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China Law Reader. Steal This Book.

Posted in Recommended Reading

The number of American law students who speak Chinese is increasing.  The number of American law students who can read Chinese is increasing as well, though that number is considerably less than those who can speak it.  The number of American law students who can read Chinese legal documents with anything approaching their ability to read those documents in English is exceedingly small.

So how does someone make the leap from being able to read general interest publications in Chinese to being able to read legal documents in Chinese?  I am constantly being asked this question and my answer is usually that they should try to take a legal Chinese course at their law school if it has one or otherwise, just learn Chinese legal terminology on the job.  They invariably then ask me if I can recommend a book to them and I would invariably say no.

Until now. Until China Law Reader.  China Law Reader is written by Lawrence Foster, a Professor of Law at the University of Hawaii, Tiffany Yajima a licensed lawyer who was formerly with AmCham in Shanghai, and Yan Lin, a Professor of Law at Jiaotong University in Shanghai. In its introduction, China Law Reader describes its purpose and its ideal reader as follows:

The primary purpose of the CLR is to introduce you to the language of Chinese law.  The ideal user is someone who has completed at least two years of Chinese language study and is now ready to read actual law-related Chinese language texts in order to learn the specialized language of Chinese law.

I completely agree.  If you already are able to read Chinese fairly well and you are going to be working with legal text, get the book.  Now.




  • Miklós PÁLFFY

    Dear Dan,

    I am an avid reader of this blog, and I enjoy the discussions as well. I’ve already bought several books based on your recommendation, and as I am a Hungarian lawyer, when I read this article I thought this was the book I had been looking for. My problem is that my Chinese is far better than “at least two years of Chinese language study” (actually I am currently preparing for HSK 6), and I made some purchase of Chinese textbooks in the past based on the world “Advanced” in the title, and their level did not meet my expectations. I can read Chinese legal documents, althought not as fast as I can read English and Hungarian ones.

    There is no preview for this book on Amazon, so I can not even check its content. Question: Can you recommend this book for me?

    Thank you:


    • http://www.chinalawblog.com/ Dan Harris

      Yes. I would say it’s good for anyone with two or more years of Chinese under their belt.

  • The 18th Parrallel

    I have a feeling the authors may prefer people to actually buy a copy.

  • Tim P.

    I couldn’t agree more with Mr. Harris’ recommendation. I’ve seen and used portions of this book in Professor Foster’s class, and found it to be a great exercise in becoming more familiar with Chinese legalese. Simply knowing the vocabulary wasn’t enough; the sentence structure and certain habits Chinese lawyers have when writing contracts and other related documents obfuscate what is likely a simple agreement. That being said, supplement this with reading actual court documents and law-related materials as often as possible. I have done so with greater frequency since spending time with it and have found it to be a great help.