Françoise Lauwaert

Murder in the Family Parricide and Infanticide in China (18th-19th Century) Publication date : May 1, 1999

Based upon a systematic study of case laws during the 18th and 19th centuries, this essay underlines the particular knotting of law and kinship, as it exists in China. The treatment of murder within families thus obeys to particular rules of functioning which are meant to reinforce a hierarchical organization. Parricide and infanticide are in keeping with a system organized by a unique logic, in which any attack against parents and superiors appears like an abhorrence which calls for a crushing sanction.After a general reflection on sovereignty, on law and the religious foundations of parricide case laws, the author examins unforgivable crimes and the deliberate, premeditated attacks against the institution of family and against the authority of the father. The third part discusses mistake and accident, the weight of words and acts, what is straightforward and what is not, as well as consciousness, unconsciousness and insanity. There is also question in this part of those whose responsibility is modified or lessened: mad people, and those who kill under pressure. The last part of the book deals with the murder of a child by his parents, and with the impossible symmetry between actions within a system founded on hierarchy and family devotion.François Lauwaert has a Ph. D in Literature. She studied the Chinese language and history at the University of Beijing. She is a professor at the Université Libre of Brussels where she teaches Chinese history and literature.