Rule of virtue and rule of law are institutional tools for maintaining social order. This paper selects typical cases recorded in “Biographies of Honest and Law-Abiding” in the official history and summarizes the practices and experiences of the ancient rulers in implementing the rule of virtue and the rule of law in the practice of governance. The honest and upright officials with the rule of virtue as the foundation aimed to develop the economy, benefit the people and enrich the people, and then teach them and promote ethical indoctrination. However, they did not rely on indoctrination alone, and those who could not be indoctrinated were punished according to law. Punishment was based on indoctrination. Litigation was transformed into a process of indoctrination as much as possible, and the rule of virtue and the rule of law were integrated with the process of litigation. Through indoctrination, the Confucian ideal of “no litigation” was gradually achieved. However, with the development of the commodity economy, social problems became more complex. Some local officials went to great lengths to pursue “zero litigation” in order to flaunt their achievements,which however deviated from the Confucian concept of “benevolent government.”
For a long time, scholars viewed the relationship between virtue and law from the perspective of dichotomy, or viewed the nature of ancient Chinese “law is punishment.” Based on the proposition that virtue and law complement and harmonize with each other by pre-Qin Confucians, contemporary scholars propose the integration of virtue and law and the concept of “virtuous rule of law.” From the perspective of historical development, law is a governance tool adapted to the complexity of society and the need to enrich the country and strengthen the army. From the logic of the development of political thoughts, law is a proposition to realize “impartiality” and oppose “partiality,” which has the spiritual essence of universality, objectivity, and impartiality. According to Xunzi, law is a system of love based on justice and principles; ritual rules have not only the function of social norms, but also the function of moral education. The aim of law, established, deliberated, and practiced by persons of character, is to achieve a kingly virtue-centered society full of rite, music, justice, order, harmony, and happiness. In Xunzi’s political philosophy, the idea of “virtuous rule of law” is finally realized.
Lü Simian has been regarded as the leading historian among those who made comprehensive and systematic studies on the system in the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern dynasties. There are many thought-provoking contents in his papers and monographs about the legal system of the Northern Wei Dynasty. As a minority regime that ruled the Central Plains, the Northern Wei Dynasty witnessed many problems in the judicial practice between Xianbei’s traditional customary law and criminal law written in Chinese characters. The process of overcoming various conflicts formed thereby was intertwined with the sinicization of Xianbei. Therefore, the treatment process of the Northern Wei regime contained deep political wisdom and had important influences on later generations.
The large-scale special law sources in the Song Dynasty were diverse, and the special law in Tang Shi and Tang Liusi Ge opened the source of Song special laws. In addition to inheriting and drawing on special laws from the Tang and the Five Dynasties, the Song Dynasty also independently enacted a series of special laws in accordance with its own governance needs. Special laws were compiled from the emperor’s order, and their effectiveness rank was no longer lower than Ling like in the Tang Shi. In the seventh year of Yuanfeng reign, the code was reformed and was divided into four types: Chi, Ling, Ge, and Shi. Besides general laws, special laws could also be divided into different types: Chi, Ling, Ge, and Shi. In the construction of the new legal system, the special code pedigree of the Tang Ling was absorbed and inherited by the Song Ling. At this point, the new legal system and the dual structure of common laws and special laws in the Song Dynasty were formally formed.
The continuous growth of regulations in the Qing Dynasty has been documented and explained by voluminous literature. However, this study finds that this literature does not capture the full picture. The upward trend in the number of new regulations in The Great Qing Code is not sustained throughout the entire Qing Dynasty. Additionally, there are differences between various types of new regulations. The growth of regulations mainly occurs before the middle period of the Qianlong reign, but afterwards there is a decline. However, the decline in the growth rate of new regulations and precedents of the central government departments of the bureaucracy is relatively weaker and not as sustained as regulations in The Great Qing Code. With the change in the number, the structure of the regulations has also changed. The importance of “enacting regulations based on cases” increases compared with “enacting regulations based on high rank officers’ suggestions.”The tendency toward “criminalization” in The Great Qing Code is also strengthened. In the meantime, “governing officials” remains the main source of central regulations for The Great Qing Code. Governing officials also shapes the relationship between local government and society, and this provides a bit of room for private regulations to gain legal validity indirectly. This source of legislation increases the adaptability of the governance of the Qing Dynasty.