Justice in Print: Discovering Prefectural Judges and Their Judicial Consistency in Late-Ming Casebooks


In Justice in Print: Discovering Prefectural Judges and Their Judicial Consistency in Late-Ming Casebooks, Ka-chai Tam argues that the prefectural judge in the judiciary of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) became crucial to upholding justice in Chinese society.

In light of two late Ming casebooks, namely the Mengshui zhai cundu (盟水齋存牘) by Yan Junyan and the Zheyu xinyu (折獄新語) by Li Qing, Ka-chai Tam demonstrates that the late Ming judges handled their cases with a high level of consistency in judicial reasoning and practice in every type of case, despite their differing regions and literary styles. Equipped with relative institutional independence and growing professionalism, they played an indispensable role in checking and guaranteeing the legal performance of their subordinate magistrates.

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Ka-chai Tam, D.Phil. (2009), University of Oxford, is Assistant Professor in History at the Hong Kong Baptist University. He has published several dozen articles on the social and maritime history of late imperial China and Chinese legal history.
 List of Tables

1 Introduction
 1 The Principal Question
 2 Some Basic Facts about the Ming Legal System and Legislation
 3 The Main Sources of the Current Study: Judicial Casebooks from the Ming
 4 The Methodology and Plan of This Study

2 Prefectural Judges in the Late-Ming Judicial System
 1 Development of the tuiguan Post in Late Imperial China
 2 The Role of Prefectural Judges in the Late-Ming Provincial Bureaucracy
 3 Prefectural Judges’ Responsibility to Oversee the Courts of the County Magistrates
 4 The Role of Cooperation between Prefectural Judges and Other Provincial Officials in Maintaining the Quality of Judicial Rulings in the Provincial Judiciary
 5 Professionalism and Insistence on Independence of Prefectural Judges in Performing Their Judicial Duties

3 Favorable Institutional Circumstances for the Development of Judicial Professionalism
 1 The Impact of the tui zhi xingqu Promotion Route and the Importance of Frontline Officials’ Good Judicial Performance
 2 The Increasing Demand for Junior Officials’ Uniform Judicial Performance
 3 The Increased Importance of Judicial Rulings in the Civil Service Examination since the Late-Wanli Era

4 The Emergence of the Late-Ming Casebooks and Their Importance to Our Understanding of the Ming Judiciary
 1 Why the Late-Ming Casebooks Matter
 2 Development of the Chinese Casebooks Down to the Late-Ming Period
 3 The State of Studies on Ming Casebooks
 4 The Importance of Mengshui zhai cundu and Zheyu xinyu to Our Comparative Study of the Legal Development of Late-Ming China

5 Two Exemplary Samples of Late-Ming Casebooks by Prefectural Judges: Mengshui zhai cundu and Zheyu xinyu
 1 Publishing Judicial Casebooks as a Key to Success
 2 Yan Junyan, the Promotion-Seeking Casebook Writer
 3 The Publication of the First Impression of the Mengshui zhai cundu in Light of the Prefaces by Cantonese Literary Leaders
 4 The Southern Ming Hongguang Court and the Publication of the Second Impression of the Mengshui zhai cundu with the “Foreword” by Li Yue
 5 Li Qing, the Profit-Making Casebook Writer
 6 Li Qing’s Excellent Connections with a Commercial Publisher and the Publication of Zheyu xinyu
 7 The Intentions, Benefits, and Implications of Yan Junyan and Li Qing’s Publishing Their Casebooks

6 The High Degree of Consistency of Judicial Rulings as Reflected in the Case Reports from Mengshui zhai cundu and Zheyu xinyu
 1 The Structure and Classification System of Cases in Mengshui zhai cundu and Zheyu xinyu
 2 Case Analysis
 3 Concluding Remarks


 1 Yan Junyan’s Other Family Members
 2 Yan Junyan’s Artistic Achievements and Literary Works
 3 The Sources and Status of Research on Yan Junyan
 4 Sample Cases from the Two Casebooks
Scholars and students of Chinese history concerned with legal casebooks, the administering of justice and the development of legal professionalism in late imperial China.
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