Enlightened Judgments, The, Ch'ing-ming Chi

The Sung Dynasty Collection

Translated by Brian E. McKnight & James T. C. Liu

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791442449, 580 pages, August 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442432, 580 pages, September 1999

Table of contents

List of Charts and Illustrations



The Enlightened Judgments

(Ching-ming Chi)

Contents of the Translation

Part 1. Officials

Part 2. Taxes and Services

Part 3. Academic Affairs

Part 4. Households and Marriage

Part 5. Human Relationships

Part 6. Categories of Persons

Part 7. Chastising Evil

Appendix A. Sung Local Administrative Units and Their Major Functionaries

Appendix B. Conversion of Penalties during the Southern Sung

Appendix C. Sung Measurements




The first English translation of a selection of legal documents from Sung Dynasty China, this work provides a fascinating look at the legal, social, and economic history of that era.


The Enlightened Judgments introduces everyday life in thirteenth-century China. The Sung Dynasty author of the collection brought together a host of documents selected from local judicial decisions and official papers to provide insights into contemporary life and its problems. It introduces a wonderful cast of Chinese characters–soldiers, merchants, gamblers, fishmongers, farmers, prostitutes, officials, local clerks, boatmen, military officers, Buddhist monks, lowly members of the imperial clan, local strongmen, and landlords. Relatives support one another or argue bitterly over property, abuse one another physically and verbally, or stand together resolutely in the face of outside trouble. Marriages, divorces, adoptions, inheritances, and commercial dealings of various sorts provide the core topics of the judicial decisions. Petty crimes–assaults between fishmongers, extortions by fishermen, even dressing in drag–are mixed with brutal stories that touch on torture, homicide, and enslavement. No other work so vividly portrays the difficulties of daily life in China a millennium ago.

This work offers translations of the original texts, introductions that set these pieces in context, and headnotes to each entry which provide a brief guide to clarify the content of the selection.

Brian E. McKnight is Professor of East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Law and Order in Sung China. James T. C. Liu was Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies at Princeton University. He was the author of China Turning Inward; Qu-yang Hsiu: An Eleventh Century Neo-Confucianist; and Reform in Sung China.


"McKnight and Liu have produced a good translation of valuable material. " — China Review International

"The Enlightened Judgments is an outstanding work. It could be the most important book published in Sung studies in the last decade or more, and it will be of considerable importance to the study of other periods of Chinese history, as well as to scholars and students of world history, local government, and comparative law. " — Bettine Birge, University of Southern California

"This is an extremely significant topic and work. The Ch'ing-ming Chi is one of the most important sources for the socioeconomic history not only for the Sung, but for all of premodern China. As the introduction explains, the complete version of the work was only discovered in the 1980s, making it easily the most important newly discovered work in Sung history. Moreover, save for snippets in several books and dissertations, it has not been published in English. " — John Chaffee, author of The Thorny Gates of Learning in Sung China, New Edition