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The Revised and Newly Endorsed Code for the Designation of Reign ‘Celestial Prosperity’ (1149-69) [Изменённый и заново утверждённый кодекс девиза царствования: Небесное процветание (1149-1169)]. In 4 vols, ed. by Ye.I.Kychanov. Vol. 3: Facsimile edition, translation, notes (chapters 8-12). Moscow 1989. (Pamyatniki pismennosti Vostoka, LXXXI, 3).


The Revised and Newly Endorsed Code for the Designation of Reign ‘Celestial Prosperity’ (1149-69) is the fundamental law code of the Tangut Hsi-Hsia state (982-1227). It was found in May-June 1909 by the Russian traveller P. K. Kozlov in the dead city of Khara-Khoto (the Edzina aimak,the Autonomous Region of Inner Mongolia in China). It is now in the Tangut collection of manuscripts at the Institute of Oriental Studies (Leningrad), USSR Academy of Sciences.

The Hsi-Hsia, or the Tangut is a dead language. The last 25 to 30 years of its studies were successful enough to read the Tangut texts and publish them with parallel translations into modern languages. All the available Tangut texts can conventionally be divided into three groups: translations of the Buddhist canon (originally in the Chinese or the Tibetan languages), translations of Chinese civic writings (Confucian classical texts, military treatises, documents, etc.), and original Tangut writings (glossaries, law texts, documents, etc.). Texts in the third group are most interesting and not numerous; they are virtually lacking in foreign collections.

The present code survived in 150 odd fragments which have been arranged by chapters, restored and stitched into books. Several fragments have duplicates. The publication combines a complete text of over 1200 pages. Also survived is the list of all chapters, the total of 1460. We estimate that the original text had 800 folios (Tangut pagination) or 1600 modern pages which suggests that the text is complete 78 per cent to 80 per cent.

The code was compiled under the Tangut emperor Jen-hsiao for the designation of reign of Celestial Prosperity (1149-69), by a commission of twenty three, including seventeen Tanguts and six Chinese. There were two earlier works: a military code, The Jade Mirror of Military Command of the Chen-kuan Reign (1101-13), also available in fragments; and an unknown to us code of the Tangut state, the one that was “revised and newly endorsed”. It is mentioned in the survived fragments of The Jade Mirror.

The Tangut code is a Far Eastern legal monument based on the Chinese law. It differs, however, from Chinese codes of that time com-positionally and by the arrangement of articles. China had two basic legal systems, lii and ling (criminal laws or codes and admini strative statutes). The Tanguts combined both in their code and altered the arrangement of articles. In Chinese codes an article first outlines the standard of law and then details it while the Tanguts adopted a type of article used in contemporary codes. If an article was too large it was divided into paragraphs detailing more specific cases in the limits of a given standard of law.

The code incorporated 20 chapters. Chapter 1: regulations traditionally classified by the Chinese as ‘Ten Abominations’ or offenses against the emperor, the state and the moral standards endorsed by the state and the society. Chapter 2: the application of the measure of punishments (privileges for the merits before the state, correlation between the official title and the measure of punishment, application of the measure of punishment to those who are aged, juvenile or physically and/or mentally disabled, etc.). The chapter also features a conventional system of relations between relatives when they are mourning for a dead, used to coordinate the measure of punishment in case of offenses against each other.

Chapter 3: offences involving illicit goods obtained through malfeasance (robbery by stealth or by force), and legal regulations affecting mortgage or borrowing agreements. Chapter 4: the rules for the frontier guard. Chapter 5: the regulations affecting the giving, keeping and accounting of state-owned war horses, armour and weapons. Chapter 6: mobilization regulations and punishment to persons failing to observe them. Chapter 7: laws affecting the runners from among the Hsi-Hsia and foreigners subject to Hsi-Hsia rule, government prohibitions (e. g. making and possession of weapons), the treasury's monopoly of foreign trade, labour services. Chapter 8: crimes such as arson, offenses against individuals (unpremeditated woundings or killings), marriage laws. Chapter 9: the criminal process specifying investigation, questioning and judgement. Chapter 10: a list of Tangut administrative bodies and the regulations dealing with promotion. Chapter 11: articles deal with three groups of problems: receptions and departures of foreign embassies, the life of Buddhist and Dao Hsi-Hsia communities and certain regulations dealing with use of property. Chapter 12 has three sections: malfeasance involving annual tax registers and labour services registers, consealment or loss of important documents, definition of the responsibilities of persons “awaiting an edict” or the guards and emperor's officials. Chapter 13: the right to accuse and rules for sending paitza (tally) messengers. Chapter 14: personal offenses (fist fights and injuries resulting therefrom). Unfortunately, only few pages of the chapter survived.

