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The Chinese system of judges began during the time of Emperor Yao (ca. 2357 B.C.). After a series of changes, the office of Ting-wei was created to hear and decide criminal cases in the Ch’in and Han dynasties (221 B.C.-264 A.D.). During its last years, the Ching dynasty actively initiated reforms. In 1907 (the thirty-third of Emperor Kwang Shiuh’s reign), the Dah-Li-Yuan was set up to become the highest adjudicative institution of last instance.
In December 1909 (the first year of Emperor Shiuan Tung’s reign), the Law of the Organic Structure of the Courts was promulgated, whereby courts of law were specially established to take charge of adjudication upon civil and criminal cases. It adopted the system of “four-level and three-instance,” with the Da-Li-Yuan, the Supreme Court’s precursor, serving as the court of the third instance.
During the initial years of the Republic of China, too many matters of the government had yet to be taken care of. Therefore, the Republic continued following the laws of the Ching dynasty. For more than ten years after that, China was plunged into the turmoil of the Warlord Era. The contending warlords exercised sovereign powers in a limited fashion in several parts of the nation, creating independent judicial systems of their own—rendering the existence of a unified national judicial system impossible. In 1927 (the sixteenth year of the Republic), the National Revolutionary Army succeeded in reunifying the nation. Nanking was chosen as the capital of the Republic, and the Da-Li-Yuan was renamed as the Supreme Court, which was designated as the nation’s highest tribunal.
On November 17th, 1928 (the seventeenth year of the Republic), the Law of the Supreme Court of the National Government was promulgated, thereby making the Supreme Court the nation’s court of last resort. The Court’s president played a supervisory role of Court affairs, without intervening in specific adjudication matters. These acts marked the formal establishment of the Supreme Court of the Republic of China.
On March 1949 (the thirty-eighth year of the Republic), the Court was moved to Kwang-chow along with the Judicial Yuan. Shortly thereafter, in the August of that same year, the Court was moved from Kwang-chow to Taipei (in the Judicial Building on Chung-king South Road). Finally, it moved to the newly completed Supreme Court Building at 6 Chang-sha Street Section 1, Taipei, on March 23rd, 1992 (the eighty-first year of the Republic), where the Court continues to conduct business to this day.