Why did the abominations emphasize on family relations?
Established during the Tang dynasty in China, the Tang code was used to maintain the ethics in the society supplemented by various statutes and regulations. The criminal code was one of the major achievements of the Tang dynasty. The Tang code which was established after the Sui dynasty is one of the greatest dynasties in the history of China (Hansen 349). The code was not only important in China but it became useful in the whole of East Asia. The Tang code was based on Confucian and legalist interpretations of the law, comprising more than 500 articles. The confusion traditions’ focus was on conflict resolution and family relations in communities while the legalist traditions focused mostly on the state. For there to be a restoration of harmony and natural balance, corrective actions must be taken on anyone who disrupts the society. The code was easily accepted by the society because it combined the criminal law and the community rituals (Feuchtwang 201). Dong Zhongshu, a Confucian scholar, argued that both human and natural orders were closely related.
The emperor and his ministers, therefore, had a responsibility of linking the two aspects that are human and nature. Human and natural actions were said to have either a positive or a harmful effect on human and natural orders. The need to make the two variables balance was deemed vital. The code reflects the attempts by a bureaucratic and centralized dynastic state to impose authority on the people to protect the overall power of China. However, it is evident that the state law would still have been maintained without the state power’s intervention through family systems. In a society, there were those individuals who offended others criminally or acted stupidly and needed to be punished. If a society has great criminals they can destroy the whole world; if the criminals are small they affect the community in many ways. The Tang code was a legal code which generally did not permit any behavior that was known to threaten the society or the government. The ten abominations were meant to ensure that there was peaceful co-existence in the society.
The ten abominations mostly emphasized on respect for family relations because of the knowledge that the stability of any society lies in the stability of family units. If there are quarrels in the family, chances are that this will extend to the neighboring communities and eventually spread. Governing an unstable society is very costly to the government not only in terms of idle resources in times of war but also in terms of loss of human lives. The abominations also emphasized on respect both for the leaders and the elders in the society. A family that is united has its rules grounded and the children grow to know right from wrong thus becomes good people in the society. A chaotic family often raises children who are stubborn and problematic to the society. The children get involved in criminal activities like drugs and theft as a solution from their troublesome homes. They get consolation from their fellow gang members.
The Tang dynasty became popular because it was fairer to the community unlike the Sui dynasty where people were oppressed. Under the leadership of Suiyang Di, the dynasty was rejected because it focused on the selfish desires of the leader (Hansen 261). People worked more for less money and it was not easy for them to meet the basic needs. The angry residents formed an uprising against the dynasty bringing it to an end.
The strictest laws in the Tang code were the ten abominations which successfully brought to an end the community’s traditional way of thinking and behavior. The code’s main writer was Zhangsun Wujiwas, who was one of the most influential governors during the Tang Taizong period. Zhangsun married off his sister to Tang Taizong so that they became close family and government officials. The Tang code was easy to implement since the leaders understood the failures of the previous Sui dynasty. The law in the Sui dynasty was not perfect since it gave people the mandate to overthrow the government. The Tang code ensured that this did not happen by incorporating rules that controlled the people’s behavior. The ten abominations imposed punishment on those who behaved against the rules.
The first abomination involved plotting rebellion (moufan) where anyone found guilty of the offence was sentenced to death. Plotting rebellion implied a plan to endanger the ruler and the rules of the land. The abomination was based on the premise that the king or the leader of community holds the most honorable position in the society and thus must be respected by his subjects since he serves as the mother and father of the society. Disorder in men was purported to be as a result of their reversal of virtues, a fact that was likened to reversed seasons of heaven that brought calamities to the community. Those who went against the Tang code were thus supposed to be killed to avoid calamities on the society. The leaders knew that for there to be a good environment for everyone they had to win the loyalty of the people first. In other words, the first abomination in the Tang code was meant to consolidate the emperor’s governance over the people. Tang Taizong would not let people spoil the Ajtars of soil and grain (Hansen 350). He was aware that people would have no time to think about an uprising when they had enough basic needs.
