Canon of Laws

"Book of Law" redirects here. For the occult text by Aleister Crowley, see The Book of the Law.

The Canon of Laws or Classic of Law (Chinese: ; pinyin: Fǎ Jīng) is a lost legal code that has been attributed to Lǐ Kuǐ (Chinese: ), a Legalist scholar and minister who lived in the State of Wei during the Warring States Period of Chinese history (475-220 BCE). This code has traditionally been dated to the early fourth century BCE, but scholars now widely consider it to be a forgery from the fifth or sixth century CE.[1][2][3][4][5][6]

According to the traditional account, which first appeared in the monograph on law (Xingfa zhi 刑法志) of the Book of Jin, the Canon of Laws was the earliest legal canon of ancient China and became the basis for all later legal works.[7] It is said that Legalist reformer Shāng Yǎng (Chinese: ) took it to the State of Qin where it became the basis of the law of the State of Qin (Chinese: ; pinyin: Qīn Lü) and later the law of the Qin Dynasty.[8]

Although the original text has been lost, according to later records the Canon of Laws comprised six chapters:


  1. Ogawa Shikegi, "On Li K'uei's Fa-ching," Tōyō gakuhō (Kyōto) 4 (1933): 278-79.
  2. A.F.P. Hulsewé, Remnants of Han Law (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1955), pp. 28-30.
  3. Timoteus Pokora, "The Canon of Laws of Li K'uei: A Double Falsification?" Archiv Orientalni 27 (1959): 96-121.
  4. A.F.P. Hulsewé, "The Legalists and the Laws of Ch'in," in Leyden Studies in Sinology: Papers Presented at the Conference Held in Celebration of the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Sinological Institute of Leyden University, December 8–12, 1980 (Leyden: E.J. Brill, 1981), p. 8.
  5. Herrlee G. Creel, "Legal Institutions and Procedures During the Chou Dynasty," in Essays on China's Legal Tradition, ed. by Jerome A. Cohen, R. Randle Edwards, and Fu-mei Chang Chen (Princeton University Press, 1980), p. 37.
  6. Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History: A Manual, Revised and Enlarged (Harvard University Asia Center, 2000), p. 541.
  7. A.F.P. Hulsewé, Remnants of Han Law (Leiden: Brill, 1955), pp. 28.
  8. A.F.P. Hulsewé, Remnants of Han Law (Leiden: Brill, 1955), pp. 29.

Other references

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