Professor brings wit and humor to criminal law studies

By Xu Xiaoxuan
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, March 19, 2021
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Professor Luo Xiang autographs his new book "Criminal Law Lecture Notes" at a book-signing event in Shanghai, Aug. 15, 2020. [Photo/VCG]

Law studies, with new statutes to interpret, countless articles to remember and a vast range of cases to analyze, is often seen as tedious and frustratingly difficult. Professor Luo Xiang, however, has brought the subject to life through online video lectures which combine creative storytelling and deadpan humor.

The 44-year-old obtained his doctorate in criminal law from Peking University and is now a professor at the Criminal Justice School of the China University of Political Science and Law. 

Luo opened an account at the invitation of Bilibili, a streaming site particularly popular with younger people born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Since posting his first video on March 9 last year, the criminal law professor has taken the internet by storm racking up 1 million followers within the first two days and more than 13 million to date. 

Often edited from recordings of Luo's lectures on the national judicial exam and lasting fewer than 10 minutes, his videos use references from current affairs and bizarre cases to explain legal concepts. Coupled with Luo's witty and entertaining remarks, the online classes are both informative and engrossing.

"I never expected that so many students would be interested in my classes," Luo said. "I hope to impart more criminal law-related knowledge through the Bilibili platform and help students really understand what the rule of law is."

Besides citing real cases to explain legal terms, Luo also refers to some "funny" or "odd" scenarios and elucidates the legal basis behind them. For instance, is it against the law to tear up someone else's homework? Is intentionally spreading AIDS equal to intentional homicide? And under what circumstances can a dog owner be jailed if their dog bites someone else?

By conveying complicated legal ideas through vivid and interesting cases, viewers can easily grasp the legal terms despite not having a professional background. 

What's noteworthy is that the legal anecdotes Luo mentions usually involve several fictional protagonists, such as the "nefarious" Zhang San — a placeholder name analogous to "John Smith" in English. 

In the legal examples offered by Luo, Zhang seems to be a "professional" culprit who has, so far, poisoned people, robbed them, driven while intoxicated, and even scammed prostitutes. Zhang is such an indispensable role in Luo's lectures that fans have even created a Bilibili account for him. 

In addition, several hotly debated topics including "doxing," protecting oneself against domestic violence and whether capital punishment should be abolished, are also discussed in Luo's videos.

The law professor often emphasizes the importance of reading. He has quoted Frank Kafka by saying "a book must be the ax for the frozen sea inside us," and stresses that the purpose of reading is to "nurture wisdom rather than show off."

Luo likes to intersperse his humorous lectures with quotations from Socrates, Epictetus, Isaac Newton and other respected figures. He warns students, "Freedom, unrestricted, will inevitably lead to the exploitation of the weak by the strong," and that "everyone should restrain their inner ‘Zhang San'."

Despite his increasing popularity, Luo prefers to keep a low profile. "I'm just picking seashells on the beach and want to show my students their beauty through this platform. Nonetheless, instead of showing off the shells in my hands, it's important to help more students appreciate the vast and beautiful sea of knowledge behind them."

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