New Book: Legal Scholars and Scholarship in the PRC

Spanning nine academic institutions, 18 legal disciplines, and the work of 33 scholars, Legal Scholars and Scholarship in the People’s Republic of China, the First Generation, 1949-1992 portrays the key figures, notable works, and ideological and theoretical evolutions of Chinese law in the most turbulent and transformative period of PRC history. The author is Nongji Zhang, HLSL’s Librarian for East Asian Law. Supported by HLS Professor and East Asian Legal Studies Program Director William P. Alford, Nongji spent eight years conducting field research, performing literature reviews, and drawing from her own knowledge of Chinese law. After a peer review process, the Harvard University Asia Center published her book in 2022.

Book cover illustration

The scholars featured in this book are the most resilient and prominent individuals who cultivated the study of Chinese law as we know it today:

  • A scholar used over 1000 books from the Harvard Law School Library to write his PhD dissertation in the 1940s.
  • An intellectual taught himself English by reading and translating Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer during the Cultural Revolution, and became the most prolific author of English publications among his peers. 
  • A professor was classified as a “rightist” and sent to a labor camp where he lost a leg in a work accident in the 1950s. He rose up to become president of his university in the 1980s, but was forced to resign due to his support of the “June Fourth” students’ movement. Since then he has been a champion for private rights. 

These background stories, plus introductions of the intellectuals’ major scholarly contributions and works, make this book an essential tool and resource for the study of Chinese law. Congratulations to Nongji for her important contribution to legal scholarship!

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