Chinese Law Prof Blog

Editor: Donald C. Clarke
George Washington University Law School

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

In Memoriam: William Catron Jones (March 30, 1926 – September 16, 2005)


The Chinese law community is profoundly saddened by the passing away of Bill Jones. Over the last several days, I've collected a number of remembrances from Bill's colleagues. Here they are (below), with some other web links.


Video interview: A Conversation with William C. Jones, with Prof. John Haley (Fall 2004)

Bibliography (compiled by Wei Luo): Download Bibliography.pdf

Remembrances (in alphabetical order, by surname)

  • Donald Clarke
  • Jerome Cohen
  • Alison Conner
  • Randle Edwards
  • James Feinerman
  • John Haley
  • Yonglin Jiang
  • Hilary Josephs
  • Margot Landman
  • Terrill Lautz
  • Tahirih Lee
  • Stanley Lubman
  • Wei Luo
  • Jonathan Ocko
  • John Ohnesorge
  • Randall Peerenboom
  • Pitman Potter
  • Mark Sidel
  • Wang Xi (王曦)
  • Susan Weld
  • Margaret Woo
  • Wendy Zeldin

Donald Clarke (George Washington University)

Clarke One of the most rewarding aspects of being an academic in the Chinese law field was always the pleasure of associating with Bill Jones. Not only did Bill enrich our understanding of everything from the criminal law of the Qing dynasty to sales contracts in the PRC, but he shared generously with his friends and colleagues his fine appreciation of the ridiculous both inside and outside the field. All of this he did - and this is very hard to pull off - without a trace of mean-spiritedness, because it simply was not there.

Like many colleagues I am grateful that I had a chance to see Bill just last spring at a conference at Columbia; like many colleagues, too, I'm sure, I regret that I did not sit him down then for dinner or a drink to enjoy his latest pungent observations on the world and feel the warmth of his kindness and concern.

Bill Jones was a fine scholar, but even more than that he was a fine human being. At the reception after his memorial service someone remarked to me, "They don't make them like that any more." Another person, overhearing, corrected her: "They didn't make them like that before, either!"

I will miss you, Bill.

Jerome Cohen (New York University)

CohenThose of us who work in the field of Chinese law, fortunately, seldom hold unanimous views about anything. But, understandably, our opinions about Bill Jones, as person, scholar, teacher and friend, converge to the point of unanimity in our praise and affection. In his apparently relaxed and genuinely humorous way, Bill made a profound and lasting impression on all who were privileged to share his interests in China, past and present. His clear and penetrating analysis of the Qing Code, offered from the perspective of one familiar with Continental European law as well as its Anglo-American counterpart, not only called necessary attention to the foundations of contemporary Chinese law but did it in a manner that cast new light upon this major subject. Bill's teaching and participation in conferences demonstrated his interesting and lucid flair for drawing the rest of us into his topic in a low-key, yet humorous, fashion. Tolerance and tale-telling were two of Bill`s many fine traits, as anyone who listened to his amusing stories of what life in Wuhan was like in the early '80s for a pioneering and lonely American professor. Bill was also a generous and kind person, whether in his relations with Chinese and American students or his appraisal of the contributions of many others in our field. His eternally youthful good looks and engaging smile provided persuasive evidence for the proposition that internal qualities are often registered in one's demeanor. Sadly, but not surprisingly, I see no "revolutionary successor" on the horizon.

Alison Conner (University of Hawai'i)

Conner_1Bill Jones once joked to another friend of ours that he had known me forever - but that was pretty much true. We met at a summer language program, where we were both studying Chinese (and I was still in my teens). During the forty years since then, Bill was a wonderful friend and mentor to me, and I benefited many times from his support and advice. He wrote me detailed reports of his Fulbright year in Wuhan in 1982, for example, and I felt encouraged me to take the Fulbright to Nanjing in 1983 (I'm so glad I did).

Bill told me years ago that China was "simply the most important country," and he was disappointed that most American law schools did not agree - though of course he did a great deal to change that. Like everyone else, I learned a lot from his scholarship, all of it informed by a deep understanding of civil law systems and legal history.

