The Trials of Lu Genrong: The Criminal Law Reform and Women’s Agency in Late 1920s China

  • Qiliang He
Part of the Chinese Literature and Culture in the World book series (CLCW)


The trials of Lu Genrong afford a rare opportunity to investigate the transformation of the criminal law as it took place at the juncture of China’s legal reform in 1928. Under the new criminal law promulgated in 1928, Lu was not legally prosecutable for his extramarital sexual intercourse with Huang Huiru, a woman over twenty, but received a two-year jail time whatsoever. The trials indicate that old legal conception and practices continued to affect judicial officers’ decisions despite a sea change in the criminal law. Hence, I call attention to the discrepancy between the policy pronouncements and legal practices in Republican China. In addition, as the new criminal code stipulated the unpunishability of consensual intercourse with women over twenty, the new law unintendedly redefined womanhood by regrouping women as underage (with no agency) and adult ones (with full agency).


  1. Asatarō, Okada. Zhonghua minguo zanxing xin xinglü (The New Criminal Code Temporarily in Force in Republic of China). Shanghai: Fazheng xueshe, 1935.Google Scholar
  2. Barlow, Tani E. The Question of Women in Chinese Feminism. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004.Google Scholar
  3. Bernhardt, Kathryn. Women and Property in China, 960–1949. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.Google Scholar
  4. Bernhardt, Kathryn, and Philip C.C. Huang. “Civil Law in Qing and Republican China: The Issues.” In Civil Law in Qing and Republican China, edited by Kathryn Bernhardt and Philip C.C. Huang, 1–12. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  5. Chen, Xuerong. “Lu Huang jian’an zhi weisheng” (The Adulterous Case of Lu and Huang Comes to a Close). Minguo ribao, September 7, 1928.Google Scholar
  6. Ch’u, T’ung-tsu. Law and Society in Traditional China. Paris, La Haye: Mouton and Co., 1965.Google Scholar
  7. “Dapo jieji zhuyi de zhupu fasheng lian’ai an kaishen” (The Trial About Master-Servant Romantic Love that Breaks Class [Boundary] Is in Session). Shi bao, August 26, 1928Google Scholar
  8. Diamant, Neil J. Revolutionizing the Family: Politics, Love, and Divorce in Urban and Rural China, 1949–1968. Berkeley: University of California, 2000.Google Scholar
  9. Dikötter, Frank. Crime, Punishment and the Prison in Modern China. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.Google Scholar
  10. Feng, Meixue. Sifa yuan jieshi zuigao fayuan panli fenlei huizuan (A Classified Compilation of Interpretations on Supreme Court Precedents by the Judiciary Yuan). Shanghai: Shanghai faxue xueshe, 1933.Google Scholar
  11. “Gaodeng fayuan chongpan Lu Genrong ernian tuxing” (The Superior Court Once Again Sentenced Lu Genrong Two-Year Fixed-Term Imprisonment). Shi bao, June 28, 1929.Google Scholar
  12. “Gaoyuan panjue Lu Genrong shangsu an liyou, suoyi renwei lüeyou zui” (High Court’s Reasons of Adjudicating Lu Genrong’s Appellative Case; Why It Is Considered an Offense of Lüeyou). Shi bao, November 4, 1928.Google Scholar
  13. Glosser, Susan. Chinese Visions of Family and State, 1915–1953. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.Google Scholar
  14. Guo, Wei, and Zhou Dingmei. Liufa liyou panjie zongji, disan ce, xingfa ji fulu (The Compilation of Ratio Decidendi of Six Laws, Book Three, Criminal Law and Addenda). Shanghai: Shanghai faxue shuju, 1935.Google Scholar
  15. He, Qinhua. Dong Kang faxue wenji (An Anthology of Dong Kang’s Works on Law). Beijing: Zhongguo zhengfa daxue chubanshe, 2005.Google Scholar
  16. “Huang Huiru an kaishen ji” (A Note on the Court Session of the Case of Huang Huiru). Suzhou mingbao, August 25, 1928.Google Scholar
  17. “Huang Huiru an pangting suji” (A Quick Note on Auditing the Huang Huiru Case). Suzhou mingbao, October 23, 1928.Google Scholar
  18. “Huang Huiru an panjue” (Judgment on Huang Huiru’s Case Is Made). Shi bao, August 28, 1928.Google Scholar
