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Top>Education>Japanese-Chinese Legal Exchange


Hikaru Mori

Hikaru Mori [Profile]

Japanese-Chinese Legal Exchange

Hikaru Mori
Associate Professor of Roman Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

A history of over 1000 years of exchange

Exchange between Japan and China in the field of law goes back over a thousand years. In the 7th century, Japan formed a unified state, and when it became necessary to introduce a legal structure, the politicians of the day referred to the Chinese system, and adopted China's L湛l狸ng System.

Following that, up until the Edo era, the Chinese system was followed, wherever possible, regardless of who was in power.

Translating European law into chinese characters

The situations changed dramatically during the Meiji era. In order to transform Japan into a modern state, politicians turned to European countries such as France and Germany, on which to model their laws.

But the laws from these countries were not introduced into Japan in their original form. But they had to be translated into language that the Japanese people could understand.

So the Meiji lawmakers invented new words using chinese characters to express the concept of European law. To do so, appropriate kanji were selected from the plethora of phrases existing in the world of Chinese classics. This is how the legal terms used in Japan today were formed.

Chinese students in Japan

There was an urgent need for East Asian countries in the 19th century to Europeanize their state laws. Japan was taking the initiative in doing this, ahead of everybody else, was Japan. By the time other countries started to Europeanize their own legal systems, Japanese legal scholars had already translated the major European law concepts into chinese characters. This led to each country, China included, to refer to the Japanese model while constructing their systems. In order to do this, many students were sent to Japanese universities to study law. At one point at the start of the 20th century, 15% of graduates from Chuo University's Faculty of Law consisted of Chinese students.

Japanese-Chinese legal exchanges continued afer that. In the past few decades, many students from China have been coming to Japan to study Japanese law, and are appointed to important posts on their return to China.

Recently, there are more students going directly to European and North American countries for their studies. But the interest in Japanese law within Chinese law circles is by no means waning. A Chinese law scholar says there are many cases where laws taken from Europe and North America in their original form do not function well in China. So when we look at Japanese law, we notice that the European systems have been slightly and skillfully adjusted to suit the Japanese situation. He says that it is these slight adjustments that China uses as a model.

But the number of students who come to study in Japan is limited. Only a small number of wealthy students, and an even small number of government scholarship students, can come to Japan to study. While there is detailed literature on Japanese law in the Chinese language, it is difficult to study law only few written documents.

Little interest in Chinese law

Nowadays, there are very few Japanese students traveling to China to study law. Not surprisingly, Japanese students and researchers are focusing on Europe and North America. But many companies are branching out into China, strengthening Japanese-Chinese relations. After entering a company, many graduates are being sent to China for work. Starting with environmental problems, Japan and China form a sphere sharing the same destiny and under these circumstances, Japanese lawyers must not think about Japan only. In order to solve Japan's problems, we must work together with China.

In the future, we need Japanese lawyers with knowledge of Chinese law, but presently, we can not see a concrete road leading to this goal. Under today's legal training system, it is impossible for students to devote much time to the acquisitions of the Chinese language, let alone make time to study in China for one or two years.

125th anniversary project: the "Japan-China Legal Exchange"

In 2008, a three year plan for a Japanese-Chinese legal exchange program was introduced in Chuo University. In this program, law researchers from both countries gather with the aim of teaching each other about their respective legal systems. Students are also encouraged to participate so that knowledge of law can be carried on to the next generation in both countries.

This program is one of the events commemorating the 125th anniversary of Chuo University's establishment. Chuo University, from the time of its founding, has never attempted to bestow knowledge of law on a selected few, but has reached out to many people covering a wide area. In the advancement of globalization, we must not focus on Japan alone, but also take in views from abroad.

A symposium entitled "Japanese-Chinese Legal Exchange - Environment, Corporations and History" was held at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing. 10 students attended the 3-day conference which included reports from over 20 Chinese and Japanese researchers.

Also last year, 20 students from Chuo University took part in a conference at Shandong University. There are courses specializing in Japanese law at Shandong University's law faculty and the graduate school's law research department. Here, students concentrate on Japanese as their major foreign language, while continuing to learn about Chinese law, Japanese law and Japanese culture. At last year's symposium, students attended a lecture with Chuo students, and then held an opinion-sharing session together. This year's 125th anniversary marks the final year of the program, and the symposium this year is scheduled to be held at Chuo University.

Chinese and Japanese Students

When asked for a comparison, we can clearly see differences between Chinese and Japanese students. In the period leading up to university, Chinese students must go through fierce competition. On average, only one student from within a 10 kilometer radius of their hometown is lucky enough to progress through to university. These students have put in an enormous effort, have a sense of a mission, and possess a clear sense of purpose. They master the finer details of every legal system. However they show relatively little interest in the ideology and thought behind.

Compared to Chinese students, their Japanese counterparts appear relaxed. Very few students have a clear image of what they should be doing, or of what they will do on graduating. There are many students who do not have the ability to push on towards a goal. They make undue haste with vague and uncertain futures.

The Japanese students in this program, first and foremost, are inspired by their Chinese peers. They are surprised by the Chinese attitude to study, and are given the opportunity to reflect on their own situation. On top of this, the students' impression of China is greatly changed. Looking in from the outside, the `rough'side of Chinese law, such as the one-child policy, severe punishments, human rights issues, catch our attention. But, if one actually visits China, talks directly to Chinese teachers and asks questions, one will realize the true nature of the society behind these issues.

What lies ahead in the next twenty five years

When Chuo University was first founded under the name of the English Law School, only Tokyo University was training lawyers, and even then, no more than 10 were graduating every year. The judicial system had to be Europeanized and an increase in the number of people trained in European law was necessary. There had to be widespread knowledge of the European legal system, and this knowledge had to be spread throughout Japan. Since its inception, the English Law School has opened its doors to a vast array of students, and by creating a correspondence course, has been able to aim for the realization of conveying and dispersing legal knowledge.

One and a quarter centuries have passed since then. Recently, major developments have taken place in the Japanese legal system. In the knowledge of law that has been accumulated in that time, there is much which is worth conveying outside Japan. In today's globalizing society, East Asian countries are creating bordeless communities, and laws for these communities are being made from the bottom up.

An ancient Roman legal scholar once stated that justice, which is the source of all laws, is the intent to distribute each individual's to each individual, continuously and forever. In the future, I hope this intent can be carried on permanently in the East Asian community, and that we can nurture the people who will be entrusted with making our laws.

Hikaru Mori
Associate Professor of Roman Law, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Kumamoto Prefecture in 1975. Graduated from Kumamoto High School in 1994. He entered Chuo University's Graduate School of Law upon graduation from the Faculty of Law in 1998. He was an assistant in the Faculty of Law from 2002 before becoming an assistant professor in 2004, giving lectures on Roman law. In addition to following historical changes in legal systems (especially private law) up until the present day, he aims to discover the roots of the principles behind these systems. His major research topic is to uncover the processes of the formation of legal systems surrounding leasing in ancient Rome. In particular, he hopes to present a reinterpretation of bibliographical sources based on results of archaeological studies.