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l'u 'Tsing Lcuh-le ; being the fundamental laws, and
a selection from the supplementary statutes of the Penal Code of China; originally printed and published in Peking, in various successive cditions, under the sanction, and by the authority, of the several emperors of the Ta Tsing, or the present dynasty. Translated from the Chinese, and accompanied with an appendix, consisting of authentic documents, and a few occasional notes, illustrative of the subject of the work; by Sir GEORGE THOMAS STAUNTON, Bart. F. R. S. Pp. 581. London: 1810.
The reigning Mantchou-Chinese family is of very recent origin. One of its most illustrious chiefs, who gained his distinction by military achievements, took the title of emperor, and established himself at Moukden in 1616.
In 1644, his grandson, a lad six years of age, was placed on the throne of China. Three years after this event, the original edition of the penal laws of China was published in the name of the young monarch, Shunche. It was prefaced by the following document, which we quote according to the translation of sir George.
• When we contemplate the progressive establishinent of our dominions in the East, by our royal ancestors and immediate predecessors, we observe that the simplicity of the people originally required but few laws; and that with the exception of crimes of extraordinary enormity, no punishments were inflicted besides those of the whip and the bamboo. Since, however, the Divine Will has been graciously pleased to intrust. us with the administration of the empire of China, a multitude of judicial proceedings in civil and criminal cases, arising out of the various dispositions inei irregnlar passions of mankind
in a great ani populous nation, have successively occupied our royal attention. Hence we have suffered much inconvenience, from the necessity we have been almost constantly under, of either aggravating or mitigating the erroneous sentences of the magistrates, who, previous to the re-establishment of a fixed code of penal laws, were not in possession of any secure foundation, upon which they could build a just and equitable decision.
“A numerous body of magistrates was, therefore, assembled at the capital, at our coinmand, for the purpose of revising the penal.code, formerly in force under the late dynasty of Ming, and of digesting the same into a new code, by the exclusion of such parts as
were exceptionable, and the introduction of others, which were likely to contribute to the attainment of juslice, and to the general perfection of the work. The result of their labors having been submitted to our examination, we matyrely weighed and considered the various matters it contained, and then instructed a select number of our great officers of state, carefully to revise the whole, for the purpose of making such alterations and emendations as inight still be found requisite.
“As soon as this object was accomplished, we issued our royal authority for the impression and publication of the work, under the title of " Ta T'sing Leuh, tseih keae foo le," or the General Laws of the imperial dynasty of Tsing, collected and explained, and accompanied by supplementary clauses.
Wherefore, officers and magistrates of the interior and exterior departments of our empire, be it your care diligently to observe the same, and to forbear in future to give any decision, or to pass any sentence, according to your private sentiments, or upon your unsupported authority. Thus shall the magistrates and people look up with awe and submission to the justice of these institutions, as they find themselves respectively concerned in them; the transgressor will not fail to suffer a strict expiation of his crimes, and well be the instrument of deterring others from similar misconduct; and, finally, the government and the people will be equally secured for endless generations in the enjoyment of the happy effects of the great and noble virtues of our illustrious progenitors.”
The penal laws of the Ta Tsing dynasty, in coming down to the present time, have passed through a great number of editions; the latest which we have seen, and which is now before us, was pubblished in the 10th year of Taoukwang (1830), in 28 volumes, octavo. We may occasionally, as we pass on with the review, pause to compare the translation with the original ; though our chief endeavor
will be to give, and as succinctly as possible, an outline of the whole work, with remarks, pro re nata, on those points which show in the clearest light the intentions and the opinions of the Chinese. -The body of the work is arranged under the following heads; (1.) general laws ; (2.) civil laws; (3.) fiscal laws; (4.) ritual laws ; (5.) military laws; (6.) criminal laws; and (7.) laws relative to public works.
