The Philosophies of Judge Dee

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The translated novel Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee tells of a district magistrate of Chang-Ping in the T’ang Dynasty named Judge Dee Goong An, famous for his ability to solve mysterious cases. This is simple enough, except it is immediately evident to the reader that Judge Dee is not just a normal magistrate content with solving a case – it is easy to see that he always digs deeper. His success is unparalleled in the land, his actions laid out without a single corrupt thought or a lax view. What makes Judge Dee so effective? How is he able to look past the most obvious answers to find the one that is correct? It is obvious that he can only do this with the help of various different philosophies. These philosophies provided him significant methods, clues, and authority to bring justice to the region. Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism all play vital and separate roles in allowing Judge Dee to work effectively. Without all three, he would have not been successful in his cases.

The first of these philosophies is Confucianism. Confucianism is based off of the teachings of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius, and it places heavy emphasis filial piety, or respect to one’s elders and ancestors. It also stresses proper relationships and order within society and within families. Education is also valued in Confucian beliefs, and these beliefs play a big role in Judge Dee’s actions. For one, Judge Dee would not have been a magistrate if he had not studied the Confucian classics. Study of Confucianism was a part of the “benchmark” or standard that one had to reach in order to proceed in becoming a statesman. Aside from this technicality, Confucianism also appeared many times throughout the novel. One of the most important was the fact that role models were evident in how Judge Dee was respected and also how the social hierarchy worked, not only in his own court but how Judge Dee perceived his subjects. An example of that is the punishment that was...
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