“This work is an achievement that will endure. It is an indispensable reference for anyone engaged in the study of Vietnamese history and culture. It is also a testament to Vietnam’s historic participations, with China, Korea, and Japan, in the larger Confucian cultural world.”
K. W. Taylor, Journal of Southeast Asia Studies
The Lê Code: Law in Traditional Vietnam is the first English translation of the penal code produced by Vietnam’s Lê Dynasty (1428-1788). The code itself was the culmination of a long process of political, social and legal development that extended into the period of the succeeding Nguyen Dynasty and, in many respects, into the twentieth century.
As is the case with cultures of other countries in East Asia, Vietnam has been widely influenced by China. However, even though Vietnam was dominated by China from the second century B.C. through the tenth century A.D., the spirit and culture of the Vietnamese people never disappeared. Like the traditional codes of Korea and Japan, the Lê Code incorporated many provisions from the Chinese T’ang Code, but the Vietnamese code contains original features which reflect the distinct socio-cultural and political realities of Vietnamese society. Thus, The Lê Code is a valuable instrument for gauging the extent of Chinese influence in Vietnam and the limits of that influence as well.
In order to emphasize the Vietnamese innovations, many of which were extremely modern even by Western standards, and to point out the similarities between the Lê Code and its Chinese models, the authors have compared the Vietnamese code with several of its Chinese predecessors. They have enriched the text with substantial legal and historical annotations not only on the Lê period, but also on the dynasties immediately preceding and following it. The product is at the same time a work of history and a comparative study of the traditional Chinese and Vietnamese law.
Only after their exile in 1975 have the authors, lawyers in Vietnam and experts in Sino-Vietnamese law, been able to devote the time and energy necessary to translate this work. They have used legal analysis, historical, political and social inquiry in order to compile a study of East Asian law that is more extensive in legal and historical details than any other Western language translation of an East Asian law code.
Tran Tu Binh (1907–1967) was a young revolutionary who rose to the rank of general in the army of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and later filled the important post of ambassador to People’s Republic of China.
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