I admired Bill for many reasons besides his scholarship, not least his kindness. I still remember the praise he and Jean gave me after a presentation I made years ago (really it was kind of a dud). Bill and Jean were also the most sociable of beings; they always had time for their friends. And I just loved his humor. When he was about sixty-five I said that he never seemed to age, that to me he still seemed in his forties. He just laughed. "You know why that is, don't you?," he asked. "Then you would still be in your twenties!"

In short, Bill was a scholar and a gentleman; can there be higher praise? I wish I could have a visit with him just one last time.

Randle Edwards (Columbia University (emeritus))

Edwards Bill Jones will be sorely missed by anyone who knew him. He embodied so many of the qualities that define the labels "gentleman" and "nice guy." He was kind and gentle; at the same time, he had a biting wit that he could employ to caricature incompetent bureaucrats.

Bill was a charter member of the first CLEEC enterprise. As chairman of that venture for its first eight years, I still feel deeply indebted to Bill for his valuable service on the committee. I don't think he ever missed a meeting, and he was always well prepared. Inevitably, he would make unique and constructive suggestions that helped to shape the evolving CLEEC policy.

Bill's contributions to CLEEC, and his Chinese law scholarship both reflected his long career as a law professor and acting dean - he knew how to deal with law faculties - and his background in civil law systems. Understanding China's legal education needs and helping to design a program to help train Chinese law teachers at US law schools - the CLEEC mandate - required a realization of the implications that Chinese law and its system of legal education had been shaped more by the European civil law model than by the American common law model. Bill played a vital role in helping the Committee "translate" civil law concepts and values into language we could all understand.

Bill: The thought of the twinkle in your eye and your kind manner will always make your friends smile. You were a vital link in the CLEEC clique - your irony was served up so gently that even its targets were moved to merge with "Datong." We will continue to be guided by your spirit, your translation of the Qing Code, and your contribution to the genesis of CLEEC II.

James Feinerman (Georgetown University)

[Editor's note: Jim has written a wonderful essay in memory of Bill that I am putting at the end of these tributes as a kind of capstone piece. Please scroll to the bottom if you can't wait.]

John Haley (Washington University in St. Louis)

HaleyA member of the law faculty since 1955, Bill Jones helped to build the foundations for the study of comparative and international law at Washington University in St. Louis. In so doing he was instrumental in making its current programs possible. No one in the field of Chinese legal studies need be reminded of his immense contributions as a scholar to the field. As a teacher he was always a caring mentor. To the hundreds of students from China he taught and counseled, he epitomized the generous spirit of the United States. Indeed, all who knew him will remember and miss his seemingly effortless intellect, wit, and kindness. 

Yonglin Jiang (Oklahoma State University)

JiangI started to know Professor William Jones when I assisted him with his monumental translation of The Great Qing Code in 1990. During the month-long work, Professor Jones not only taught me scholarship but also influenced me with his amiable personality. Since then, he set up a model as a scholar and friend for me, from which I will have greatly benefited. Last April at Chicago, I was fortunate to meet Professor Jones and thanked him in person for his support of my work. I was shocked to learn that it turned to be our last meeting. Professor Jones is my teacher and friend forever.

Hilary Josephs (Syracuse University)

Josephs_2When I learned of Bill's passing, the postscript which Sima Qian wrote for the Biography of General Li Guang came to mind: "People grieved whether they knew him personally or not. He was admired for his earnestness and sincerity. 'The flowering fruit trees in spring do not speak but a path is worn beneath them nonetheless.' Brief words which convey a profound meaning."

I first met Bill and Jean at an AAS meeting about ten years ago. I had organized a panel on the Administrative Litigation Law, a subject about which I really knew nothing. Bill and Jean sat in the front row. During the Q & A period, Bill commented dryly that my remarks were based on French law, which should not be so facilely compared to Chinese law. He had tremendous admiration for the uniqueness of Chinese law and was alert to any comparison which obscured or distorted China's singular achievement. A part of his legacy for those who study Chinese law, anywhere in the world, is to make the subject intelligible to non-specialists but without ever losing sight of its essential character.

Margot Landman (National Committee on US-China Relations)

In addition to being a fine scholar, Bill was an extraordinarily kind, thoughtful, concerned human being. He also had a wonderful sense of humor, which served him well, both in China and in the United States (he could be equally sharp about both).

