Painting of the Principle of Judicial Leniency

CASE 7:  Homicide and the Law in 18th Century China

In the 18th century, not far in time from the murder case you’re reading about here, the artist Huang Shen painted four, small paintings of admirable officials. One of these illustrates a scene from the life of Liu Kuan.

Huang Shen Liu Kan 1983_2.157SID

Huang Shen (1687 – 1770), “Figures from Chinese History.”
Photo courtesty of the University of Michigan Museum of Art

As Huang explains in the inscription to the upper left, Huang’s wife wanted to test his character to see whether he was truly kind. One day when he was all dressed in his official robes and just about to attend his official duties, she sent a servant to bring him some porridge and pretend to spill it on his official robes. The servant did as instructed. Liu didn’t lose composure at all but merely asked the servant “Has the porridge burned your hands?” Liu’s response exemplifies the Confucian ideal of kindliness and leniency.

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