The Chinese legal tradition: from the late empire to the current day


Assertions about the distinct qualities of Chinese law can be found in all manner of claims, both those supporting the idea that China's legal tradition is distinct from Western legal regimes (and therefore immune from certain forms of critique) and those denying or critiquing the legitimacy of law in China. This is as true for the global reception of Chinese law in the late imperial period as it is for scholars and observers of the PRC's administration of justice today.

But in spite of the ever-present nature of the claim that the Chinese legal tradition is essentially distinct from those of Europe and the US, assertions about the exact content of the Chinese legal tradition and the precise institutions that have defined its evolution vary wildly from characterisation to characterisation (when they are specified at all).

The project aims to establish a platform for scholars of Chinese law in different eras to propose and evaluate which institutions, features, trajectories of development, patterns and themes might fruitfully describe a Chinese legal tradition and its evolution. It will do so by organising a series of conferences to be held at the mpilhlt.

The first conference took place in June 2023. Scholars of Chinese law from the imperial age to the present convened to propose themes that might offer comparative frameworks for the Working Group’s task of evaluating and describing the evolution of law in China.

The Call for Papers 2023 can be found here.

The second conference (June 24-28, 2024) continuous to explore the history of a distinctly Chinese legal tradition linking the imperial past to the legal regimes of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The theme of this workshop is “Case and Code in the Chinese Legal Tradition” and its findings are expected to be an important component of a subsequent volume.

Deadline for submitting applications is February 16, 2024. The Call for Papers 2024 can be found here.

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