Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/15714
Title: Chinese Law and Justice: George Thomas Staunton (1781‑1859) and the European Discourses on China in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Authors: Abbattista, Guido 
Keywords: George Thomas StauntonSino-European relationsSino-British relationsQing codeQing code translationChinese legal systemWestern knowledge of China
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste
Source: Guido Abbattista, "Chinese Law and Justice: George Thomas Staunton (1781‑1859) and the European Discourses on China in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries", in: Guido Abbattista (edited by), "Law, Justice and Codification in Qing China. European and Chinese Perspectives. Essays in History and Comparative Law", Trieste, EUT Edizioni Università di Trieste, 2017, pp. 1-137.
Abstract: 
George Thomas Staunton’s 1810 translation of the so-called ‘Qing penal code’, the
Ta Tsing Leu Lee (in the coeval transliteration), represented a major chapter in the
history of Sino-European relations, particularly the evolution of British presence and
activities in China. It was, at the same time, an important development in Sinological
learning and Western knowledge of China in terms of understanding how to manage
commercial relations that had been strained for over a century and were undergoing
crucial changes at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It also represented a decisive
step forward in a longstanding European discussion about the Chinese empire and its
institutions, society, culture and civilization that attributed particular importance to the
subject of law and justice and their place within the Chinese state. The first and second
parts of this essay retrace the most significant moments of this debate in the European
culture and experience, with a special focus on the eighteenth century and the Enlightenment
period, when admiration for and even an idealization of China reached their
peak, only to decline quite quickly and irreversibly at the turn of the century. While
demonstrating that contradictory opinions about China always coexisted in European
opinion, this essay proceeds to present Staunton’s interpretation of the Chinese legal
and judicial system and to clarify its particular meaning with regard to previous and
current debates and the political-economic context of Sino-British relations. The last
two parts deal with the discussions prompted in Europe by the English publication of
the Qing code and the first two translations in French and Italian. In so doing, the essay
shows that Staunton’s intention to promote a favourable view of Chinese institutions
and a respectful attitude towards them did not correspond to the development of mainstream European, and especially British, opinion. Indeed, in the decades following its
publication, under the pressure of free trade and Protestant missionary opinion, British
public opinion became increasingly negative, including the adoption of severely critical
mental attitudes and intrusive policies towards China, thus preparing itself for the military
aggression known as the First Opium War.
Type: Book
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/15714
ISBN: 978-88-8303-842-6
eISBN: 978-88-8303-843-3
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 Internazionale
Appears in Collections:Law, Justice and Codification in Qing China. European and Chinese Perspectives. Essays in History and Comparative Law

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