Chinese law is 和尚打伞,无法无天. That is: like a monk holding an umbrella. Or so the saying goes.

The idiom is essentially a play on words. Monks have no hair, the latter being a word which in mandarin happens to be phonetically identical to ‘law’: 发 (fǎ), hair, and 法 (fǎ), law. A monk holding an umbrella is further hindered by his inability to see the sky. No sky, no heavenly justice. Take these both together and you have our rogue hairless heretic – formerly a peaceable disciple in search of enlightenment- abiding by neither the rule of law nor the moral dictates of heaven.

Our amusing pun suddenly starts to look like a dark omen.

Chinese modern law is a house of cards, created overnight from a cut and paste exercise. The essentials first, adding the flesh, revising and reviewing in the subsequent years. It contains elements from all families of law traditions, topping it all with “Chinese characteristics”. In the last years of the Qing Dynasty and into the establishment of the Republic of China in Nanjing, legislators crafted a system from the Continental-European legal norms. Such goals were abandoned in the Cultural Revolution and the formal legal system thrown to the curb. In 1979, when China opened up to the world once more, it needed a modern system of law, and fast.

The modern system of law knows no asymptotes. The legislators craft rules as issues arise. Bald and with a pesky umbrella blocking any guiding light.

The following musings, essays and tales shall attempt to chronicle my adventures in the Middle Kingdom: the explorations of a Canadian law student in the maze that is the Chinese law. Umbrellas optional.