From 1897 to 1914 the area of Jiaozhou in China's noth-eastern Shandong province was under German colonial rule. It was called »Schutzgebiet Kiautschou« (Protectorate Kiaochow). The Germans implemented a legal system which combined different elements. Partly, the German laws were made applicable in the territory, partly, Chinese law was left in force. In the area of private law, legal relationships between Chinese parties were governed by local (Chinese) customary law. In legal proceedings involving only Europeans or both European and Chinese parties, however, German law was applied. The German lawyers who were sent to administer justice in the Imperial Court and the Higher Imperial Court of the territory were thus faced with the task of finding and applying Chinese customary law. They also had to apply German law in a foreign context and—in the event of proceedings involving Chinese parties—to people who were not in any way familiar with it.
The contact of German lawyers with Chinese legal culture was not, however, limited to court practice. In 1909, a German college was founded in Qingdao, the territory's capital. At this college, German teachers instructed Chinese students. The college was officially recognised by Chinese authories. Thus, its alumni had the chance to enter the Chinese civil service after their graduation. Among the subjects taught was German law. The professors of the college also wrote scholarly articles on issues of law and legal reform in China.
The purpose of our research project is to explain and to analyse the dynamics and the results of this encounter of two legal cultures. The focus is on private law and on the perspective of the German lawyers who came to the territory and had to deal with Chinese law and legal culture.
As far as the practice of law is concerned, the following are among the questions we hope to answer: How was German law applied in the territory—especially in cases involving Chinese parties? Are there significant departures from legal practice in Germany? How did German authorities find the applicable rules of Chinese law? To what extent was the application of Chinese law by the German courts marked by misunderstandings and prejudices?
As far as the legal education at the German college in Qingdao is concerned, we would like to find out, how German law was taught there. What aspects of German civil law were stressed, which were left out? Did the German teachers draw comparisons between German law and Chinese law? Did they attempt to adapt German legal rules to the social and economic situation in China and to the preconceptions of their Chinese students? What attitude towars Chinese law can be deduced from the German profesors' scholarly writings?