July 28, 2005

*Ask Jen: Chinese Law Edition

Reader Anna writes, "Can you please post something about crime and punishment in China?"

Well, that's a bit of a broad topic, but I'll give it a stab.

The earliest complete legal code to have survived in China was the Tang Code. It stated that laws originated out of necessity rather than any divine reasons, and had finely graded punishments based on both the actual crime and the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator.

The worst of the crimes listed in the Tang Code were the Ten Abominations, and anyone who was guilty of one of these crimes could not be saved by their higher rank in society or relationship to the emperor. These were crimes that endangered the emperor or the government, threatened the family, or involved "black magic". The Ten Abominations were:
1. Plotting rebellion
2. Plotting great sedition
3. Plotting treason
4. Contumacy
5. Depravity
6. Great irreverence
7. Lack of filial piety
8. Discord
9. Unrighteousness
10. Incest

For the first three (which were the most serious of the Abominations), decapitation was the punishment. And for the first two, execution of the criminal's extended family was carried out as well...for plotting rebellion, the entire male line over the age of 15 was executed. Those under 15 were enslaved. The females were either enslaved or exiled, and all the family's property was seized.

Women generally got off lighter than men, regardless of the crime. They were beaten less severely, and if they were pregnant, they could not be beaten at all. Plus pregnant women weren't executed until 100 days after the birth of their baby.

Do you have a question for me? You can e-mail it. If I know the answer, I'll answer it. If I don't, I might make something up.

Posted by Jennifer at July 28, 2005 07:52 PM | TrackBack


Discord? The harshest definition I could get for the word was "disagreement among those expected to cooperate." That's an abomination? Disagreeing? Bah!

Posted by: shank at July 29, 2005 07:24 AM

First, of all, am I the only person who snickered about it being called the "Tang Code?" Surely, Harvey can back me up here.

Second, I resent the fact that my laughing at this might be construed as abomination number five.

Third, my resentment of that particular abomination is turning into several of the other abominations.

I think it's clear that this is a plot by the man to keep a brother down. It ain't right!

Posted by: Trey Givens at July 29, 2005 10:34 AM

I noticed the tang thing too, but I try to limit my inane posting to one per thread. Guess I am breaking the rule right now, but that's okay because I don't see being an idiot up on the ol' top ten abominations list.

Posted by: shank at July 29, 2005 11:19 AM

Unrighteousness - I'm SO doomed.

Trey - I'd have been more amused by "Wang Code" :-)

Posted by: Harvey at July 30, 2005 11:17 AM