Terrill Lautz (Luce Foundation)

I first met Bill Jones in the early 1980s when he was teaching at Wuhan University, and greatly admired his open, generous and pioneering spirit. He made wonderful contributions to the study of Chinese law and U.S.-China relations over the years, and his legacy will long be remembered by his Chinese and American students and colleagues.

Tahirih Lee (Florida State University)

Lee_1From the very first time I met Bill, probably at an annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies or the American Society for Legal History in the late 1980s, he was unbelievably kind and supportive and interested in what I was researching. He was always so genuine and so easy to talk to. He continued to be this kind of rock for me, even through our last conversation in April, at Columbia. From the lectures I heard him give at these meetings and other important venues, like Harvard's East Asian Legal Studies, from his writings, which I always found useful in my Chinese law and Comparative law classes, from his reports of his teaching in China and at Washington University, long into his "retirement," Bill was clearly interested in a whole world of ideas that, though focused on Chinese law and legal history (thank goodness, for us all), linked him to the big legal thinkers of the twentieth century (Karl Llewellyn comes to mind). His work always inspired me, helped me envision our field in the most positive light. I am still profoundly shocked at his passing and wish we had many more conversations ahead of us. 

Stanley Lubman (University of California at Berkeley & The Asia Foundation)

LubmanBill Jones's death is immensely saddening. He was a rare combination of scholar and gentleman. During the thirty-odd years that I knew him, rather than specific moments that stand out, I am left with an deep impression of a combination of sweetness of smile and temperament, a keen capacity for assessing the qualities of others, and a dedication to the extraordinarily broad and insightful scholarship that he leaves behind for us to learn from and emulate.

Much has been said by others about his mentoring. When I looked, just now, at our correspondence in recent years, I was reminded that he was one of the few colleagues I have had who would not only write to congratulate me on a recent publication, but proceed to tell me precisely why he liked it and, deftly and politely, suggest interpretations or analyses that differed from mine. And, deliciously, his letters were also often replete with salty comments on China, China experts, and the state of the nation and the world. I only regret that I don't have more of them, but of course that is just a small reflection of the great loss caused by his death. 

Wei Luo (Washington University in St. Louis)

LuoThe first time when I heard about Prof. William C. Jones was in 1985 in China. I heard that he was one of the American legal scholars who had the research interests on Chinese law since 1960s and had made tremendous contributions to promote the academic exchanges in legal field between the U.S. and China. Since July 1997, I have worked for Washington University School of Law Library as a librarian. In the past eight years, I was very fortunate to have the chance to work closely with Prof. Jones by building a comprehensive Chinese law collection, providing him with Chinese legal materials for his research needs, and discussing Chinese legal issues with him. I had asked him to write forewords for three of my books on Chinese law. He always accepted my requests pleasantly and finished writing the forewords timely. For these, I am deeply indebted to him.

Prof. Jones was also a great human being to be around. He was always very kind, gentle and had a sense of humor. He was a great mentor to me and many other Chinese who had been around him. In 1980s and 1990s, he had helped more than two dozen Chinese students and scholars come to study at Washington University School of Law. Many of them told me how nice he was and how much they appreciated him. He impressed me and many other Chinese as a great scholar who was wise and humble [dazhi yongrong or 大智雍容 in Chinese]. His death is a great loss to us but his kindness and scholarship will live within us forever.

Jonathan Ocko (North Carolina State University)

OckoAs others have noted, Bill combined an intellectual sharpness (and at times tartness) with a personal gentility and sweetness that still bore traces of his childhood in the South. This combination came through most clearly at conferences when he would gently, politely, but highly effectively demolish what he found to be a weak argument. As an intellectual mentor and friend to us all, he'll be deeply missed.                                                                                              


John Ohnesorge (University of Wisconsin)

Ohnesorge I knew Bill Jones only through his wonderful scholarship, and through one long lunch in Harvard Square when I was an SJD candidate looking for a teaching position. My lasting memory of him will be as a highly accomplished senior scholar who was genuinely interested in the work of younger scholars, and who retained a real sense of modesty about our ability to understand the place law in the wider world in which we live.