  19. “Huang Huiru bingli shenju” (Huang Huiru Suffers from Severe Dysentery). Suzhou mingbao, August 28, 1928.Google Scholar
  20. “Huang Huiru buyuan guilai” (Huang Huiru is Unwilling to Return). Shi bao, August 12, 1928.Google Scholar
  21. “Huang Huiru mu wei manyi” (Huang Huiru’s Mother Is Not Satisfied). Shi bao, July 1, 1929.Google Scholar
  22. “Huang Huiru tongbu yusheng” (Huang Huiru is Overwhelmed with Sorrow). Suzhou mingbao, October 28, 1928.Google Scholar
  23. “Huang Huiru yiyou age lingzhuan yi” (Huang Huiru Has Been Brought Back by Brother). Suzhou mingbao, August 14, 1928.Google Scholar
  24. “Huang Huiru yu Lu Genrong heying” (A Photo of Huang Huiru and Lu Genrong). Suzhou mingbao, August 29, 1928.Google Scholar
  25. “Huang Huiru zhuanyi huixin, sicong cimu guijia qu; Lu Genrong yaochun gushe, yuzhuan chinong duoyu lai” (Huang Huiru Changes Her Mind-Considering Returning Home with Her Kind Mother; Lu Genrong Shakes His Lips and Pounds the Tongue—Intending to Induce the Infatuated Woman to Fall into Hell). Suzhou mingbao, October 31, 1928.Google Scholar
  26. “Huang Lu an gengshen pangting ji” (A Note on Auditing the Retrial of the Huang-Lu Case). Suzhou mingbao, June 23, 1929.Google Scholar
  27. “Huang Lu an yijing zuigao fayuan panjue” (The Supreme Court has Adjudicated the Huang-Lu Case). Suzhou mingbao, March 21, 1929.Google Scholar
  28. “Huang Lu zhupu lian’ai an” (The Case of Love Between Huang and Lu, the Master and the Servant). Shi bao, February 25, 1929.Google Scholar
  29. Huang, Philip C.C. “Women’s Choices Under the Law: Marriage, Divorce, and Illicit Sex in the Qing and the Republic.” Modern China 27, no. 1 (January 2001a): 3–58.Google Scholar
  30. ———. Code, Custom, and Legal Practice in China: The Qing and the Republic Compared. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001b.Google Scholar
  31. Jiang, Jin. Women Playing Men: Yue Opera and Social Change in Twentieth-century Shanghai. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  32. Jiangsu sheng dang’an guan (Jiangsu Provincial Archives). 1047-005-0078.Google Scholar
  33. Jones, William. The Great Qing Code. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.Google Scholar
  34. Kuo, Margaret. Intolerable Cruelty: Marriage, Law, and Society in Early Twentieth-Century China. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2012.Google Scholar
  35. Lean, Eugenia. Public Passions: The Trial of Shi Jianqiao and the Rise of Popular Sympathy in Republican China. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.Google Scholar
  36. Leow, Rachel. “Age as a Category of Gender Analysis: Servant Girls, Modern Girls, and Gender in Southeast Asia.” The Journal of Asian Studies 71, no. 4 (November 2012): 975–90.Google Scholar
  37. Li, Guilian. Shen Jiaben pingzhuan (A Critical Biography of Shen Jiaben). Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe, 2005.Google Scholar
  38. Li, Xiuqing. “Dianjiao daoyin: jindai Zhongguo xingfa fadian hua ji 1928nian Zhonghua minguo xingfa” (Introduction to [the] Collated [version]: The Codification of Criminal Laws in Modern China and the Criminal Code of the Republican China in 1928). In Zhonghua minguo xingfa (The Criminal Code of the Republic of China), edited by Wang Chonghui et al., 2–3. Beijing: Zhongguo fangzheng chubanshe, 2006.Google Scholar
  39. Lin, Shan. Youyou wangshi: wode chuanmei gongzuo huigu (The Unfaded Past: A Look Back to My Career in the Media). Beijing: Qunyan chubanshe, 2006.Google Scholar
  40. “Lu Genrong an shangsu kaiting ji” (A Note on the Court Session of Lu Genrong’s Appellant Case). Shi bao, October 23, 1928.Google Scholar
  41. “Lu Genrong bufu panjue” (Lu Genrong Is Not Satisfied with the Verdict). Suzhou mingbao, June 29, 1929.Google Scholar
  42. “Lu Genrong panjue shu” (The Verdict on Lu Genrong[’s Case]). Shen bao, July 3, 1930.Google Scholar
  43. “Lu Genrong shangsu zuigao fayuan” (Lu Genrong Appeals to the Supreme Court). Shi bao, December 14, 1928.Google Scholar
  44. “Lu Genrong xuangao wuzui” (Lu Genrong Is Announced Not Guilty). Shen bao, July 1, 1930.Google Scholar
