Emperor Wu of Han Dynasty severely punished the law: more than 300 laws and decrees, more than 10000 kinds of capital crimes

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Ancient officials’ enthusiasm for “learning law”

In ancient times, it was not a society ruled by law, but making laws was one of the important means for emperors to govern the country. In the Han Dynasty, for example, there were numerous decrees. Xiao Hezuo’s nine chapters, Han Xin’s military law, and shusuntong’s instrument law. By the time of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, “there were more than 10000 kinds of capital crimes in every 359 chapters of laws and decrees. Legal documents abound in several pavilions, and those who write them cannot be seen everywhere”. After the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the state issued more decrees.

Attach great importance to the study of law by officials

Since there was law, the emperor naturally attached great importance to the study of law by officials. Li Si, the Prime Minister of Qin, once reported to Qin Shihuang that “if you want to learn laws and regulations, you should take officials as teachers”, which means that people who want to learn laws and regulations must take officials at all levels as teachers.

Tang Ruizong is also a model of advocating officials to learn law. He once ordered: “the form of laws and decrees is the foundation of politics. Both internal and external officials should look for them when they have time to retreat from food. They should still write them on the wall of the hall, look down and avoid forgetting.” The last few sentences of this paragraph mean that officials at all levels should post the legal provisions on the wall of the organ courtyard, so that officials can read them at any time and keep them in mind.

Successive emperors not only advocated officials to learn the law, but also strictly assessed, rewarded and punished officials, and guided officials to consciously learn and use the law.

During the reign of Emperor Taizong of Song Dynasty, he initiated the “qualification examination for legal knowledge of leading cadres”. The specific measures are as follows: organize a unified “trial” examination for officials at all levels after the expiration of their term of office every year; The content of the examination is that the examiner provides several judicial cases and other materials, and the candidates write judicial judgments according to the materials, so as to comprehensively examine whether the candidates are familiar with laws and regulations, whether they can master them, and even whether the arts and sciences are smooth, and whether the calligraphy is beautiful. This method not only forces officials to seriously study the law, but also gives up “rote memorization” and learns to flexibly use the law to handle official affairs; After the examination, the imperial court decided the rise and fall of officials according to their examination results.

The Ming and Qing Dynasties were different

Ming Dynasty officials not only learned law in the national unified legal textbooks, that is, the official law formula compiled by the imperial court (equivalent to the current “civil servant law enforcement rules”), Moreover, it also stipulates the assessment and punishment measures for officials to learn the law: “all national laws and regulations… All officials must be familiar with them, explain the law and decide the affairs. They must be assessed one by one in each middle of the year. If they can’t explain the law and don’t know the law, they will be fined for one month for the first time, 40 for the second time, and demoted to this yamen for three times.” Compared with the Song Dynasty, which only “deposed officials”, the punishment measures of the Ming Dynasty were indeed uncivilized because they involved “spanking”.

Compared with the Ming Dynasty, the Qing Dynasty was not only more strict, but also often carried out surprise inspections. “The case of the Great Qing assembly” contains a manuscript approved by the Emperor Yongzheng in the third year: “at the end of the year, the court official of the Ministry of punishment summoned the Manchu and Han officials, picked out a piece of the law at their discretion, and ordered them to recite it completely. The examination was divided into upper, middle and lower grades, and listed the ranking and news.” It was said that at the end of a certain year, the Minister of justice of the Qing Dynasty suddenly summoned cadres and workers, picked out one of the laws at that time, asked cadres to write it down on the spot, and then divided the examination results into upper, middle and lower, and reported it to the emperor. It is not difficult to imagine that the honor and joy of an official with excellent scores can be imagined when he thinks that his name can be known to the emperor.

“Proficient in law” can be rapidly improved

It is important to advocate and assess the study of law, but the bold promotion or even exceptional promotion of officials who are proficient in the application of law may be the fundamental reason why there was a “law learning fever” in ancient officialdom.

“Han Dynasty ยท Lu Wenshu biography” said: when Lu Wenshu was herding sheep, he took cutting cattail as an ultimatum, read and studied books, and was hired as a petty official by the County Department; “Because of learning laws and regulations”, he was promoted to prison history (equivalent to the warden); Continue to study and persevere, “what are the doubts in the county?”. From “petty officials” to “prison history”, this was indeed a great leap at that time, because brother Lu still continued to study and soon served as the legal adviser of the county government, and there was really no “hidden rule” to complete this difficult “gorgeous turn”, because brother Lu liked to study law.

In ancient times, not only “temporary workers” were promoted because of studying law, but even if you were a “released person after serving a sentence”, as long as you were proficient in law, you could also “return” to be an official.

During the reign of emperor Xuandi of the Han Dynasty, Xia housheng, an academic leader who was famous in China for his study of the Shangshu, was imprisoned and became a “cellmate” with Huang Ba, an official of the former Prime Minister’s office. In the process of serving his sentence together, Xia housheng felt that Huang BA was quite talented in the legal field. A few years later, after the two were released after serving their sentences, Xia housheng immediately recommended Huang Ba to the emperor after being “rehabilitated” as the Minister of state supervision, on the grounds that he was very proficient in the law. Soon, Huang BA was appointed governor of Yangzhou by the imperial court.

Under heavy rewards, there must be brave men. Since “being proficient in law” can also be rapidly improved, so “learning law” in ancient officialdom has become a common practice, and some famous masters have quickly identified this huge market. They have used their own fame as brand resources to establish private schools, took the study of law and order as the school’s ace major, widely recruited officials and scholars at all levels as students, and made a fortune. Dong Zhongshu wrote his own legal research experience as “sixteen chapters of Gongyang prison treatment” and taught students to make money in his private college; At that time, there were also a group of “wonderful” figures who were proficient in law. In order to make a big fortune, they quit their posts and specialized in training.

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