China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Agonious or Didactic: An Analysis of the Debates in the Qing Capital Punishment Review

Friday, March 23
12:45 PM - 2:45 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 4, Exhibit Level

This paper argues that the debate in the Qing capital punishment adjudication reflected a Confucian legal philosophy of “punishment should be implemented with utmost prudence.” This quasi-agonious debate took place between provincial jurists and Ministry of Punishment capital punishment case reviewers in the form of written exchanges. The debate involved a wide array of subjects ranging from whether the suggested punishment was fair and just under the circumstance to jurisprudence related issues. One may assume that the Ministry of Punishment would enjoy an upper hand in such debates because of the following reasons. 1. The Ministry of Punishment was the highest office in the imperial court which oversaw the review of all the capital punishment. 2. It employed, at least in theory, the most experienced and knowledgeable jurists in the empire. 3. It had access to the most comprehensive legal archives. Furthermore, if a position, which the provincial governor held was not built on a solid legal ground, all the local officials involved in the trial would receive administrative disciplinary sanctions. Even under such favorable circumstances, the victory of these debates was not always on the side of the Ministry of Punishment. Finally, the debate could also lead to a lesser punishment to the defendant. 

Min-te Pan

State University of New York at Oswego, New York

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1 - Agonious or Didactic: An Analysis of the Debates in the Qing Capital Punishment Review



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