Sorrow for the loss of Frank Münzel

July 28, 2020

We mourn the passing of Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Frank Münzel, who died on 10 July 2020 at the age of 83. The legal scholar and sinologist worked from 1969 to 2002 as an expert on East Asia at our Institute. With the establishment of the China Unit, he laid an important cornerstone for research on Chinese law in Germany.

Frank Münzel studied law and sinology in Marburg and Hamburg. After sitting for his second state law exam in 1965, he worked initially as a research assistant at the Ostasien-Institut at the University of Bochum, where in 1967 he obtained his doctoral degree based on a dissertation on criminal law in the Ming Dynasty. As he began work at the Institute in 1969, access to materials on contemporary Chinese law was very limited as a result of the isolation of Maoist China.

In connection with research stays in Harvard, Berkeley, Hong Kong, Kyoto and Beijing, he began to acquire modern Chinese legal materials and intensified his study of the legal systems of East Asia. After the end of the Cultural Revolution and the opening of China, he focused his research efforts on a critical analysis of the reforms that were radically reshaping the Chinese legal world.

The most notable work of Frank Münzel is the collection “Chinas Recht”. Commenced in 1978, the annotated translation of more than 300 Chinese texts became the essential starting point for the analysis of Chinese law by German scholars and practitioners. His 1982 publication “Das Recht der Volksrepublik China” offered an at-the-time unique overview of the Chinese legal system.

The China Unit supervised by Frank Münzel at the Institute was the forerunner of today’s Centre of Expertise on China and Korea. In 1988 Münzel was named honorary professor at the Deutsch-Chinesisch Institut für Rechtswissenschaft at the University of Göttingen. His efforts also influenced many Chinese jurists and thus made a key contribution to the growing appreciation of a need for reform inside China. His interest in other cultures, in no way limited to China, touched many individuals, who saw in him an inspiring role model. He will be honoured in our memories.

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