|WASHING AWAY WRONGS
Translator’s PrefaceHerbert A. GilesCambridge, 1923
The office and functions of coroner, in the modern sense of the
term, were known to the Chinese many centuries before
"Crowner's Quest Law" was quoted in Hamlet.
It was while stationed at Ningpo, in 1873, that I first heard of
the Hsi-yüan-lu. I found that a copy of this work, here
translated, was always carried to the scene of an inquest by the
high territorial official on whom the duties of coroner
devolved. I also found that inquests were held on the living,
when dangerously wounded, as well as on the dead. In the
latter case, to move or disturb in any way a corpse, before the
coroner had seen and examined it, would lead to the most
serious consequences for such reckless interference.
I became sufficiently interested in this phase of Chinese
civilization to proceed to a careful study of the text of the Hsiyüan-
lu, and thence to translation, for which I was repaid by
the possession of some acquaintance with the system of
medical jurisprudence in ancient China.