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Shiga Shūzō argued in 1981 that in cases where serious criminal punishment was not contemplated, Qing magistrates adjudicated not according to the Qing code or other legal sources, but instead according to their own sense of what was right and appropriate. Against this, Philip Huang argued in 1996 that the vast majority of cases were adjudicated unequivocally according to the Qing code. But Huang fails to disprove Shiga’s claim. First, by his own admission, he is constructing through his own inferences the rules of the Qing code that he says the magistrates were applying; they do not in fact appear in the code. Second, the rules he constructs are so broad and virtually tautological—for example, “enforce legitimate debts”—that they do not meaningfully distinguish the Qing code from general principles of law and morality that have applied in many societies across time and space.

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