約會 – “a promise to meet” does not mean dating in the Mongol-Yuan empire. It designate a “joint court” where representatives of each party convened together to decide a case. But slightly more complex that you might think it would be…
This article examines the so-called institution yuehui 約會 or the “joint courts,” an institution that was established during the Mongol rule of China in the 13th to 14th century. The “joint courts” indicated a legal procedure in which two or three representatives met together to address a case involving different parties. Previous studies have mostly focused on this system within the larger Yuan-dynasty legal framework, and therefore clarified the institutional characteristics such as the legal procedures. Based on these previous research, this article specifically focuses on the case of the “joint courts” involving religions, such as the Buddhist and Daoists. The main purpose of this article is to emphasize the establishment of this legal institutions, to scrutinize the changes over time, and to examine what factors contributed to these changes. Thus, the main examples examined are 1) the establishment of the joint court in 1261, 2) the expansion of the legal rights that the religious groups enjoyed during the period around 1300, and 3) the brief abolition and restoration of the joint court system around 1311 to 1313. Through this examination, I emphasize how the changing regulations regarding the religious joint court was a result of the continuous interaction between the state and the different religions. The changes were by no means a one-sided decision lead by the state alone – the changes demonstrate the conflicts, negotiations, and interaction that occurred in the multi-religious and diverse society under the Mongol rule of China.