Randall Peerenboom (University of California at Los Angeles)

PeerenboomBill Jones was both well-liked and well-respected.  His work was what comparative law should be - combining knowledge of Chinese law with other legal systems, and insight with wisdom. He will be sorely missed, but fondly remembered by all of us who have benefitted from knowing him and reading his work.



Pitman Potter (University of British Columbia)


Bill Jones has long been a source of support and inspiration for my efforts to understand changing conditions of law in China.  Whether as a participant on scholarly panels, a contributor to my edited volume on domestic law reform in China, or a partner in discussion and conversation over dinner or drinks, Bill has always combined humor and a dry wit with much useful advice.

I recall my first meeting with Bill in 1983 at the Universities Service Centre on Argyle Street in Hong Kong, when he held forth on the origins of civil code drafting in China.  Bill offered a rich depiction of the comparative and historical contexts for China's efforts to draft the General Principles of Civil Law, which stood as a model for scholarly analysis of later legislation.  While the depth of his knowledge was more than a little intimidating for this 1st year law student and doctoral dissertation researcher, he presented his ideas in such an engaging and interesting way that I could not help but be drawn in. This encapsulated for me Bill's intellectual legacy - a rich body of work that illuminated and explained the complexities of the law in China, combined with a sense of personal humor, engagement, and empathy. I'll miss him greatly.

Mark Sidel (University of Iowa)

SidelBill Jones was a kind, respectful and generous man to Chinese scholars and to all of us who have sought to understand China and Chinese law. That openness, kindness, respect and generosity in a senior scholar helped reinforce ways of behavior in many of us toward Chinese and foreign colleagues and students, lessons that have become more important with the passage of time. 

Bill loved Chinese legal language, and loved working with it, and so when I worked in Beijing in the late 1980s and early 1990s heading the Ford Foundation's law and legal reform programs, I regularly sent him packages of new Chinese law books published in Beijing. His joy in receiving and using these texts was palpable, even from many thousands of miles away, in his regular and warm notes of thanks. Bill respected texts and found them well worth studying, using, and translating, along with the social and political reality that surrounded and shaped them. His work, and his extraordinary publications, will continue to remind us of the value of text in a time when it is often devalued, and of the value of careful and caring scholarship in understanding and changing the world.

In these sad days since his death, I keep returning to kindness and respect. The world of law schools Bill worked in and we also inhabit are not generally places of kindness or respect. Bill was a shining exception, and a radiant teacher of those virtues.

Wang Xi (Shanghai Jiaotong University)

WangI was very sad to hear the news about the passing away of Professor William Jones. I was one of the first group of Chinese students introduced to the Law School of Washington University by him in 1985. I went there and provided a little help for his great project of translating the Qing Code into English. He helped me to study at the Law School of Washington U. It is nearly 20 years since I left Washington University in 1987. I went back to Washington University in 1996 and had a short chat with him in St. Louis.

Professor William Jones is a man very important to my career as an environmental law scholar. It is him who introduced me to America and spent nearly three years there. The experience of the my life in St. Louis and Washington University is very precious to me in many aspects such law, culture and society. I feel that as time goes, its value and usefulness increase. I was lucky to be chosen by him to study at Washington U.

Now I am a Law Professor at the Law School of Shanghai Jiao Tong University and serve as an Associate Dean for international cooperation. Professor William Jones had spent a lot of his time and energy in creating and developing academic relation between the law societies of the United States and China. As his student, the best way for me to memory Professor William Jones is to do my best to promote the academic cooperation between the jurists between China and the United States, especially between the Law Schools of Washington U and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

I miss Professor William Jones very much.

Susan Weld (Congressional-Executive Commission on China)

I have wonderful memories of hilarious dinners with Bill and Jean in their Cambridge apartment, and conferences at which Bill's gentle comments went right to the quick of a discussion. The field is so much the poorer for his loss.

Margaret Woo (Northeastern University)

WooI remember Bill for his kindness and love of knowledge.  Here's a send-off he would appreciate. It's a Chinese poem by the famous Li Bai (李白).

