An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Fajing 法經

Nov 9, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Fajing 法經 "Book of standards" was a penal law code created by Li Kui 李悝 (455-395 BCE), counsellor-in-chief of Marquis Wen 魏文侯 (r. 424-387) of the state of Wei 魏 during the early Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE).

The Fajing was the earliest codified penal law of all regional states of the Zhou period 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). It was based on earlier attempts at reforming the penal law from a more or less arbitrary form to a regularized form.

The code was six-chapters long. The first chapter (Daofa 盜法) dealt with the appropriation of public or private funds, or theft and robbery. The second chapter (Zeifa 賊法) regulated the punishment of criminals, especially bandits and rebels. These two aspects were most important for public security, and were therefore always dealt with in the first few chapters of ancient law codes. The third chapter (Wangfa 網法 or Qiufa 囚法) regulated conviction and emprisonment, the fourth chapter (Bufa 捕法) was dedicated to the arrestation of delinquents. The fifth chapter (Zafa 雜法) included miscellaneous regulations, and the last chapter (Jufa 具法) described penal tools.

The Fajing was a code including regulations of the penal law and lawsuits for penal matters. A large part of the content provided the basis for the traditional Chinese legal system in shape, concept and content. It is important to note that the penal law was to be applied to all persons regardless of their social position. The Fajing is therefore the legal implementation of the legalist concept of equality before the law. Yet it also provided the fundament for the extremely harsh and cruel punishment in contrast to rather ill-defined crimes, an antagonism continuously to be found in the legal history of China.

Table 1. Chapters of the Fajing 法經
1 盜法 Standards for robbery and theft
2 賊法 Standards for banditry
3 網法 (囚法) Standards for detention
4 捕法 Standards for arrestation
5 雜法 Miscellaneous standards
6 具法 Standards for tools
Chen Jiong 陳炯 (1985). "Fajing shi zhuzuo bu shi fadian 《法經》是著作不是法典, Xiandai faxue 現代法學, 1985 (8).
Pu Jian 蒲堅 (1984). "Fajing bianwei 《法經》辨僞", Faxue yanjiu 法學研究, 1984 (8), 23.
Wang Zhongtian 王中田 (2013). "Zhanguo chunian Wei guo Li Kui bianfa ji qi Fajing tanyuan 戰國初年魏國李悝變法及其《法經》探源", Lantai shijie 蘭台世界, 2013 (12).
Yu Ronggen 俞榮根 (1980). "Fajing he Li Kui de zhengzhi falü sixiang 《法經》和李悝的政治法律思想", Xiandai faxue 現代法學, 1980 (6).
Zhang Jing 張警 (1983). "Qiguokao Fajing yinwen zhenwei xiyi 《七國考》《法經》引文真僞析疑", Faxue yanjiu 法學研究, 1983 (12).
Zhang Na 張娜, Ma Hongjuan 馬紅娟 (2013). "Xian-Qin Fajing de dianzhang zhidu kaobian 先秦《法經》的典章制度考辨", Lantai shijie 蘭台世界, 2013 (8).
Zhou Fazeng 周發增, Chen Longtao 陳隆濤, Qi Jixiang 齊吉祥, ed. (1998). Zhongguo gudai zhengzhi zhidu cidian 中國古代政治制度史辭典 (Beijing: Shoudu shifan daxue chubanshe), 123.