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.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10077/15714
ISBN: 978-88-8303-842-6
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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