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Songxingtong 宋刑統

Apr 3, 2021 © Ulrich Theobald

Songxingtong 宋刑統, full title Song Longjian chong xiangding xingtong 宋建隆重詳定刑統 or Longjian xingtong 建隆刑統 (called so because it was compiled during the reign-period Jianlong 建隆, 960-962), was a preliminary law code of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279). It was compiled and published in 963 under the supervision of Dou Yi 竇儀 (914-966), Su Xiao 蘇曉 and Feng Shuxiang 馮叔向 and relied on the codes of earlier dynasties. The book was also the first printed law code of China. The book replaced an older code called Xiande xingtong 顯德刑統 (named after the reign-period Xiande 顯德, 954-960, of the Later Zhou dynasty 後周 951-960).

The first Song Code reflects the change from the traditional 律-type law to a combination of a basic code and substantial supplements, as seen in the Tang-period 唐 (618-907) law collection Dazhong xinglü tonglei 大中刑律統類, which added to the -type laws supplementary regulations of the four types instructions (chi 敕), statutes of administrative law (ling 令), regulations (ge 格), and ordinances (shi 式; Johnson 1979: 5). These were arranged according to categories (lei 類) of crime or jurisdiction.

The Songxingtong is more or less a copy of Tang-period regulations as seen in the code Tanglü shuyi 唐律疏議, with few changes, mostly eliminations of articles of the Later Zhou code. It is, nonetheless, a comprehensive law canon meeting the needs of the early Song regime. The book has a length of 31 juan and is divided into 12 chapters (pian 篇) and 213 sub-chapters (men 門 with 502 articles (tiao 條), 177 of which were of the ling, ge, or shi type. It remained the base of Song-period law until the demise of the dynasty.

Even if the wording remained the same as in the Tang code, the practice of Song-period justice was different, for instance, through the "law of converting the punishment of beating with the stick" (zhezhang fa 折杖法) by which strokes with the stick on the back or the buttock (jizhang 脊杖, tunzhang 臀杖) were applied as additional punishments (fujia xing 附加刑), for instance, to exile or penal labour. The number of strokes depended on the seriousness of the crime. One article added was the transfer of the property of a dissolved household (hujue zichan 戶絕資產) to close or distant relatives, a regulation derived from the Tang-period statutes for death and funerals (sangzang ling 喪葬令). Another novel paragraph regulated the property of Chinese and foreign merchants who had died, or the taxes on land owned by females. On the other hand, the Songxingtong eliminated obsolete designations like buqu 部曲 (serf, originally private troops), kenü 客女 (female serf), or nubi 奴婢 (slaves). This also shows that the institution of slavery and serfdom had practically ceased to exist.

One of the oldest surviving editions of the Songxingtong is found in the series Jiayetang congshu 嘉業堂叢書.

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