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Lecture Four:Duke of Shao Tries Cases under the Pyrus Betulaefolia Tree

(english.legalinfo.gov.cn) Updated : 2017-11-30

Lecture Four:Duke of Shao Tries Cases under the Pyrus Betulaefolia Tree - the Ancient “Circuit Court” Of People-Oriented Concept

The Trial Mode of Duke of Shao in The Book of Songs (Shi Jing)

Duke of Shao, named Shi, is the younger brother of King Wu of Zhou (the first king of the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China). He was appreciated by King Wu because of his contribution to putting down insurrections among the nobles in the early Zhou dynasty. King Wu is closed for his vassal to the west of Shaanxi Qishan land grant Duke of Shao. Duke of Shao often perambulates the countrysides in his fief. The perambulation refers to visiting the grassroots. During his stay in the countrysides, he always deal with public affairs, especially tries the cases, in a thatched cottage under a pyrus betulaefolia tree (a kind of pear tree). According to the historical record, people from different classes, including ordinary people and nobles, can get fair results after the trial of Duke of Shao. The Book of Songs (Shi Jing) records a case in which a ruffian who has had a wife forces a young girl to marry with him. The young girl is unyielding and the ruffian accuses the young girl to the Duke of Shao. On the day of the trial, the young girl sets off very early due to the long distance and expresses the unyielding determination to the Duke of Shao in wet clothes with dew. The trial of the case is that the staunch girl gets her fair result, which is recorded in The Book of Songs (Shi Jing) Xing Lu. And due to the trial of Duke of Shao, the custom has been changed and there is no ruffian daring to bully girls. It is precisely because of the impartiality of the trials made by Duke of Shao, both ordinary people or nobles get fair judgment and miss Duke of Shao after his death. They compose a piece of poetry named Gan Tang to commemorate and eulogize him. The main content of Gan Tang is that “ Do not cut the pyrus betulaefolia tree, Duke of Shao rested under it; do not cut the pyrus betulaefolia tree, Duke of Shao tried the case under it.” The way of perambulation and trial aims at the convenience for the people and is generated on the basis of valuing people.

The way of on-the-spot trial carried out by Duke of Shao is based on the concept of valuing people, being favorable and convenient to people. The way of on-the-spot trial and the concept did not come out coincidentally but related to the concept of “noble morality and cautious punishment” (Ming De Shen Fa) stressed by Duke of Zhou who has been regent in the early Zhou Dynasty. Duke of Zhou realized the reason of the fall of Shang during the battle between Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty (Shang’s substituter). The reason is that the heavy punishment make Shang Dynasty lose the support of people and contribute to the demise. The lesson learned from Shang Dynasty warns the ruler of Zhou Dynasty and Duke of Zhou realizes the importance of people. Being contrary to the Shang Dynasty, Zhou Dynasty must gain people’s support for his stability. So Duke of Zhou warns his colleagues and brothers that “people should not only look oneself in the water as a mirror but also find your politic success and failure from people as a mirror”. He even mentions that “the Heaven” will follows people’s willing”(Min Zhi Suo Yu Tian Bi Cong Zhi) to warn the rulers should pay attention to win people’s support for state’s stability. It is under Duke of Zhou’s influence with the concept of “educating the people with morals” (Yi De Hua Min), “noble morality and cautious punishment”(Ming De Shen Fa) that generating the Trial mode of Duke of Shao.