Chapter 15: the economic activity in Hsi-Hsia (land tax, irrigation). Chapter 16 is totally missing. The contents suggest that it could contain tenancy laws. Chapters 17 and 18: laws regulating the work of .state-owned storages and a few laws relating to domestic trade in Hsi-Hsia. Chapter 19 is devoted to animal husbandry. Chapters 15-19 deal exclusively with economic matters in the Tangut-state. We cannot but regret that Chapter 16 has not survived and the rest of the chapters have numerous lacunae. The final Chapter 20 is related to punishments (death penalty, penal servitude, flogging).

This edition is published in four volumes. Volume 1 gives information about this code and other survivals of Tangut law (The Jade Mirror, New Laws, manuscript No. 4189). It is mostly a study. Tangut law is considered by sections: personal status, crime and its participants, crimes falling under the ‘Ten Abominations’, the penal system, application of punishments, process law, criminal law, offenses against individuals, crime involving property, misappropriations), civil law (law of possession: property rights, mortgage, compulsory law, borrowing agreement, buying and selling, marriage and family laws), administrative regulations, military law.

The text itself is divided into three volumes: Volume 2 (Chapters 1-7), Volume 3 (Chapters 8-12), Volume 4 (Chapters 13-20). There are not many commentaries to the translation since we believe that Volume 1 is explicit enough in this sence. Philological comments are left outside the scope of the present work. The glossary features the main juridical terms, geographic names, titles, and basic administrative bodies of Hsi-Hsia.

Tangut law was part of Far Eastern law and, on the whole, assimilated the basics of Chinese law. We try to show the similarity as well as major and slight differences therebetween. In spite of the apparent successes of the European, American and Japanese science in the studies of Chinese law in the past decades it is not adequately studied yet. In fact, no studies of any significance dedicated to medieval Chinese law appeared in China. This could not but affect the standard of our study as well. The code helped to reveal certain institutions specific to Tangut society. Gwon deserves special mention as the main military, administrative and economic cell of Tangut society, as does the existence of a class of personally deprived phingga (slaves) and nini (slave women) opposed to personally ‘clean’ or free.

Describing property law in Tangut society we deemed it necessary to adress ourselves to a thesis, made by noted Soviet law historian Prof. A. V. Venediktov, on dominium divisum as a form of property helping to explain the phenomena specific to many precapitalist societies, including Hsi-Hsia: the possession of phingga and the right of the master to the property of the phingga and his family members, certain restrictions to buying and selling land, property right to ch'ang chu, or people given free to Buddhist temples by the treasury, etc.

Rather than seeking an excuse, we objectively evaluate the results of the many years of work (started in 1968) and would like to warn the reader against any error or inaccuracy one may come across in the text. The reasons for this are many and substantial (inadequate knowledge of the dead Tangut language, the specifics of terminology and its continuing to be virtually unknown) complicated by subjective reasons (the translator learned the Tangut language by himself). The basic legal terminology of the Tangut language was classified by way of recurrent translations of the text. Therefore, though we hope that our translation is on the whole adequate we stress that further work on the text must be done by all thoee interested in it, more so that texts of this volume and content, as the history of science testifies, are translated into various languages and studied more than once over decades and even centuries. Our duty, as we felt it was to give a new lease on life to this interesting and imporant medieval monument of the Far East and Centra Asia, which has survived all the adversities of time. This time not as an active law code, but as a survived link in the many centuries of the law history of all countries and nations.


Аннотация, Оглавление


Hsi Hsia
Tangut law
Tangut mansucripts

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