Thursday, 7 June 2007

Things I learnt today about legal contracts in China during the Tang dynasty.

Illiterate signatories signed contracts by drawing lines indicating the place of their finger joints on their middle finger. Men used the middle finger of their left hand; women the right.

'Ambulance chaser' clerks who went round villages persuading peasants to file suits or amend contracts were known contemptuously as 'Men With Brushes In Their Hats'.

A man could divorce his wife if she committed any of the 'seven outs': failed to bear children, committed adultery, stole, disobeyed his parents, was jealous, contracted a fatal disease, or... talked too much.