On September 28, members of the Cornell community gathered in Anabel Taylor Hall for the Law School's 2011 Clarke Lecture, which is given every year by a high-profile scholar brought to Cornell through the Clarke Program in East Asian Law and Culture. This year's scholar was Zhu Suli of Peking University, who presented "The Unnoticed Functions of Bridewealth in Traditional China."
Zhu is not only this year's Clarke Lecturer but also the Anthony W. and Lulu C. Wang Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law for 2011-2012. "Coming to visit Cornell Law School is a terrific academic experience for me," says Zhu, "and I will learn a lot from colleagues here, which will certainly challenge and inspire me. And, by the way - the scene around Ithaca in the fall is very beautiful."
Zhu, one of China's foremost legal scholars, focuses his research on law and society, judicial process in China, and law and literature. His major books include Sending Law to Countryside (2000, 2010), and Something May Have Happened: Legal Academic Transformation in China (2004), and he has translated the work of Benjamin Cardozo, Richard Posner, and Robert Ellickson into Chinese. Zhu served as dean of Peking University Law School from 2001 to 2010. He has also been a visiting scholar of Harvard-Yenching Institute and Yale Law School.
Opening comments at the Clarke Lecture were provided by Stewart J. Schwab, the Allan R. Tessler Dean and Professor of Law, and by Annelise Riles, the Jack G. Clarke Professor of Far East Legal Studies, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Clarke Program. "This is the high point of our year," said Riles, extending thanks to Dean Schwab, to the program's team, and to Jack Clarke '52, whose gift to the Law School funds the Clarke Program, and who was in attendance. Riles then introduced Zhu, lauding him as "truly interdisciplinary in the best sense" and, therefore, an ideal scholar to present the lecture, whose mission is to illuminate issues of pressing concern by fostering collaboration not only across cultures, but also across disciplines.
Zhu presented the findings of his research on bridewealth, or "caili," gifts of money and/or goods given by the family of a prospective groom to the bride or to her family. Though caili in traditional Chinese villages has previously been viewed simply as a payment for the transfer of labor or a compensation to the bride's family for the investment of her upbringing, says Zhu, "my research challenges [that] conception and finds the complexity, which is not only interesting as an academic issue, but may be useful to revise [the] law concerned."
"Professor Zhu is one of the most original legal scholars I know," said Riles. "His scholarship is informed, innovative, and courageous. He has a true love of ideas, as well as an unsurpassed knowledge of Chinese legal problems and institutions. His energy, seriousness of purpose and scholarly integrity are inspiring."
The Clarke Program brings a broad interdisciplinary and humanistic focus to the study of law in East Asia. Through research, teaching, and scholarly dialogue, it seeks to expand the purview of legal scholarship and to develop new ways of thinking about transnational law, politics, and culture. The Clarke Program enriches its offerings by hosting a series of extremely distinguished Chinese law scholars at Cornell Law School every year. Visiting scholars are supported by an endowment created by Anthony W. Wang '68 and his wife, Lulu C. Wang.