An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xing'an huilan 刑案匯覽

Mar 20, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Traditional Chinese law was to a substantial part case law, in spite of the existence of law codes like Da-Qing lüli 大清律例. The collection Xing'an huilan 刑案匯覽 (刑案彙覽) assembles precedent cases to rely on for future trials. This huilan collection was extended by continuations or sequels including cases from the years 1736 to 1885.

刑案匯覽 (前編) 六十卷 Xing'an huilan (Qianbian) (Qing) 祝慶祺 Zhu Qingqi, 鮑書芸 Bao Shuyun 1736-1834, 5,640 cases
續增刑案匯覽 (續增) 十六卷 Xuzeng xing'an huilan (Qing) 祝慶祺 Zhu Qingqi 1833-1838, 1,670 cases
新增刑案匯覽 (新增) 十六卷 Xinzeng xing'an huilan (Qing) 潘文舫 Pan Wenfang et al. (? 徐諫荃 Xu Jianquan) 1842-1885, 291 cases
新輯刑案匯覽 十六卷 Xinji xing'an huilan (Qing) 周守赤 Zhou Shoushi
刑案匯覽續編 (續編) 三十二卷 Xing'an huilan xubian (Qing) 吳潮 Wu Chao et al. 1838-1871, 1,696 cases

Zhu Qingqi 祝慶祺 hailed from Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang, and was a lesser functionary in the Yunnan bureau of the Ministry of Justice (xingbu Yunnansi xuli 刑部雲南司胥吏). Between 1825 and 1832, he belonged to the staff of Sun Erzhun 孫爾準 (1772-1832), governor-general (zongdu 總督) of Min-Zhe 閩浙. Bao Shuyun 鮑書芸 was before 1832 likewise an official in the Ministry of Justice (xingbu 刑部).

The Xing'an huilan was finished in 1832 and printed two years later, and the first sequel, Xuzeng xing'an huilan, in 1840. The other two sequels, finished during the Guangxu reign-period 光緒 (r. 1874-1908) of the Qing era 清 (1644-1911), were usually only published as a set, while the first two of the four books circulated as stand-alone editions. The last of the books, Xing'an huilan xubian, was compiled by five persons, namely Wu Chao 吳潮, He Xiyan 何錫儼, Li Fangyu 李方豫, Lan Peiqing 藍佩青, and Xue Yunsheng 薛允升. Wu Chao was Vice Minister of Justice (xingbu yuanwailang 刑部員外郎). A first draft was finished in 1871, but the manuscript was only finalized in 1876. He Xiyan continued the work at the book, but passed away during the process. Lan Peiqing, district magistrate of Anlu 安陸, where He had lived and worked, took over the compilation which was finished in 1884. The book was first printed in 1887.

The collections include documents of law cases decided by the central juridical institutions like the Ministry of Justice, the Court of Judicial Review (dalisi 大理寺) or the Censorate (duchayuan 都察院). Such are memoranda (shuotie 說帖) from the archives of the Codification Office (lüliguan 律例館) of the Ministry of Justice, endorsed precedent cases (cheng'an 成案) of the individual departments of the Ministry, notifications (tongxing 通行) dispatched by the Ministry to the provinces and directives (zunxing 遵行) dispatched to the ministerial departments, cases recorded by the compilers themselves during the time they served in the Ministry, memorials to the throne (zouyi 奏議) or internal communication with replies to inquiries (zifu 咨覆) concerning penal statutes (xinglü 刑律), cases narrated in the metropolitan gazette (dichao< 邸鈔, 邸抄) for which no legal precedent does exist, cases published in private compilations (fangben 坊本) without legal precedents, cases recorded in concise reports on redressed cases (pingfan jieyao 平反節要), and cases recorded in commercial publications of law cases like Bo'an huichao 駁案彙鈔, Bo'an xinbian 駁案新編 or Bo'an xubian 駁案續編. Most of these cases were local issues submitted to the central judicial institutions for further decisions, while internal correspondence like memorials to the throne or imperial decrees only constitute a minor part. Cases handled were either heavy criminal issued due to be punished with the death penalty which had to be confirmed by central institutions or the emperor (pizhuna zhaofu 批准照復) or cases of difficult and doubtful circumstances to negotiated once more (bohui chongni 駁回重擬).

The four collections follow more or less a stringent organisational pattern, first presenting general issues like designations and terminology (mingli 名例), for instance, general definitions the five types of punishment, the ten abominations, the eight things to be considered, or basic regulations like what to do if a privileged person or his father committed a crime, if a civilian or a military state official committed an offence, and so on. The next chapters are categorized according to the jurisdictional matter, like laws concerning personnel (lilü 吏律), laws concerning revenue (hulü 戶律), laws concerning rites (lilü 禮律), etc. The cases themselves are once more arranged according to a wide range of types of crimes (like illegal selling of landed property, selling of wife and children, counterfeiting of money, murder, manslaughter, brawls, grave robbery, burglary, nocturnal housebreaking, etc.). The categorization corresponds to that of the Qing Code Da-Qing lüli 大清律例.

The four collections thus served to supplement the existing legal codes of the dynasty even if they were private, and not official. They received wide attention and were published in many private editions. The Qianbian was first printed in 1834, with further editions in 1840 (Tang-yue Shensi Studio 棠樾慎思堂), 1844 (Jingu Garden 金穀園, reprint), 1849, 1852 (Tang-yue Wenyuan Studio 棠樾文淵堂), and 1882 (Cangzhen Studio 藏珍閣, Guangzhou). The Xuzeng was printed in 1840 (Tang-yue Shensi Studio 棠樾慎思堂) and 1849 (Weichen Studio 味塵軒), and the Xinzeng in 1886 (Juwen Hall 聚文堂, Anhui) and 1890 (Ziying Shanfang Studio 紫英山房).The first three collections were jointly published in 1888 by the Shanghai Tushu Jichengju 上海圖書集成局 as a pocket-size edition reprinted in 1968 by the Chengwen Press 成文出版社 in Taipeh. In 1892, the Shanghai Hongwen Press 上海鴻文書局 published a lithographic-print edition. Editions of the fourth collection, Xubian, are rare. The Tuisi Studio 退思軒 published a print in 1887, and in 1900, Li Baohe 李保和 from Rongcheng 蓉城 created a new edition that was reedited as a facsimile in 1970 by the Wenhai Press 文海出版社 in Taipeh.

A modern, punctuated edition was published in 2007 with the name Xing'an huilan quanbian 刑案匯覽全編.The work was based on a three-set edition of Shen Jiaben 沈家本 (1840-1913), Xing'an huilan sanbian 刑案匯覽三編.

Even today, they a great help for the study of judicial procedures and internal discussions on legal matters in late imperial China. Exemplary cases were translated by Derk Bodde, and Clarence Morris (1967), Law in Imperial China: Exemplified by 190 Ch’ing Dynasty Cases translated from the Hsing-an hui-lan (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press).

Yang Yifan 楊一凡 & You Shaohua 尤韶華 (2006). "Xing'an huilan quanbian zhengli shuoming 《刑案匯覽全編》整理說明", Xing'an huilan quanbian 刑案匯覽全編, part Xing'an huilan 刑案匯覽全編 (Beijing: Falü chubanshe), Vol. 1, 1-5.
Kong Qiuming 孔慶明 (xxx). "Xing’an huilan 刑案匯覽", in xxx Xingshi faxue da cidian 刑事法學大辭書 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 552.
Wu Shuchen 武樹臣, ed. (1999). Zhongguo chuantong falü wenhua cidian 中國傳統法律文化辭典 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 461.