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Release time: 2015-10-09     Source:

The Discipline of Law in Tianjin (Peiyang) University

Law School, Tianjin University

1. Origin of the Law Discipline in Peiyang Univeristy

(1) Background
From the 1860s late Qing Dynasty, new talents had become the supreme demands of the ‘’Westernization Movement’’, these demands were further extended by the China-Japan Jia Wu War in 1984. On the economical aspect, the ‘Treaty of Shimonoseki’ opened more ports to foreign trade and allowed foreign investments, which in turn accelerated the semi colonization in China. To make the war reparations, the Qing Court relaxed the restrictions on domestic private investment which contributed to the preliminary development of National Capitalism. On the political aspect, a far-reaching ‘’Hundred Days’ Reform Movement’’ staged by reformists advocated China to walk into capitalism way by reforms of politics, economy and education. 

 As the first university in China, Peiyang University (today’s Tianjin University) was founded in 1895 and had been committed to the mission of revitalizing China through education. The discipline of law was one of the four initial specialties in the university and played an important role in the economy and politics of China. 
 (2)Process of Establishment
The founder of Peiyang University, Sheng Xuanhuai, used to be a member of Li Hongzhang who was a leading reformer in the Westernization Movement and the Tianjin Superintendent from 1870. Taking active part in the Westernization movement, Sheng actively advocated using Western technology to save the country from destitution.

In 1892, Sheng took up the intendent of Tianjin Customs. In 1895, he submitted his memorial to the Guangxu Emperor to request approval to set up a modern higher education institution in Tianjin. After approval on October 2, 1895, Peiyang Western Study School was founded by him and American educator Charles Daniel Tenney and developed to Peiyang University in 1912 and then National Peiyang University in 1913. It is the first modern higher education institution in China, located on the Tenney College in Tianjin.

At the time of its establishment, Peiyang University set up law, civil engineering, mining and metallurgy schools. Therefore, modern law education in China originated from this law school, the first law school in modern China. 

2. Development of Law Science in Peiyang University

Peiyang University contributed greatly to the Chinese higher education. The university modeled itself on the famous European and American institutions of higher learning and aimed to rejuvenate China by training qualified personnel with new scientific and technical knowledge. As the only school of social science, the law school represented the extensive and urgent demands of new talents in law in late Qing Dynasty. 

(1) Teaching Mode and School System
Peiyang Law School ran American models at the time of its establishment and fully adopted systems of western universities. In the early days of the university, the far-sighted founders of the university employed American academic staff and case study models in the common law system were adopted. In building curriculum, choosing lecture topics, teaching approaches and textbooks, the experience of the western educational system was used for reference.

 To the school system, Peiyang University provided pre-college programs (known as ‘the second school’) and undergraduate programs (known as ‘the first school’). The second school took students from age 13 to 15 and the education lasted four years. The graduates would continue another four years’ study in the first school then certificates were awarded to those who completed the full eight years of study.

Both first school and second school were broken up into four grades, years 1 to 4 with 30 students in each grade. However, the second school was not established as planed in the very early years. In the first year, the students of the university were mainly from Tianjin, Shanghai and Hong Kong and all new students were considered as graduates from the second school.

(2) Curriculum
In the early years of its establishment, the subjects of the law school’s 4 year program were: English, Trigonometry, Geometry, Physics, Chemistry, Physiology, Astronomy, Western Political Economics, Trade Law, Introduction to Law, Roman Law, British Contract Law, British Criminal Law, Elements of International Law, Principles of Commercial Law, Civil Litigation Law, British Constitutional Law, Land Law, Negotiable Instruments and Ships Law, Rules of Presiding at Lawsuit. These 20 subjects included 12 legal, 6 natural science and 2 humanities and social science subjects. It represents the focus of law-related subjects and the adoption of the teaching mode in the common law system.

