Advocating Impartiality, Emphasizing Criminal Law and Neglecting Civil Law

  • Jinfan Zhang


In China, the ancient form of the character “Fa” (law, punishment) was “灋”. According to a record in Shuo Wen Jie Zi (Origin of Chinese Characters) written by Xu Shen, “‘Fa’ (灋) means punishment, which seemed as even as the surface of water. The right part of the character is composed of ‘廌’ (an animal in Chinese legend, which can tell right from wrong) and ‘去’ (to remove), which means to remove the things that are not right”; the left part of the character was “氵”, which symbolizes “water” and means that punishments should be as even as the surface of water, or in other words, punishments should be carried out impartially. Therefore, it had not only shown the expectations that the people in the ancient times had about law, but also the value that the law itself was supposed to have, and the standard of self-discipline for the ancient judicial officials. In Western Han Dynasty, Huan Tan said, “The administration of prison is like the administration of water”, and the law should be enforced by justice and impartiality. In Chinese, the character “Fa” (law) was composed of “廌” and “去”, which had implied both justice and righteousness. So, it could be seen from the origin of the Chinese character that “law” had carried a connotation of impartiality and justice by itself.


Death Penalty Corporal Punishment Qing Dynasty Penal Code Song Dynasty 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jinfan Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.China University of Political Science and LawBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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