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Comparison of “The laws of Manu” &  “The Yuan Code: Homicide”

“The laws of Manu”, Global Experience. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

 “The Yuan Code: Homicide”, Global Experience. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

If one wants to study how a culture or civilization functioned on a daily basis, it is probably best to study the laws of that civilization.  Laws can explain to a scholar what the civilization values and what the do not.  They can often explain if there were religious impotence in the daily living and how draconian or not draconian a civilization might be. Furthermore, comparing the laws of two different civilizations is also a simple, yet effective, way of comparing those two civilizations.  To prove these points one can use the “The laws of Manu” from the Hindu culture and “The Yuan Code: Homicide” from the Mongol culture.

“The laws of Manu” are not so much a work of legislative law as they are a religious explanation of actions and their consequences.  “The laws of Manu” explains that some parts of the body are better than others.  For example, the upper half of the body is better than the lower half.  Furthermore, “The laws of Manu” explain that there are three different types of sins that can be committed.  The three types are those of the mouth, those of the body, and those of the mind.  If someone commits a sin of the mouth then he will be reincarnated as a beast, unable to talk.  If he commits a sin of the body then he will be reincarnated as an inanimate object, unable to move.  If he commits a sin of the mind, though, he will only be reincarnated as a lower caste individual, which non-the-less is still undesirable.

“The laws of Manu” paint an interesting picture of Hindu culture as being concerned primarily with post life punishment as opposed to the strict draconian punishments of many other civilizations.  It also paints the picture of an extremely stratified society.  If the caste that someone is born into is a result of the actions of their previous life, it would be hard to imagine that there would be much intermingling between the castes.

“The Yuan Code: Homicide” form the Mongol civilization seems to be strict legislative codes as opposed to the moral codes of “The laws of Manu”.  “The Yuan Code: Homicide” goes into detail about the different types of punishments that can occur for different types of homicide.  Law nine, for example, states that if a man kills a tax collector for any reason then the killer shall be put to death! (316)  Law twenty nine, though, states that if a man kill his disobedient son then the killer is innocent. The list goes on defining different types of murders and the punishment that should ensue.

“The Yuan Code: Homicide” seems to be representative of a very draconian society where any serious offence is fallowed by death.  What one might find interesting, though, is what the Mongols found offensive.  The idea that it is worse to kill a tax collector that it is to kill ones own wife may seem completely foreign to someone living in today’s western world.    

When comparing the Mongol and the Hindu cultures through their different laws and codes one should find many similarities and many differences. The similarity, for example, would be that both cultures had some form of social stratification.  The Mongols placed Chinese below Mongols as where the Hindus had a caste system sent up.  The differences though, seem to be more apparent then the differences.  As where the Hindu people seem to focus on the woes of life after death, the Mongols seem to be more focused on the woes of death after life.  No matter the difference, though, they both still need to have strict consequences for undesirable actions.


© All words and music written and owned by Shawn Nelsen.