Crime and Punishment in Ancient China: The T'ang-Yin-Pi-Shih

The T'ang-Yin-Pi-Shih is a record of 144 criminal and civil court cases, judged in the courts of ancient China, spanning a period of some 1,400 years of the country's history from around 300 BCE. During this period, China's judiciary was chosen from among the ranks of the country's scholar-officials, who, dispatched to various parts of the Empire often with little or no prior training in the legal arts, fulfilled the role of both investigative detective and court judge in the provincial centres of the land. Casebooks such as the T'ang-Yin-Pi-Shih were thus essential tools of the appointees, providing guidance and precedence to which to refer, when the courts were confronted with challenging cases.