Another Justice—Litigation Masters in the Chinese Legal Story

in Ming Qing Yanjiu
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Ronald Dworkin offered the legal theory which is known as a “chain enterprise”. According to this theory, throughout history, judges have, collectively, created a “law” that was designed to fulfil a specific purpose. Those judges can be seen as co-authors who, together, develop a chain-story. As such they not only create freely but also are constrained by the story made by authors, in this case judges, who have come before them. The law created by Chinese traditional judges is another case: compared with the judges mentioned by Ronald Dworkin, they have relatively narrower parameters of discretion in which they may implement a legal sentence. The limited amount of discretion available to an individual judge is due to the way in which, traditionally, the legal framework has been designed. The fact that traditional Chinese law was first conceived of as a penal code leaves little room for a judge to subjectively interpret a statute. Furthermore, because law is representative of the authority of the government, i.e. the emperor, any misinterpretation will be considered as a challenge to the supreme power. Conversely, while judges are bound by restrictive parameters with regard to the interpretation of the law, a Chinese litigation master (Songshi) who wishes to receive a favorable outcome for his client must be willing to challenge a judge’s narrow interpretation of the law. Conversely, while judges are bound by restrictive parameters with regard to the interpretation of the law, a Songshi who wishes to receive a favorable outcome for his client must be willing to challenge a judge’s narrow interpretation of the law. According to Stanley Fish’s articles that question Ronald Dworkin and Owen Fiss’ ideas about law, Fish construes that, since law is made of language, law is open to interpretations that cannot be constrained by any rules or any particular legal purposes. Stanley Fish’s idea can also be applied to the analysis of the stories of Songshi in traditional Chinese literature. The legal opinions of Songshi in traditional Chinese literature can be regarded as an unexpected event that calls for revision of the standardized concept of law propagated in legal stories. Although they are not welcome, neither by the officials and nor by society, their existence is still a phenomenon representing another version of justice different from the standardized concept of justice and can be seen as a de-structural power to the government. Hence, in this present paper the language and strategy applied by Songshi in Chinese legal stories will be analysed to see how they refute legal judgments and challenge the standardized concept of justice.

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  • 4

    Please see the preface in van Gulik 2001.

  • 6

    Please see 邱澎生 2006.

  • 9

    Macauley 1998: 101.

  • 25

    Dworkin 1986: 39.

  • 27

    Fish 1989: 89–90.

  • 28

    Fish 1989: 98.

  • 37

    Macauley 1998: 279.

  • 42

    Please see Hart 1983.

  • 46

    In 1906Shen Jia-ben and Wu Ting-fang proposed a draft but it was not realized because of the revolution. Please see 《大清新編法令—修律師大臣伍庭芳等奏呈刑事民事訴訟法則》. And then in 1912 after the Republic was established advocate as a profession was granted by the government.

  • 48

    Macauley 1998: 291.

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