Imperial Bureaucracy and Criminal Trials



This chapter attempts to shed lights on the millennial bureaucratic tradition of magistrate’s court, the indigenous notion of justice and the conduct of imperial criminal trials. Law in ancient China is developed completely free of Western influences (Jones 2003). In the long history of imperial China from 221 BC to 1911 AD, the public image of law is mostly that of penal law and fearful sanctions. There is almost no exception that threat of physical punishment is attached to any normal criminal trial. Legitimized judicial torture is a permanent feature in reality as well as in the literary and dramatic depiction of Chinese imperial criminal trials. On the one hand, torture can be used indiscriminately to those entangled in a criminal case—the petitioners, the accused, and the witnesses.


Procedural Justice Qing Dynasty Criminal Case Criminal Trial Confucian Ethic 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminology and Criminal JusticeNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA

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