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Civil mediation in imperial, republican and modern-day China

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Historical and cultural norms under the traditional Chinese legal order

image of Tijdschrift voor Rechtsgeschiedenis / Revue d'Histoire du Droit / The Legal History Review

This article explores the position of mediation as a means of civil disputes resolution in China’s legal history. While civil adjudication existed in imperial China, the legal tradition of wu song (‘[a society] free from litigation’) played a fundamental role in shaping China’s imperial civil justice system. Under the Confucian ideology, disputes of a civil nature should be settled through conciliatory means so that the amicable relations of the disputants could be maintained. The culture of face-saving and the maintenance of cordial relations remains a distinctive characteristic of the modern Chinese society. This legal historical background provided the ideological foundation for civil procedural systems during the Republican era (1911-1949) and the early days of the People’s Republic (since 1949). The current debate on the contemporary mediation system is placed into the appropriate context when one understands that civil process in China today still operates under the shadow of cultural norms of the traditional Chinese legal order.

Affiliations: 1: Assistant Professor, City University of Hong Kong, Tat Chee Avenue, Kowloon Tong, Kowloon, Hong Kong, China


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