Affected by the Yihetuan Movement and the invasion by the 8 nations in 1900, Peiyang university was closed and reopened by Yuan Shikai in 1902. According to the curriculum in 1907, legal subjects included: Chinese History, Western History, Physiology, Astronomy, Study on Legal Code of Qing, Modern Diplomatic History of China, Constitutional History, Constitutional Law, Introduction to Law, Jurisprudence, History of Roman Law, General Principles of Civil Law, Criminal Law, Foreign Affair Laws, Roman Law, Commercial Law, Damage Compensation Law, Land Law, Study on Qing Dynasty’s Leading Case System, Negotiable Instruments and Ships Law, Litigation Law, Chrematistics, Strategics, Military Drill. Comparing to the curriculum in 1895, the number of subjects increased to 25 and legal subjects increased from 12 to 17. The 3 natural science subjects, Physics, Mathematics and Chemistry were removed and more literature and history subjects, Chinese History, Western History, Modern Diplomatic History of China and Strategics were added. The legal subjects were enriched by Constitutional History, History of Roman Law, Jurisprudence, Study on Legal Code of Qing, Damage Compensation Law, and Study on Qing Dynasty’s Leading Case System. British Constitutional Law, British Contract Law, British Criminal Law were replaced by Constitutional Law, Criminal Law and General Principles of Civil Law.

The curriculum was further improved in 1913. The subjects are classified into mandatory courses and optional courses. The mandatory courses offered by the Law School during this period included: Constitutional Law, Administrative Law, Criminal Law, Civil Law, Commercial Law, Bankruptcy Law, Criminal Procedure Law, Civil Procedure Law, Public International Law, Private International Law, Roman Law, Legal History, Science of Jurisprudence, Principles of Economics, European Law that covered Roman Laws and Laws of the United Kingdom, France and Germany. The optional courses included: Comparative Legal history, Criminal Policy, Public Finance. The law discipline of Peiyang thus covered all the law courses in model universities.

(3) Facility
The major part of the academic staff of Peiyang University was from foreign countries. The faculty of the Law School included 7 American, 1 Austrian and 8 Chinese who graduated from Peiyang University and studied abroad for higher education degrees.

(4) Student Development
During their education, the students had busy curriculums and clear academic records. The overall score in the graduate transcript not only reflected the examination results but was also affected by the rate of attendance. Students needed to redouble the efforts to graduate from the demanding university.

Most of the graduates from the first school of the university continued their education abroad. From 1901 to 1907, more than a hundred students studied in the US at the government’s expense and more than half that graduated from Peiyang University. Awarded ‘The First Imperically Written Diploma’ in Peiyang, Wang Chonghui was one of the first eight students studying abroad at the government’s expense. In 1906 before they graduated, all 34 students in Grade 3 Law School were recommended to study in US and French universities without entrance examinations. In 1907, another 11 students from the Law School were sent to the US before graduation.

(5) Student Achievement
As the first institution on law education in modern China, the Peiyang Law School developed a good number of outstanding talents in the first 20 years and thus made a significant contribution to various fields in China.

a. Politics, diplomacy and legal judiciary
Zhang Tailei : founding member of the Chinese communist party and the communist youth league of China; leader of the 1927 Guangzhou Uprising
Wang Chonghui: prominent Chinese jurist, diplomat and politician who served the Republic of China (RC) from its foundation in 1912; judge on the Permanent Court of International Justice in the Hague; founder of modern jurisprudence of China; foreign minister of RC; justice minister of RC
Xu Mo: diplomat of the Republic of China; judge of the International Court of Justice; vice foreign minister
Guo Yunguan: jurist; president of Shanghai court; vice president, director of law department and professor of Yanjing University; adjunct professor of Tsinghua, Fudan, Dongwu Universities and Shanghai Law School; director of Guanghua Law Department;
b. Law search and education 
Yan Shutang: jurist and educator in modern China; director of the Law Department of Beijing University; adjunct professor of Tsinghua University; editor of bureau of law in RC; professor of Wuhan University, director of Law Department; director of Law Department of the Southwest Associated University; chief justice of court of judiciary of RC; editorial board of law society of RC; professor of Wuhang Univeristy in people’s republic of China (PRC)
Wu Jingxiong: jurist; dean of Law School of Suzhong University; Lecture on Law, Philosophy and Politics
Zhao Tianlin: educator; president of Peiyang Univesity 1914-1920; 
c. Others fields
Besides the achievements on education, politics, law and diplomacy, the graduates of the Law School also contributed to the poetic literature. Xu Zhimo, one of the most renowned romantic poets of 20th century Chinese literature, is known for his promotion of modern Chinese poetry, and made tremendous contributions to modern Chinese literature.

