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Developing history of Chinese legal thought

Author  :  ZHANG YIXIN     Source  :    Chinese Social Sciences Today     2019-07-09

The study of the history of legal thought explores the development of the legal theory of nations and political communities. The history of legal thought is a branch of the history of law, a secondary discipline under legal studies and a particular discipline under history. Therefore, the history of Chinese legal thought cannot be studied independent of legal and historical research.

Zhang Renshan, a professor of law at Nanjing University, said that the history of legal thought has the following value: First, it can examine human interpretation of the law; second, it can tell us how past laws were formed; third, the lessons learned from previous governance models help us to plan the future carefully and rationally and avoid repeating the same mistakes. 

Hou Xinyi, a professor at the School of Law at Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, said that after nearly a hundred years of development, the history of Chinese legal thought has made great progress in terms of talent cultivation, curriculum, teaching materials and research results. Its influence is expanding from legal circles to other academic circles such as historical study.

Wang Pei, an associate professor of the law school at East China University of Political Science and Law, said that after the 1980s, major Chinese law schools in colleges and universities have opened courses on the history of Chinese legal thought, something deeply loved by students. Although the status of this discipline has declined in recent years, it is still necessary to acknowledge the unremitting efforts of far-sighted people in academic circles.

Yang Yifan, a research fellow at the Institute of Law under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that in the past, Chinese legal thought mostly focused on ideas of penal law. We should not only study penal law, but also open up new areas of research of legal thought. Ancient legal thought was diverse and broad in scope. Past history of Chinese legal thought has not fully explored legal ideas beyond penal law, far from comprehensively reflecting the face of ancient legal thought. At the same time, we should not only study Confucian legal thought, but also comprehensively explore legal ideas of various other schools. The lack of a comprehensive understanding of ancient Chinese legal literature limits the horizons of research. 

As one of the core courses in legal studies, the history of Chinese law is mainly composed of the history of the legal system and the history of legal thought. To build the disciplinary structure of the history of legal thought, it is necessary to build an outline from the legal thought that has impacted the creation of laws, their implementation and social development. Mainstream legal thought and the legal thought of major schools would be used as specific content. Textbooks should not be mere compilations of some brief biographies, Zhang added.

Li Qicheng, a professor of law at Peking University, said that the study of the history of Chinese legal thought should start from the legal system and find out the ideological basis behind the system. At the same time, attention should also be paid to individual legal concepts and core topics. 

Hou said that the development of the history of Chinese legal thought should also pay attention to the following three issues: First, strengthening academic exchanges with other related disciplines such as history and political science, fully absorbing their academic achievements and learning from their experience of discipline construction. Efforts should be made to improve the quality of academic products and the ability to create and maintain dialogues with other related disciplines, thereby expanding academic influence. Second, when studying legal issues, we should also increase our knowledge of related literature and history, building a veritable history of Chinese legal thought and integrating cultural interpretation and legal knowledge interpretation as much as possible. Third, the development of the history of Chinese legal thought should meet the practical needs of China’s rule of law and cultural rejuvenation, providing valuable fuel for the future development of the rule of law in China.


(Edited by YANG LANLAN)

Editor: Yu Hui

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