Seeing a Friend Off 送友人

Green mountains range beyond the northen wall. 青山横北郭
White water rushes round the eastern town. 白水绕东城
Right here is where, alone and restless, he 此地一为别
Begins a journey of a thousand miles. 孤蓬万里征

While travelers' intents are fleeting clouds, 浮云游子意
A friend's affection is a setting sun. 落日故人情
He waves good-bye, and as he goes from here, 挥手自兹去
His dappled horse lets out a lonely neigh. 萧萧班马鸣

Wendy Zeldin (Library of Congress)

The Law Library of Congress was honored to have Bill Jones visit on several occasions. His engaging conversation, straightforward and dignified manner, sheer love of scholarship and the Chinese legal field, as well as that Southern gentility others have mentioned, made him a much valued guest. Those visits will be missed.

James Feinerman (Georgetown University)

FeinermanTo those of us who knew Bill Jones well, it is indeed a cruel irony that he died of heart failure. To think that a heart that big, that generous, that kind could fail – well, it’s unimaginable. Yet Bill is gone, and his loss will be felt by many for a very long time. Moreover, the loss to the field of Chinese law is immeasurable. As many others have noted, Bill was a unique contributor to the global study of Chinese law. He had a firm grounding in comparative law and understood civil codes and the civil law mentality extraordinarily well. Thus, he could distinguish the uniquely Chinese elements in China’s laws from those which were unusual (to common lawyers, at least) because of their civil law elements. Bill also became expert in the study of Chinese legal history, particularly that of China’s final dynastic era, the Qing. His work in that area culminated with a masterful translation of the Great Qing Code into modern English. Along with Wallace Johnson’s translation of the Tang Code and a recent translation of the Ming Code by Jiang Yonglin (a student of Bill’s), this Qing Code translation made it possible for historians and legal academics of our era to study in readable English the last thousand years of China’s legal development.

Perhaps what was most extraordinary about Bill Jones’s career was his enormous erudition and prodigious scholarship, despite having come to the study of Chinese law rather late. Having already completed his doctorate in law at the University of Chicago (under the doyenne of commercial law, Soia Mentschikoff, spouse of Karl Llewellyn, Chief Reporter and drafter of the modern Uniform Commercial Code for which Prof. Mentschikoff was Associate Chief Reporter), Bill became interested in China in middle life. But this was no momentary flirtation or passing interest. The seriousness with which Bill approached all his scholarly endeavors led him to study Chinese for years, both the modern language and the classical literary version. He spent years first in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan and later in mainland China pursuing his academic interests. Not content merely to develop linguistic skills, Bill immersed himself in the study of China’s history and contemporary society, drawing on many disciplines and reading widely in economics, political science and sociology and anthropology to develop a well-rounded understanding of China.

I first met Bill when I was a law student at Harvard in the late 1970s and found him delightfully direct and unpretentious for someone who was already an established scholar. Characteristically, he talked little about his own work but took great interest in mine and that of my classmates. We compared our respective experiences as students, at different times, in New Haven and Cambridge. Bill lamented that so many of us with Sinological training were planning to trade the academic life for a more practical legal career; he predicted, accurately in my case, that we would tire of the “bright lights” of big city law firms. My friendship with Bill was cemented a few years later when he and I became the first Fulbright law teachers in China since 1949. While I returned to Peking University, where I had been an exchange student a few years earlier, Bill drew the much harder duty of teaching at Wuhan University, an important city in central China with a great university and a law department headed by the noted scholar Han Depei. Wuhan in the early 1980s still quite remote and barely beginning to recover from the Cultural Revolution and to join the headlong modernization of China’s past quarter century. Beijing was quite cosmopolitan by comparison. 

Nevertheless, Bill (and his wife, Jean, who continued to practice law in St. Louis but made frequent trips to Wuhan) embraced his posting with considerable enthusiasm. Wuhan at that time was the focus of French educational exchange efforts in China. Bill’s command of French and congenital amiability quickly made him the best American friend of the French teachers at Wuhan University. This, in turn, yielded many benefits. The French Consulate in Hong Kong shipped a cubic meter crate of French culinary necessities (not just baguettes but also Camembert and pâté de foie gras) regularly to their outpost in Wuhan. The bonhomie of Professeur et Docteur Guillaume Jones made him a welcome guest in the French quarters at Wuhan. 


