Member Book: Xu, Heaven Has Eyes: A History of Chinese Law

Xiaoqun Xu's picture


I am pleased to announce that my new book, Heaven Has Eyes: A History of Chinese Law (Oxford University Press, 2020), has been published. Pp.376. ISBN: 978-0190060046.

A synthesis of my own research and the existing scholarship in the field of Chinese legal history, the book covers Chinese law and justice in criminal and civil matters from the imperial era to the post-Mao era. From the ancient times to the twenty-first century, there has been an enduring expectation or hope among the Chinese people that justice should and will be done in society, which is expressed in a popular Chinese saying, "Heaven has eyes." To the Chinese mind in the imperial era, justice was, and was to be achieved as, an alignment of Heavenly reason, state law, and human relations. Such a conception did not change until the turn of the twentieth century when Western-derived notions--natural rights, legal equality, the rule of law, judicial independence, and due process--came to replace the Confucian moral code of right and wrong, which was a fundamental shift in philosophical and moral principles that informed law and justice. The legal-judicial reform agendas since the beginning of the twentieth century (still ongoing today) stemmed from this change in the Chinese moral and legal thinking, but to materialize the said principles in everyday practices is a very different order of things, hence all the legal dramas includign tragedies in the past one century or so. The book lays out how and why that is the case.


Table of Contents:

Front matters

Introduction: Law and Justice in Chinese History

Part One: Law and Justice in Imperial China, 221 BEC—1911 CE

Chapter 1

Five Punishments--Old and New: The Evolution of Penal Codes in Imperial China

Chapter 2

From the Imperial Capital to the Magistrate's Court: Judicial Practices in Imperial China

Chapter 3

The Emperor, the Family, and the Land: Law and Order in Imperial China


Part Two: Law and Justice in Late Qing and Republican China, 1901-1949

Chapter 4

The Best of the Chinese and of the Western: Legal-Judicial Reform in the Late Qing, 1901-1911

Chapter 5

The Rule of Law, Judicial Independence, and Due Process: Ideals and Realities in the Republican Era, 1912-1949

Chapter 6

Bandits, Collaborators, and Wives/Concubines: Criminal and Civil Justice in the Republican Era, 1912-1949


Part Three: Law and Justice in Maoist China, 1949-1976

Chapter 7

 “Contradictions between the People and the Enemy”: Criminal Justice as the “Proletarian Dictatorship”

Chapter 8

 "Contradictions among the People": Mediation and Adjudication of Civil Disputes


Part Four: Law and Justice in Post-Mao China, 1977-2018

Chapter 9

The Legal System and the Rule of Law: Changes in Criminal Justice, 1977-1996

Chapter 10

 "Naked Officials" and "Heavenly Net": Changes in Criminal Justice, 1997-2016

Chapter 11

 "Look toward Money": Civil Justice in Post-Mao China


Conclusion: Heaven Has Eyes

Back matters.


For further information, please follow the link to the book on


Xiaoqun Xu

Christopher Newport University

Virginia, USA