Scholar bureaucrats in the spring and Autumn Period on the legal system: the most deterrent force is the non publication of laws

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In early China, there was no law. If the common people are guilty, how should they be judged? The old man can choose at will. Some people say that there is not really no law, but no written law. According to several legal names recorded in Zuozhuan, such as the code of the second chicken, the law of the servant District, and the law of the maomen, there are probably written laws, but they are not open to the public. Besides, at that time, most of the people were illiterate, so they could not understand it.

But in March of the sixth year of Duke Zhao of Lu, that is, in the spring of 536 BC, the state of Zheng suddenly promulgated the first written law, which caused a sensation in the world. Uncle Xiang of the state of Jin was so anxious that he wrote him a letter. The letter was very long, so we didn’t paste it all, so as to avoid the suspicion of defrauding the author’s fees. We only pasted the most important sentences:

In the past, the former king had a system of deliberation, not for the punishment, and was afraid of the people’s contention. You can’t forbid it. It’s for the sake of righteousness… The people know that there is a provision, so they don’t avoid it. They also have a desire to fight for it in the book. But if you get lucky and succeed, you can do it. In the summer, there was chaos in politics, so it was difficult to write Yu punishment… Casting a punishment book will pacify the people?

The main meaning is that Shu Xiang believes that law alone cannot govern the country well, and morality is the main factor. As long as the common people are inculcated in morality, they will exercise self-discipline. Criminal law is a necessary thing in troubled times. Moreover, if the common people know that there is a law, they will learn to read, and they will dig into the provisions of the law. Once something is so heinous that it challenges everyone’s morality, and the legal provisions do not contain it, it will not be able to cure him. Isn’t it absurd? People are only afraid of the law, they will not be afraid of the leadership. Isn’t the authority of the leadership gone? This will cause great trouble, and the country will not be able to maintain long-term stability, which will be detrimental to the moral education of future generations.

Zichan received his uncle Xiang’s long letter and smiled scornfully. He only replied with a note. I counted it. It was only 24 words in total (if Zuozhuan was not an excerpt). To sum up, it means: “now is the troubled times, and it is time to use criminal law.” The implication is, don’t feel good about yourself, but live in peace and prosperity.

In fact, Zichan is a bit naive. If we want to use the law, we don’t have to publish the law. Because a big man in modern times once said, “during the Kuomintang rule, we formulated a press law, so we can carefully study its words, grasp its braids, and exploit its loopholes. I think we’d better not use the press law, so that people won’t exploit our loopholes.”

This is probably similar to what Lao Tzu said, “when there is nothing, there is something useful”. Only things without entities can have the most deterrent power.

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