Between Law and Justice: Self-defense Principle in Late Qing China Penal Cases

Conference: The Asian Conference on Asian Studies (ACAS2022)
Title: Between Law and Justice: Self-defense Principle in Late Qing China Penal Cases
Stream: Chinese Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Anna Chiara Trapani, University of Naples the Orientale, Italy


This article, through the analysis of selected judicial cases of the late Qing dynasty, explores the existence of the self-defense principle and the limits within it was considered valid or not. In the first part, through the study and the analysis of some articles contained in the Great Qing Code, it will be shown how the written law considered a murder specifically derived from the need to defend oneself or a relative from an external attack, how the magistrate must judge this particular cases and what were the judicial organs of the legal system involved. In the second part, different and selected penal cases, included in a late Qing legal cases compendium, are presented. Through the examination of these historical documents, that concern both men and women that belong to the same social class, it will be clear how the previously presented law, reported in the official code of the dynasty, was effectively applied and, in particular, what were the promulgated sentences. The final aim is to show the limits of the Qing code in self-defense matter. Bearing in mind that "the great Qing code" thanks to the strong continuity with the previous codes (of Tang and Ming dynasties) represent the final result of more than a thousand years of complex legal culture.

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