This paper refutes the established opinion that Zhu Yuanzhang’s Grand Pronouncements (Dagao 大誥) lost its legal authority during the Xuande reign (1426–1435). It makes a case that at least three of its items were continuously enforced in the judicial system until the end of the Ming.
As reflected in numerous legal publications from the Jiajing reign (1522–1566), after the accession of Emperor Shizong, there was a trend demanding the reintroduction of ancestral rules, including the Dagao. As a result, in Hu Jie’s 胡介 Baiyi xinpan 百一新判, a collection of his model legal case reports composed in 1536–1537, a case is judged by quoting the Dagao item “Buddhist or Daoist monks not complying with ancestral teachings.” By consulting some judicial cases concerning monks from the Chongzhen reign (1628–1644) alongside Hu’s case, this paper reveals that mid and late Ming judges punished offenders in accordance with this Dagao item. For offences such as Hu’s case that were originally miscellaneous capital crimes, however, the offenders were merely sentenced to a beating with heavy stick or enforced a return to secular life. The change of punishments in this case reflects a possibility that, from the Jiajing reign on, there was a new relationship between the Great Ming Code and the Dagao. While a judge might employ a Dagao item to define a crime, he must determine the punishment by referring to the article of the Code to which the Dagao was attached. Another possibility for the change of punishment is that this Dagao item was employed after the Jiajing reign only for the definition of crimes, yet by incorporating a new regulation governing the secular engagements of monks introduced in 1500 into this old title, its original punishment is replaced by the new measures prescribed in the new regulation.
Moreover, ceasing the application of the Da Ming lügao 大明律誥 in 1497 only implies that the Dagao items concerning the administration of death penalties were no longer enforced. In fact, the Dagao item “Fleeing from military exile of corrupted officials and clerks who had imposed evils to the common people for many years,” through which the offenders could be punished by military exile, which is one degree lighter than death penalties, was still employed by the daily encyclopedia Santai wanyong zhengzong 三台萬用正宗 published in 1599 as a valid charge for common people launching complaints against corrupted officials and clerks.
Finally, this paper discusses the change of scope in the practical application of the Dagao item “Reduction of punishment by one degree through possession of the Dagao” that occurred throughout the Ming period.
|Translated title of the contribution||A Re-examination on the Legal Authority of Zhu Yuanzhang’s Grand Pronouncements (Dagao) after the Hongwu Reign|
|Original language||Chinese (Traditional)|
|Number of pages||19|
|Publication status||Published - 2007|