The Chinese Culture The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee allows its readers to gain a perspective of the people and culture of China. This novel translated by Robert Van Guilin demonstrates the ideology of Chinese law of that point in time. Judge Dee, during the Tang Dynasty, was a well-known statesman and a magistrate to a town called Chang-Ping. He was known to be a famous detective, in which he could solve all crimes through careful investigation.
In the Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, he is faced with three murders, which develop throughout the book. First of the three murders was the murder of the two silk merchants. Second was the sudden death of a young husband, and thirdly was the poisoning of a bride in her nuptial chamber. As Judge Dee begins solving the crimes, the story unfolds slowly and shows the reader the history of China. The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, takes place in the Tang dynasty during which one can observe how the Chinese authoritative views were strict, the laws and punishment which were enforced, and what the outlook on the Chinese society was. Authority had a strong hold on their community and the people in the town also confined in them to help them and solve crimes.
The community also knew the consequences of committing a crime and severity of the consequences it bared not only the individual but also on their families and their local community. Judge Dee and with the help of his associates, begins solving the crime through much observation and through his clever and keen senses. He used methods and tools such as, going undercover, using underground sources, interrogation, and forensic science to solve his problems. Much of his tactics can be compared to how today's western society solves their crimes. We can see the Asian influence in solving crime matters when Judge Dee uses religion, ghosts, and dreams to solve his crimes. Bad luck and superstition such as were also believed.
If the dead were not buried properly the Chinese felt that the dead would not let the family rest or sleep in peace. By the end of the book you could see that the use of torture and the methods of execution are more extreme than the western culture. Judge Dee went to an ancient graveyard to consults the spirit of the dead. Also executing them punished the offenders who committed the crime at the end.
Although execution was harsh enough, Judge Dee exposed their offenders where all the towns' people could see, and in a sense the community would be reminded not to offend any crimes. Also from the book you could see the sense or morality the Chinese had. They mourned the death of their ancestors and I think Judge Dee felt that he didn't want any indignities left for those who were murdered. The crimes which were committed were all solved but I feel that the consequences at the end were not fair or justice. You can compare the Chinese ethics such as humiliating the ones who offended the crime. In the Chinese culture, there seems to be a sense of guilty until proven innocent.
There was no extremity shown in how harsh the torturing could be. By torturing the guilty, it is an efficient way to make one confess but by torturing the innocent and demand confession, one would confess to a crime that they didn't commit because of the pain and torture. In reading the Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, one is exposed and can relate to the three major philosophies of the China. Dao literally means "the way" or "the path". It is best described as a philosophy rather than a religion. The Dao is not something that is easily comprehensible.
Simply thinking about what the Dao is won't provide any answers. Judge Dee exemplifies this in the matter in which he goes about to solve his crimes. He not just simply thinks about the situation or the events surrounding the crimes but also actively seeks the truth whether it be traveling far or going undercover. The Dao is the way of things; "a universal principle that underlies everything from the creation of galaxies to the interaction of human beings".
(Murphey 179) Legalism saw the law as the ultimate authority; it demanded that all members of society obeyed the decree of the law. There were three components to the Legalist model: "fa - the law, it was written out and displayed to the public. It was no longer purely at the discretion of the ruler, the shi - legitimacy, it was the position that was powerful, not the person who held the position, and the shu - arts of the ruler, the manner in which the ruler ruled with a strong hand". (Murphey 196) Judge Dee symbolizes the ultimate authority. The community seeks his knowledge, his truth, and his honesty to right the wrong and bring justice to their town. The author describes how the position was powerful and not the person, this is true when one reads the novel.
Judge is regarded with profound respect because his authoritative position as magistrate. Again we see the qualities of the strong handed shu in Judge Dee's character. One notes that he has no mercy whether you are a man or a woman. His suspicions of the widower caused him to employ torture to make her speak the truth. I was surprised to find that he would do such a thing being that she was a woman.
Again it is interesting to note how the Chinese believed in accusing and finding the person guilty until evidence proved other wise. This book provides insight as to how the Chinese judicial system functioned and the impact of how their culture and religious beliefs come into play.