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The penal law of the imperial period—from roughly 200 B.C. to 1911 A.D.—is of particular interest, although little known or studied in the West, because each of the great dynasties produced codes which functioned both as instruments of government and as a means for the enforcement of Confucian morality.
The content of the codes—untouched by Western influences—remained on many important topics largely unchanged from at least the seventh to the twentieth century.
This book discusses the social, intellectual and administrative background of the codes, analyses their structure and gives an account both of the general rules they contain and of the rules in the most important specific areas regulated by them (for example, killing, physical injury, theft, damage to property, marriage, adoption and succession).
It also discusses some important branches of administrative law such as the liability and privileges of officials. A final chapter takes up the theoretical issue of the nature of the penal law.