Addendum of Instructions to the Great Ming Code


Da Ming lü (The great Ming code) was first compiled in 1373 and reached its final form in 1397. This dynastic legal code represented a break with the past and also served as a model for the Qing code. The code regulated all the major aspects of social affairs, attempting to harmonize political, economic, military, familial, ritual, international, and legal relations in the empire. It is an encyclopedic document, one that provides rich material on Ming history. The basic value system and social norms that the code imposed became so thoroughly ingrained in Chinese society that the Manchus, who conquered China and established the Qing dynasty, chose to leave the code in force with only minor changes. The code also made an impact on the legal cultures of other East Asian countries, including Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. The code underwent constant revisions, and flexible regulations were made to supplement the basic law. This work is a 30-juan, six-volume compendium of instructions to the code and was published by the imperial court during the Wanli reign (1573‒1620) under the editorship of Shu Hua (1539‒89), the justice minister, and others. The original text was entitled Wen xing tiao li (The criminal ordinance) and first compiled in 1500, reissued in 1550 and in 1555, re-edited at the beginning of the Wanli reign, and was added to Da Ming lü as an addendum. It includes 191 entries from the old edition, with additions, corrections, deletions, and explanations printed in parallel to the text. It carries one of the original prefaces by the Emperor Hongwu dated the 30th year of his reign (1397). Another preface is by Shu Hua dated 1585. There is also a letter of presentation of the work to the emperor. The first English translation of the code was published in the United States in 2004.

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30 juan, 6 volumes


  1. Yonglin Jiang, The Great Ming Code: Da Ming lü (Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press, 20004).

Last updated: January 10, 2018