From the late Qing Dynasty to the early Republic of China, the Peiyang Law School built up a well-deserved reputation. With the increasing number of students and courses, the Law School gradually reached the scale of modern Law Schools.

3.The Role of Peiyang University Law Discipline in the Modern China Law Education

In 1918, the education ministry of northern warlords government reformed the higher education system by establishing a single-subject college through transforming and reorganizing the universities and colleges. Proposed by Cai Yuanpei, the president of Beijing University, the educational resources in Beijing and Tianjin were redistributed. The engineering school of Beijing University was merged into Peiyang University while the law school of Peiyang was merged into Beijing. The last students of Peiyang Law School graduated in 1920 and the law education in Peiyang University was parked from then on.

The merger of Peiyang Law School did not affect its significant influence on law education in modern China. As the first new type university in China, Peiyang University symbolized the end of feudal education which last for more than a thousand years. It opened a new chapter in higher education in China and set an example of establishing systems of colleges and universities in early years

(1) Initiation of New Mode Law Education in Modern China
Peiyang Law School is the first institution teaching law courses systematically. Prior to its establishment, the law education in China was limited to the code of Qing Dynasty and basic knowledge of international law used in trades with foreign countries. Peiyang Law School set up the first professional course system of law and teaching model by adopting the American mode. Advanced concepts in law education were thus introduced into modern China and it was proven to be historic.
(2)Experience Reference to the Development of Law Education in China
The law education in Peiyang focused on the common law system and provided helpful experience to the development of law education in China. Besides introducing international concepts and the systematization of law education, its exploration indicated that the fundamentals of law education in China developed new legal talents in-line with the needs of society.

(3)Outstanding Peiyang Alumni 
 One of the most significant influences of education is nurturing high level talent who in turn drive the development of the society. In 20 years’ time, Peiyang had educated many of the country’s elite, Zhang Taileng, Wang Chonghui, Wu Jingxiong, Xu Mo, Zhao Tianlin, Yan Shutang, Guo Yunguan etc., who earned prestige for the University.

4. Development and Prospect of Law Education in Tianjin University

The new development of the law education of Tianjin University is the resurrection of the law discipline in Peiyang. Although the Peiyang Law School was merged into Beijing University, the accumulated profound schooling culture, school running-experience and the inherited management system of law education are historical treasures to the law education in Tianjin University and China. Approved by the State Education Commission in 1994, the economic law major and the law teaching and research section was established and the recruitment for students started. In 1997, the School of Social Sciences and International Studies was established and the law teaching and research section was merged into the Law Department. In 2003, the Law Department was awarded accreditation for setting up master degree programs within the economic law major. In 2009, the Law Department was merged into the School of Liberal Arts and Law. It was approved the first-level discipline to award master degree in Law in 2011 and juris master in 2014.

To answer the call for the strategy of ‘’ruling the country by law’’ and the extension of the Peiyang law education, the law school was reestablished in 2015, and Dr. Sun Youhai was appointed as the first Dean of the reestablished Law School. The inauguration was held on June 17, 2015. And it would bring a new development opportunity for law education at Tianjing University. 

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