I. GENERAL Laws. This division commences with a description of the ordinary punishments. The lowest degree of punishment is a moderate correction, nominally from 10 to 50 blows, with the lesser* bamboo, of which however, only from 4 to 20 are to be inflicted. The second degree is inflicted with the larger bamboo; and the number of blows is nominally from 60 to 100, of which only from 20 to 40 are to be inflicted. Temporary banishment, with the same number of blows as in the second, constitutes the third degree of punishment. Perpetual banishment with 100 blows is the fourth. And death, either by strangulation, or by decollation, is the fifth and last. “All criminals capitally convicted, except such atrocious offenders as are expressly directed to be executed without delay, are retained in prison for execution at a particular period in the autumn; the sentence passed upon each individual being first duly reported to, and ratified by, the emperor.”—It is obvious to remark, here, that
of the laws and edicts of the Chinese, as well as many of their words and actions, seem designed to operate solely in terrorem; hence for 50 blows, 20 only are to be inflicted; for 90 blows, only 35 are to be inflicted; and so on.
The next section relates to offenses of a treasonable nature ; they are ten in number: namely
* This is required to be about five feet and a half long; its breadth at the extremity is to be about two inches; its thickness one and a quarter; and its weight about two pounds; the greater is to he of the ame lengte, but it litile broader and a little heavier.
Rebellion, which is an attempt to violate the divine order of things on earth by resisting and conspiring against the emperor, and is, therefore, an unspeakable outrage, and a disturbance of the peace of the universe; disloyalty, which is evinced by an attempt to destroy the imperial temples, tombs, and palaces; desertion, a term which may be applied to the offense of undertaking to quit, or betray the interests of the empire; parricide, the murder of a father, uncle, aunt, grandfather, or grandmother-a crime of the deepest dye; massacre, which is held to be the murder of three or more persons in one family'; sacrilege, which is committed by stealing from the temples any of the sacred articles consecrated to divine purposes, or by purloining any articles in the immediate use of the sovereign, or by counterfeiting the imperial seal, by administering to the sovereign improper medicines, or, in general, by the commission of any error or negligence by which the safety of his sacred person may be endangered; impiety, which is discoverable in every instance of disrespect or negligence towards those to whom we owe our being, and by whom we have been educated and protected; it is likewise committed by those who inform against, or insult such near relations while living, or who refuse to mourn for their loss, to show respect for their memory, when dead; discord, in families, which is the breach of the legal or natural ties which are founded on our connections by blood or marriage; insubordination, the rising against or murdering a magistrate; and incest, the co-habitation of persons related by any of the degrees within which marriage is prohibited. These crimes being distinguished from others by their enormity, are always punished with the utmost rigor of the law; and when capital, are exempted from the benefit of general pardon.
There are eight privileged classes; the first includes the relations and connections of the emperor; the second comprehends all those servants of the crown who are distinguished for their long and faithful service; the third includes those who are illustrious for their actions; the fourth class comprehends those who are eminent for their wisdom and virtue; the fifth includes those who possess great abilities; the sixth includes those who, by day and by night, are zealously and assiduously engaged in the performance of their civil and military duties; the seventh consists of the nobility, which includes all persons of the first rank, and those of the second and third who are in any civil and military
command; the eighth includes the second and third generations of those who have been distinguished for their wisdom and eminent services.--Persons belonging to the privileged classes cannot be put on trial, except for offenses of a treasonable nature, without the express command of the emperor. This benefit extends to all the near relations of the privileged classes.
When an officer of government commits an offense, his superior shall report the case to the emperor, who must direct and sanction the trial. If the accused is convicted of any offense, which in ordinary cases is punishable by the infliction of corporal chastisement, he shall 'instead thereof be subject to fine or to degradation, or to both. But those persons who have official situations without possessing rank, shall not be exempt from corporal punishment. It is remarked here by the translator, that “every officer of government, from the first to the ninth rank, must be previously qualified by a literary or military degree, according to the nature of his profession; but the clerks and other inferior attendants in the employ of government are not considered to have any rank, or to be permanently distinguished from the rest of the community."
The Tartar subjects of the empire are chastised with the whip instead of the bamboo; and instead of banishment, they are “confined with the cangue [keä] or movable pillory." There are several considerations which are admitted in mitigation of punishment. When several persons are concerned in an affair, the accessories are punished with less severity than the principals.
It frequently happens in China, at the accession of a new emperor, and also on the occurrence of certain anniversaries, that there are passed acts of general pardon. From the benefits of these acts all those persons shall be excluded, “who have been convicted of any of the ten treasonable offenses