The summer of 1983, at the end of my Fulbright year in China but only the middle of Bill’s two years in Wuhan, he and Jean and I went along on a Chinese Ministry of Education-organized ten-day trip to Tibet – Lhasa, Shigatse and Gyangtse. Our group of ten included four French teachers, two Germans and four Americans. Linguistically and interpersonally, Bill Jones was the pivotal member of the group. Aside from being the only one who spoke all three languages fluently, he also was able to negotiate many difficulties – ranging from poorly trained translators to finding a separate Land Cruiser in addition to our group bus to transport one of the French women suffering from a "crise du foie." I should also mention that the Wuhan faculty wanted Bill to teach a course on the German civil code, which he was eminently qualified to do; however, Bill demurred, noting that the Fulbright Program required him to focus on American subjects, including U.S. law.

Bill was, as a result of the Fulbright experience in China, committed to finding and expanding opportunities for training Chinese law students and legal academics and for increasing US-China legal exchanges. While teaching for a second year in China, he prevailed upon me (back in the US administering the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard) to convince the United States Information Agency to make probably the smallest government grant ever accepted by the President and Fellows of Harvard College – $11,000! – for a conference in China to bring legal academics together. A year later, Lance Liebman, Whitmore Gray and James J. White, along with Bill and me, met with over a dozen of China’s leading law faculty at that time to begin to figure out how to teach U.S. law better to Chinese students, not only under Fulbright auspices but also new programs that were just beginning to appear. Bill was among the earliest members of the Committee on Legal Education Exchange with China (CLEEC), a Ford Foundation-funded program which trained over 250 young Chinese legal educators and funded more than 20 Americans for study and research of Chinese law. At Washington University Law School, he taught generations of students Chinese and comparative law and shepherded many PRC students through their courses of study.

Most importantly, Bill was a scholar. In his scholarly writings, the essential Bill Jones was distilled. His work educated many and will continue to inform those who read it in the future. The qualities of mind and character – intelligence, sharp analysis, wit and humor, generosity and humility – stand out in all his books, articles and reviews.  In the remaining space I will only cite, briefly, a few of his "greatest hits" – those shining instances of perspicacity where Bill made sense of the very difficult and chaotic field of Chinese legal studies. One such instance was his review – particularly in his title –  of Gordon Bennett’s Yundong: Mass Campaigns in Chinese Communist Leadership (Berkeley, 1976), "On the Campaign Trail in China."  Bill made the connections between the mass campaigns, which others had already studied, and the lack of formal law in China at that time, seeing policy, as evinced in the periodic campaigns, as a form of (or substitute for) law. The witty title caught the reader’s eye, but the analysis carried the day.

Uncharacteristically, Bill got into something of an academic spat with the German Chinese law specialist, Frank Münzel, in the Review of Socialist Law over a quarter of century ago. I should make clear that it was Münzel who took the offensive, after Bill wrote a slightly provocative article in 1978, "An Approach to Chinese Law."  Bill made the still-valid point that codified Chinese law, while analogous to the civil law of the European tradition, is really quite fundamentally different. Looking at the broad sweep of Chinese history, he observed:

Law is about how government functions.  The subject of law is the Emperor who looks at the universe of China from the center . . . .   Mostly, he is interested in seeing that his instructions are being carried out.

Examining a set of laws focused on trade, Bill set out to show that they were really about the "distribution of goods in China when distribution involves payment." In his conclusion, he makes the simple, but fundamental, point: "Law is internal to the government." Münzel took great umbrage and responded with a “Comment” on Jones’s article, complaining with perhaps Teutonic leniency toward a common lawyer who had strayed too far off the reservation that "Professor Jones . . . presents his material in such a way that the reader must reach mistaken conclusions, even if these are not intended by Professor Jones."

To my mind, it seemed like a repetition of the famous exchange between Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. Fitzgerald tried to get Hemingway to see that the rich were "different from you and me" in some existential way; Hemingway gruffly retorted, "Yes, they have more money." In parallel fashion, Jones was making the point that Chinese law is different from other civil law, to which Münzel replied, "Yes, it is Chinese." Like Hemingway, Münzel was literally correct but missed the point fundamentally. In his reply to the comments, Bill Jones wrote, in a manner reflecting his puzzlement at Münzel’s attack and his own deep humility:

. . . I am a little puzzled as to how to proceed since Dr. Münzel’s comments seem to me to have almost no relation to what I wrote.

