Greater China Legal History Seminar Series – ‘Contracts as Tools to Promote Morality and Social Order: The Tang Dynasty’s Regulation of Contractual Relationships’ by Prof. Chunlin Leonhard (Online)

Some legal scholars seem to believe that China historically did not develop any sophisticated contract laws. My research and review of contemporaneous records of laws on contractual relationships as well as archeological evidence of extant contracts from the Tang Dynasty (618 to 907 CE) show that dynastic China had developed a body of sophisticated contract law at least by the Tang Dynasty. Evidence shows that the Tang rulers regulated contractual relationships extensively. They issued rules on people’s capacity to contract and subject matters of contracts. Tang laws imposed certain contract formalities and procedural requirements for certain important transactions. They also imposed warranties of quality in some sales contracts. Extant contracts from the Tang Dynasty reveal that Tang Chinese conceptualized their commercial relationships in legal terms and used contracts to protect their interests and to allocate risks between themselves, like their modern counterparts. The Tang rulers’ regulation of contracts was aimed at maintaining the desired social structure and stability, and promoting the moral teachings about trustworthiness.

Other Greater China Legal History Seminar Series