Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China (2 vols)

A Study with Critical Edition and Translation of the Legal Texts from Zhangjiashan Tomb no. 247


Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China has been accorded Honorable Mention status in the 2017 Patrick D. Hanan Prize (China and Inner Asia Council (CIAC) of the Association for Asian Studies) for Translation competition.

In Law, State, and Society in Early Imperial China, Anthony J. Barbieri-Low and Robin D.S. Yates offer the first detailed study and translation into English of two recently excavated, early Chinese legal texts. The Statutes and Ordinances of the Second Year consists of a selection from the long-lost laws of the early Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE). It includes items from twenty-seven statute collections and one ordinance. The Book of Submitted Doubtful Cases contains twenty-two legal case records, some of which have undergone literary embellishment. Taken together, the two texts contain a wealth of information about slavery, social class, ranking, the status of women and children, property, inheritance, currency, finance, labor mobilization, resource extraction, agriculture, market regulation, and administrative geography.

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EUR €299.00USD $389.00

Biographical Note

Anthony J. Barbieri-Low, Ph.D (2001), Princeton University, is Professor of Chinese History at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Artisans in Early Imperial China (UW Press, 2007).

Robin D.S. Yates, James McGill Professor of East Asian Studies, History and Classical Studies, McGill University (Ph.D Harvard, 1980) has published widely in the social and cultural history of early China, military science and technology, Chinese women, and Chinese law.

Table of contents


Note to the Reader
1.1 Acknowledgments
1.2 Chinese Dynasties
1.3 Recognized Rulers of the Qin and Han Dynasties and the Xin Period
1.4 Equivalents for Weights and Measures Mentioned in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts and Other Parallel Texts
1.5 Early-Han Orders of Rank Mentioned in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts
1.6 Official Titles Mentioned in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts
1.7A Place-Names Mentioned in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts
1.7B Map of Place-Names Mentioned in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts (Boundaries, 187–186 BCE)
1.8 Types of Punishments and Associated Crimes in the Zhangjiashan Legal Texts
1.9A Placement of Slips in the Statutes and Ordinances of the Second Year Text
1.9B Placement of Slips in the Book of Submitted Doubtful Cases Text

Introductory Study
2.1 Discovery, Conservation, Publication, and Previous Studies of the Zhangjiashan Texts
2.2 Principles of Translation and Working Methodology
2.3 Introduction to the Statutes and Ordinances of the Second Year Text
2.4 Forms of Legislation and Their Enactment
2.5 Introduction to the Book of Submitted Doubtful Cases Text
2.6 The Judicial Process in a Criminal Case
2.7 The Punishments
2.8 Conclusions



Note to the Reader
Key to Transcription Symbols and Punctuation

Translation, Part One: Statutes and Ordinances of the Second Year (Ernian lüling 二年律令)
3.1 “Statutes on Assault” (Zei lü 賊律)
3.2 “Statutes on Robbery” (Dao lü 盜律)
3.3 “Statutes on the Composition of Judgments” (Ju lü 具律)
3.4 “Statutes on Denunciations” (Gao lü 告律)
3.5 “Statutes on Arrest” (Bu lü 捕律)
3.6 “Statutes on Abscondence” (Wang lü 亡律)
3.7 “Statutes on Impoundment” (Shou lü 收律)
3.8 “Statutes on Miscellaneous Matters” (Za lü 襍律)
3.9 “Statutes on Cash” (Qian lü 錢律)
3.10 “Statutes on the Establishment of Officials” (Zhili lü 置吏律)
3.11 “Statutes on Equalizing Transportation” (Junshu lü 均輸律)
3.12 “Statutes on Food Rations at Conveyance Stations” (Zhuanshi lü 傳食律)
3.13 “Statutes on Agriculture” (Tian lü 田律)
3.14 “Statutes on [Passes and] Markets” ([Guan]shi lü [關]市律)
3.15 “Statutes on the Forwarding of Documents” (Xingshu lü 行書律)
3.16 “Statutes on Exemption from Taxes” (Fu lü 復律)
3.17 “Statutes on Bestowals” (Ci lü 賜律)
3.18 “Statutes on Households” (Hu lü 戶律)
3.19 “Statutes on Checking” (Xiao lü 效律)
3.20 “Statutes on Enrollment” (Fu lü 傅律)
3.21 “Statutes on Establishment of Heirs” (Zhihou lü 置後律)
3.22 “Statutes on Ranks” (Jue lü 爵律)
3.23 “Statutes on Levies” (Xing lü 興律)
3.24 “Statutes on Government Service” (Yao lü 徭律)
3.25 “Statutes on Finance” (Jinbu lü 金布律)
3.26 “Statutes on Salaries” (Zhi lü 秩律)
3.27 “Statutes on Scribes” (Shi lü 史律)
3.28 “Ordinances on Fords and Passes” (Jinguan ling 津關令)

Translation, Part Two: Book of Submitted Doubtful Cases (Zouyan shu 奏讞書)
4.1 The Absconding Indigenous Conscript
4.2 The Absconding Female Slave
4.3 The Eloping Lovers from Qi
4.4 A Mutilated Man Unwittingly Marries an Absconder
4.5 Sword Fight between a Runaway ‘Slave’ and a Thief Catcher
4.6 Beating to Death an Illegally Held Slave
4.7 A Crooked Widow Tries to Cheat Her Runaway Slaves
4.8 A Male Slave Escapes and a Border Guard is Punished
4.9 Falsifying the Account Books (1)
4.10 Falsifying the Account Books (2)
4.11 Counterfeiting a Horse Passport
4.12 A Delay in Forwarding Documents
4.13 A Small Bribe Results in a Large Fine
4.14 A Judiciary Scribe Harbors an Unregistered Person
4.15 A County Magistrate Robs Grain
4.16 A County Magistrate Orders the Murder of a Judiciary Scribe
4.17 A Successful Appeal of a Conviction Gained by False Accusation and Torture
4.18 The Benevolent Magistrate and the Chu Insurgency
4.19 Shi You Solves the Case of Hair and Grass in the Lord’s Food
4.20 An Assistant Scribe Robs Grain and Confucian Principles
4.21 A Scribe of the Commandant of the Court Overturns a Sentence for Illicit Intercourse
4.22 A Cunning Scribe Solves a Robbery and Attempted Murder


All interested in the legal, political, and social history of China, as well as those interested in broader issues of comparative legal and imperial institutional history.