It is initially odd to ask whether Confucianism is compatible with systems of law. Confucian thought has co-existed with Chinese legal systems throughout the various dynasties of China’s long history. Nevertheless, despite the extensive laws that China has boasted, traditional Chinese legal thought is not typically recognized as a genuine rule-of-law system, given its focus on moral development and the “rule of man.” In this essay, we argue that Confucianism, specifically Pre-Qin Confucianism, is compatible with the rule-of-law. We examine the different models of compatibility, including “soft compatibilism” in which we examine whether abstract concepts between Confucianism and legal systems are compatible, as well as co-existing and integrating compatibilism. Co-existing compatibilism sees Confucianism and the law occupying different spheres within the same legal system while integrating compatibilism sees Confucianism and the law coming together into a new system. In this way, Confucianism offers China an alternative to liberal democratic and Marxist theories of law.

Included in

Law Commons