Favourable Institutional Circumstances for the publication of Judicial Works in late Ming China

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Abstract

This paper explores the favourable circumstances of the institutions that helped create a growing demand for judicial publications from the mid-Ming onwards. The increase in the legal elements of the civil service examination, especially the change in the pan test that asked the candidates to compose artificial case reports instead of straining to memorize the meaning of judicial terms, fostered a new demand for manuals and exemplary works of legal practice. Moreover, the
gradual development in the Wanli period (1573-1620) of the promotion route tui zhi xingqu (Selection of talents from the pool of brilliant prefectural judges and magistrates), through which magistrates and prefectural judges could ascend to
prestigious supervisory posts at court by sound judicial performance, also increased the morale of frontline officials,
encouraging them to study law and make their impressive legal performance known to their superiors and to the public.
Last but not least, the demands imposed on the low-level judiciary for professional and uniform judgements since the
Jiajing era (1522-1567) eliminated grey areas in the application of the law, so that junior officials were left facing a more
rigid legal system in which they were under greater pressure to make the right judgements. Thanks to all these newly
introduced elements, the study of legal knowledge and application of the law had never been taken more seriously than in
the final stage of the Ming ; the publication of judicial works of all kind, the means to acquire such knowledge, thus
flourished.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51–71
JournalÈtudes chinoises
Volume28
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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