. . . I find Chinese law a very difficult field. So does everyone I know who is connected with it. After reading this piece by Dr. Münzel, it seems to me that he is in the same boat with the rest of us.

Bill went on to drive home his point that part of the problem then (and now) was trying to understand the Chinese legal system as just another version of the civil law, which it clearly was not. Regardless of the personal assault by Münzel, he ascribes it to their shared predicament in trying to make sense of an impenetrable system.

A final example of Bill’s wry attitude and ability to go to the core of a problem was his piece in the Washington University Law Quarterly, "The Constitution of the People’s Republic of China," written shortly after the promulgation of China’s last constitution in 1982. Noting that the "written constitution was not the place to start if one wanted to know what the government of China was really like," Bill adduced an apt and simple illustration:

Deng Xiaoping is nominally an official who is chairman of a committee that supervises the Army; he is subordinate, on paper, to Congress. He has never held the very top posts in either the government or Party. Yet it is quite clear that if Deng were to go to E Mei Shan to contemplate nature and observe the sacred monkeys for an extended time, E Mei Shan is where the government of China would be.

This is typical of Bill’s academic writing – devoid of cant and jargon, direct and clear, even when upsetting conventional wisdom or logical suppositions. Though somewhat ironic, it is also matter-of-fact: China’s written constitution is not the foundation of its political and legal system, not the basic law found in any modern Western legal order. This is not to say there is no constitution, but rather to determine where to find it. Vintage Bill.

Not to recognize Jean Engstrom Jones, Bill’s wife and life partner, would be a grievous omission.  She was a top antitrust lawyer, first in the Chicago firm of Chadwell & Kayser and later in a solo practice in St. Louis, where her talents were much in demand, particularly by a local multinational, Monsanto. Notwithstanding the demands of her own busy practice and important clients, she endeavored to share as much of Bill’s interest and work in Asia as her work permitted. Their devotion to each other was heartwarming, and I know their many friends and acquaintances will long retain memories of shared dinners, cultural events and other outings that Bill and Jean enjoyed at home and abroad. 

And, last, I would be remiss not to mention, since it was so much a part of Bill’s and Jean’s lives, their serious commitment to Christian Science. In a day and age where conspicuous religiosity pervades much of public and private life, with political figures pharisaically proclaiming their beliefs, Bill’s quiet, conscientious pursuit of his religion was refreshing. Anyone who traveled with Bill knew that he never went any distance without his well-thumbed Bible and Mary Baker Eddy’s Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures. Nevertheless, Bill’s religion was mostly private and lived by example rather than by proselytizing.

Bill Jones will be missed, but for all his many gifts be long remembered. As the poet wrote:
"Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere."

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I am a student of law in China. This is the first time I heard that there is a honorable man---Mr. William Catron Jones , who studied Chinese law.
I am sorry for his passing awy!
Eveyone, hold your emotion and go on with Mr. William's study.

Posted by: Arthur | Mar 8, 2006 1:18:33 AM

I only now saw Prof. Feinerman's obituary for Prof. Jones. I quite share his feelings about Prof. Jones' passing away; I feel this is a great loss to our study of Chinese law. Prof. Feinerman recalls "something of an academic spat" Prof. Jones had with me. I had, I must admit, completely forgotten this dispute and had to look it up now. Seen now, after nearly 3 decades, we were both right, but he was more right than I was. At the time, I claimed, optimistically, that even then there already was quite a lot of legal rules, albeit hidden in technical standards and the like. Prof. Jones dismissed this sort of thing as, if I may say it in my words, beneath contempt. Now, technically, those standards etc. did, in daily practice, play some legal role. However, seen from the point of view of a legal scholar who hoped for a real, complete civil law - and this, in a continental legal system, meant a Code - they were nothing, perhaps worse than nothing. Chinese legal scholars whom I greatly admire have done and do their utmost since then to alter that situation. Prof. Jones' criticism will have helped them in their fight for solid, codified law.

Frank Muenzel

Posted by: Frank Muenzel | Feb 17, 2007 1:19:49 PM

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