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The historical development of the Civil Law tradition in China: a private law perspective

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While Chinese law occupies a sui generis position, namely, East Asian law, it is generally acknowledged that Chinese law comfortably wears the dress of civil law. The Chinese civil law tradition finds its historical roots in the late Qing Dynasty (1902–1911). Long before Alan Watson's magisterial book on the legal transplant, China experimented with importing foreign law. More to the point, the newly enacted Chinese Property Code, in effect for more than two years still has this feature. The new property code is an evolution rather than a revolution, since it is little more than an organic development of the existing law. Consequently, one would expect to find in the new legislation many traces of its past history. It is worth noting that any legal development is not a complete break with its past. Chinese law is no exception. A historical perspective exploring the origin of the traditions of civil law is both necessary and useful for it can shed light on the direction of the future development of Chinese private law.

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


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