The second abomination was plotting great sedition (moudani). There was no greater sedition than one breaking the social norms of the community. People were forbidden from destroying the royal temples, the tombs and palaces of the reigning house. The rule was meant to further contain the behavior of people by making them not destroy important buildings. Damaging royal property intentionally was equated to casting a curse on the state thus was punishable. The third abomination was on plotting treason (mou pan). The people who were guilty of plotting to betray the country by joining hands with enemy states were punished. This was applicable especially during times of war with other countries where some people would share secretive information with the enemy country. Such traitors were punished severely so that they serve as an example to the other members of the community who were contemplating on doing such a heinous act.
The fourth abomination was called contumacy (E Ni) which was against murder of one’s relatives including the parents and grandparents. One was forbidden from killing his husband or the other elder relatives. A parent’s kindness was likened to the great heaven which is illimitable. The contumacy rule was based on the Confucian thought about family and respect. Relatives were defined as anyone within five degrees of mourning. Committing the abomination was regarded as disrespect to the human principles. Fifth on the abominations was the depravity (budao) which forbid killing of more than three people in one household who were innocent of any criminal activities. Some malicious and cruel individuals would take advantage of situations and commit such offences. Under this abomination, it was illegal to disembowel the murdered body after committing the offence and use it as poison (gu) to kill the other members of the family. The people had a strong belief in sorcery thus the government implemented the rule against the same. The secret practices and evil customs by the communities were illegal because their main intention was to inflict pain on the other people.
The great irreverence (da bujing) was the sixth of the ten abominations. The rules forbid any acts of disrespect towards the emperor and his family. This was mainly meant to win peoples’ respect for the leaders. The abomination emphasized on observance of rites by the rulers. The rule also ensured that the emperor and his family were safe in the palace since incidences of theft would be regarded as disrespect to the palace. Lack of filiality (buxiao) was the seventh abomination. The law did not allow the children to treat the elders badly or to accuse their parents under any circumstance. The rule also called the filial piety forbid people from entertaining themselves before three years period of mourning their parents in cases where the parents were not alive. The rule was basically meant to make children obey their parents and the elders in the society as well. The eighth abomination was discord (bu mu). Those who hurt their relatives in the community were punished for committing this abomination. Hurting blood relatives under one’s parents or grandparents was an offence.
The ninth abomination was unrighteousness (buyi). One was forbidden from killing people in the leadership positions as the government officials. The officials included the magistrates and departmental heads. The main reason this rule had to be there is because some members of the community would attack government officials who were not their family members. The last abomination was incest (neiluan) which involved controlling people’s sexual desires. Having sexual relations with relatives was highly punishable. The ten abominations in the sixth article out of the twelve articles was the most important one in the Tang code. The code later became the basic law from which people from other parts of Asia derived their rules to guard the community behavior and shape their character as well.
Various themes can be derived from the Tang code, for example, the respect for mankind. In all the abominations, there is a great emphasis on the issue of respect for human life. This is portrayed in the fourth, the sixth, the ninth and the eighth abominations. There is also the theme of respecting the leaders as it is portrayed in the first, the second and the sixth abominations. Loyalty to one's country is also a theme derived from the code requiring that one should not be a traitor to their country. The tenth abomination that forbid incest brings out an aspect of control, not only of the sexual desires but general self-control that is very important to the people. Discipline is also enhanced in the tenth abomination as well. Family is one of the most relevant structures of any society. Respect for the family members is important as it is clearly spelt out in the Tang code. One is not allowed to disrespect the elders and the family member including reporting them to the authorities. The Tang code emphasized good family relations probably because the leaders were aware that a good family foundation makes a peaceful society. On a deeper analysis of the Tang code one gets to understand the challenges that the leaders encounter in the society ranging from high crime rates to disloyal countrymen. Leading a society to the level of having peace and harmony is a big responsibility that must be given to the right people.
In conclusion, the Tang code was very instrumental in promoting peaceful coexistence not only in China but also in other parts of the universe. The dynasty that previously existed before the Tang dynasty failed because it did not put the interest of the community at heart. The Tang dynasty ensured that the community had enough grains and that they conserved their environment and that way they had no time to think about overthrowing the government. There are various themes that can be identified from the Tang code including self- control, respect for humanity and loyalty. The role of leaders in the society is also portrayed in the abominations that spell out the possible offences that are committed in the society.
Feuchtwang, Stephan. "India and China as spiritual nations: A comparative anthropology of histories." Social Anthropology 17.1 (2009): 100-108.
Hansen, Valerie. The Open Empire: A History of China Through 1600. New York: WW Norton, 2000.