  45. “Lu Genrong zai shangsu xiaoxi” (Information About Lu Genrong’s Second Appeal). Suzhou mingbao, July 30, 1929.Google Scholar
  46. “Lu Genrong zaixiang zuigao fayuan shangsu” (Lu Genrong Again Files an Appeal to the Supreme Court). Suzhou mingbao, July 15, 1929.Google Scholar
  47. “Lu Genrong zaixu shangsu” (Lu Genrong Needs to Appeal Again). Shi bao, June 29, 1929.Google Scholar
  48. Man, “Lu Genrong.” Jing bao, July 3, 1930.Google Scholar
  49. “Mingmen guinü—bei epu jianguai lai Su” (A daughter from a prestigious family raped and abducted by an evil servant to Suzhou). Suzhou mingbao, August 10, 1928.Google Scholar
  50. Mühlhahn, Klaus. Criminal Justice in China: A History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  51. “Nanchang difang shenpan tingzhang Lin Dawen zaishenzhi tiaochen” (A Memorandum from Lin Dawen, the Chief Judge of Nanchang Regional Court). Sifa gongbao, no. 38 (1915): 93.Google Scholar
  52. Neighbors, Jennifer M. “The Long Arm of Qing Law? Qing Dynasty Homicide Rulings in Republican Courts.” Modern China 35, no. 1 (January 2009): 3–37.Google Scholar
  53. Pritchard, Earl H. The Crucial Years of Early Anglo-Chinese Relations 1750–1800. Pullman, WA: State College of Washington, 1936.Google Scholar
  54. Shen, Jianle. Shaoxing lishi mingren (Celebrities in History of Shaoxing). Yinchuan: Ningxia renmin chubanshe, 2006.Google Scholar
  55. Shuangqi. “Guanyu Huang Huiru he Lu Genrong de shi” (About the [Love] Affair of Huang Huiru and Lu Genrong). Minguo ribao, September 2, 1928.Google Scholar
  56. Sifa gongbao (Bulletin of Judiciary). No. 1 (November 1, 1927).Google Scholar
  57. Sommer, Matthew. Sex, Law, and Society in Late Imperial China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000.Google Scholar
  58. Suzhou shi dang’an ju (Suzhou Municipal Archives). I14-034-0018.Google Scholar
  59. Suzhou shi difangzhi bianzuan weiyuanhui. Suzhou shi zhi (Gazetteer of the Suzhou City), No. 3. Nanjing: Jiangsu renmin chubanshe, 1995.Google Scholar
  60. Tianma. “Huang Huiru an ying ganji faguan” ([The Popularity] of Huang Huiru’s Case Should Be Attributed to the Judges). Jing bao, February 27, 1929.Google Scholar
  61. Wang, Chonghȏui. The Chinese Criminal Code. Translated by Tinn-Hugh Yu. Shanghai: The International Publishing Co., 1928.Google Scholar
  62. Wu, Qu. Gusu yeshi (An Unofficial History of Suzhou). Nanjing: Jiangsu wenyi chubanshe, 1990.Google Scholar
  63. Xie, Zhenmin. Zhonghua minguo lifa shi (A History of Legislation in Republican China). Beijing: Zhongguo zhengfa daxue chubanshe, 2000.Google Scholar
  64. Xu, Xiaoqun. Trial of Modernity: Judicial Reform in Early Twentieth-Century China, 1901–1937. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.Google Scholar
  65. Zhang, Shihao. “Cong Huang Huiru an lianxiang dao Wang Shichang” ([I] associate the case of Huang Huiru with [that of] Wang Shichang). Minguo ribao, September 4, 1928.Google Scholar
  66. Zhang, Jundu. “Jiangsu sifa gaikuang” (Summary of Justice in Jiangsu). Jiangsu gaodeng fayuan gongbao (Bulletin of Jiangsu High Court), No. 1, (January 1929). Suzhou: Jiangsu gaodeng fayuan gongbao chu: 1–3.Google Scholar
  67. Zhang, Xuequn. Suzhou mingmen wangzu (Influential Families in Suzhou). Yangzhou: Guangling shushe, 2006.Google Scholar
  68. Zhu, Leizhang. “Wode fuqin Zhu Wenchao lüezhuan” (A Brief Biography of Zhu Wenchao, My Father). In Kunshan wenshi-Zhu Leizhang zhuanji (Literature and History in Kunshan: Special Issue of Zhu Leizhang), 15–18. N.P., 2005.Google Scholar
  69. Zuigao fayuan panli bianji weiyuanhui. Zuigao fayuan panli yaozhi (hedingben) (The Essence of Supreme Court Precedents [Bound Volume]). Shanghai: Dadong shuju, 1946.Google Scholar
  70. Zunyan. “Quan Lu Genrong wuzai shangsu” ([I] Suggest that Lu Genrong Not Appeal Again). Jing bao, June 30, 1929.Google Scholar
  71. “Zuochen jixu tishen Lu Genrong” (Lu Genrong Continued to be Tried Yesterday Morning). Shi bao, June 8, 1929.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiliang He
    • 1
  1. 1.Illinois State UniversityNormalUSA

Personalised recommendations