Chinese Maze Murders

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The book The Chinese Maze Murders by Robert Van Gulik is written in a Confucian view point. Even though it is written from this view point it does not hesitate to establish other religious views as well. Such as how Judge Dee is indeed a Confucian man. Not an Ideal Confucian, but a Confucian nonetheless. Judge Dee is a strict prefect which is not so much a Confucian way of ruling, but a legalist way. He uses both Confucian and Legalist teachings in order to run Lan Fang effectively. Also, this book establishes other religions such as Buddhism and Daoism. Based on my knowledge of these two religions I really do not think Buddhism was represented as fairly as Daoism. I feel as though the representation was flawed due to the book being written within a Confucian point of view.

Judge Dee is not only strict, but also understanding. He is smart and does not just act upon what is perceived to be the case. He studies each situation and listens to all stories before he makes his final deductions as to the truth and how he should judge. This is how he is represented in being an ideal Confucian man. When he asks Chiao Tai to bring him the leader of the robbers he asks him his reasons for doing what he did. The criminal asks Judge Dee why he would like to know, since he already knows he is guilty and is ready for Judge Dee to sentence him to death as is written by law. Judge Dee says, “I never sentence a criminal until I have heard his full story. Speak up and answer my questions!” (Page 24). This is an example of how Judge Dee is a good Confucian man. He is willing to wait and hear this man out before sentencing him to such a harsh punishment shows how fair and just he is. Confucian teachings speak of how to be fair to all and Judge Dee follows that very closely. Another example of how ideal of a Confucian man Judge Dee can be is when he gives those with just causes for wrong doings a second chance. He does this with the leader of the highway men, and with the few men that attacked the tribunal. With his cunning and strategic way of thinking he out smarts most of Chien’s men and in the end Chien himself. Although he is fair and understanding he can also be cruel. When he is strict, harsh, and cruel you see the legalist side of him. Judge Dee shows quite a few Legalist qualities throughout the entire novel. Such Qualities are shown when during Liu Wan-Fang’s testimony of the previous magistrate, Judge Pan‘s, death and his master Chien’s connection to it Judge Dee concludes that he is lying and orders him to be whipped. After Judge Dee says, “Give that dogshead twenty-five lashes with the whip!” (Page 74), Liu is then punched in the face stripped of his robe and lashed twenty-five times because of his lies. If Judge Dee is not satisfied with the testimony given the criminal is often tortured and if the charge is severe enough they are made an example of and killed. Another example of his harsh punishments are when he has the dishonest Buddhist monks whipped 20 times each with a bamboo stick. By making an example of these three Buddhist monks he instilled fear into the towns people of Lan Fang that he is strict and consequences will be issued to those who deserve it. Another incident where he showed how ruthless he was when he was intent on getting the information he wanted was when he tortured Woo for information on Headman Fang’s daughter White Orchid. As a result of Woo not telling Judge Dee the information he wanted Judge Dee said, “You are guilty of contempt of court!” (Page 161) which triggered his constables and Headman Fang to whip Woo until he talked. The most prominent example of Judge Dee’s Legalistic qualities is when he sentences Mrs. Lee to death by decapitation. “The criminal Lee née Hwang is guilty of kidnapping girls for immoral purposes and premeditated murder. She shall be scourged and then executed by decapitation. The state renounces its claim on the said criminal’s property which shall be conferred on the...
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