Law and Communication in Qin and Western Han China

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient


This article gathers and examines information about the legal practices of Qin and Western Han China, and demonstrates that these served communicative functions. Law in early imperial China not only penalized antisocial behavior, it was also a medium for communication between the central government, the common population, and officials. The information so transmitted comprised institutional and personal information, including that which facilitated the function of reputation on a national scale. There is also important evidence that people at the time recognized the communicative possibilities of legal practice, as reflected in cases where they manipulated penal communication for individual benefit.

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