, N45, Z10
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation