Talk:Legalism (Chinese philosophy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Current status[edit]

I reorganized the introductory articles in May 2018, and did some editing beginning and mid 2019. I returned in January 2020 for a brief edit and addition to the realism section, and then added an "assessments" section to Shang Yang. Added google books to "What is Taoism?" reference.FourLights (talk) 22:20, 10 January 2020 (UTC)

I haven't been as active during the pandemic, but I haven't forgotten about the page and will be doing some relevant reading.FourLights (talk) 03:40, 27 November 2020 (UTC)

About section[edit]

1. "All encyclopedic content on Wikipedia must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), which means representing fairly, proportionately, and, as far as possible, without bias, all of the significant views that have been published by reliable sources on a topic."FourLights (talk) 14:59, 4 December 2016 (UTC)

2. Anti-generalization.

The ideas of Creel and Chad Hansen contributed greatly to the development of the article. Creel divides the Legalists into two founders, as Han Fei does. Chad Hansen connects the Fa of the "Legalists" with that of the Mohists. This seems well founded and I have no material against it. Xing-Ming is also derived from the School of the Logicians - another group which emerged from the Mohists.

I consider much in the way of Legalism, or Fa, to simply be an evolution of the "rectification of names" of the Mohists, which I put at the beginning under Fa. Even Shang Yang may be said to be an early example of this. Shang Yang's doctrine is not "laws", but "standards" (names), and includes a system of ranks and titles (names). In this he may be connected to the other more administrative Fa thinkers.

Modern documents reject Legalism as totalitarian, and emphasize the qualification of absolutism.FourLights (talk) 04:44, 29 January 2017 (UTC)

3. "Wikipedia strives to be a serious reference resource, and highly technical subject matter still belongs in some Wikipedia articles. Increasing the understandability of technical content is intended to be an improvement to the article for the benefit of the less knowledgeable readers, but this should be done without reducing the value to readers with more technical background." Admittedly, I could always use someone to go over the article.FourLights (talk) 22:24, 10 January 2020 (UTC)

4. I consider the article indivisible.FourLights (talk) 16:00, 14 June 2017 (UTC)


Creel discredits the influence of Taoism on Legalism, though his view is not universal. re: Mingjun Lu 2016. p.344. Implications of Han Fei’s Philosophy. Journal of Chinese Political Science. But Mingjun doesn't provide much in the way of examples except that Han Fei's ruler "discerning the Tao". Han Fei uses the term Tao but doesn't provide much in the way of examples of the ruler following the Tao - rather, he simply observes the Tao and leaves affairs to Fa. The ruler "chronicles occurrences" (the tao), commanding affairs to settle themselves according to Fa and allowing it's adjustment at the cost of reward or punishment. References to the Tao of Government exist in Confucianism also. Tao doesn't originate in Taoism.

Legalist texts themselves mostly preceded Taoist texts. The Taoism in the Han Feizi or Shen Dao seems a fluorish to me (and Creel), empty of any content except the methods themselves. Having done a little translation myself, the chapter "Tao of the Sovereign" might be translated differently such that, leaving affairs to Fa, the ruler not only doesn't express himself, but does not hold interviews - the doctrine of Shen Buhai and Shen Dao, not Laozi (which is thought to have been written after them).

Not interfering in affairs is inherent to the usage of Fa, as detailed in my "enlightened absolutism" section.

Shen Dao includes the statement that a clod of earth does not depart from the Tao. Han Fei says "The Dao is the origin of all things, and the standard (or perhaps chronicle) of right and wrong." Mingjun argues that the Legalist ruler discerns the Dao. He does not; a clod of earth does not discern; very Zhuangzhi, and the Zhuangzhi discusses Shen Dao, rather than the other way around. Rather the ruler uses Fa. If the ruler follows the Tao, the Tao of the "Legalists" itself is Fa - the heritage of the Mohists. That of the Taoists is not; the Taoists sometimes argue against Fa. I have Chad Hansen's research on the Mohists, I currently have nothing articulating the influence of "Taoism". I'll have to look up Peter Moody's text (2011).

However, Mingjun more persuasively argues that Han Fei does not oppose virtue - which often he does not..FourLights (talk) 02:41, 17 November 2016 (UTC)


Monumenta Serica, Journal of Asian History, Dao Journal of Chinese Philosophy
Journal of the American Oriental Society yet. Journal of Religion
Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Philosophy
Jianghan Tribune

Reviewed documents[edit]

THE MEANING OF HSING-MING. STUDIA SERICA: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
Representations of Childhood and Youth in Early China. Three uses.
Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China. Two uses.
Randall COLLINS 1998 p.148, THE SOCIOLOGY OF PHILOSOPHIES. Minor quotation.

Mostly reviewed
Chad Hansen, 1992 p.349,352,359. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought
Monumenta Serica. The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming. John Makeham. Pages 111+ remain of interest.
Persistent Misconceptions. Reviewed once, though not it's sources. Pages 21+ remain of interest.
Erica Brindley, The Polarization of the Concepts Si (Private Interest) and Gong (Public Interest) in Early Chinese Thought.
Pages 21+ remain of interest.


The Significance of the Concept of 'Fa' in Han Fei's Thought System Wang Hsiao-po and L. S. Chang Philosophy East and West Vol. 27, No. 1 (Jan., 1977), pp. 35-52 (18 pages) Published by: University of Hawai'i Press DOI: 10.2307/1397699

JOURNAL ARTICLE Han Fei Tzu: Management Pioneer Donald V. Etz Public Administration Review Vol. 24, No. 1 (Mar., 1964), pp. 36-38 (3 pages) Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration DOI: 10.2307/973563

Autocratic Bureaucratism

JOURNAL ARTICLE Rhetorical Authority in Athenian Democracy and the Chinese Legalism of Han Fei Arabella Lyon Philosophy & Rhetoric Vol. 41, No. 1 (2008), pp. 51-71 (21 pages) Published by: Penn State University Press

Fa (Standards: Laws) and Meaning Changes in Chinese Philosophy Author(s): Chad Hansen Source: Philosophy East and West, Vol. 44, No. 3 (Jul., 1994), pp. 435-488 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press Stable URL: Accessed: 31-10-2018 01:33 UTC

STATE CONTROL OF BUREAUCRATS UNDER THE QIN: TECHNIQUES AND PROCEDURES Author(s): Robin D.S. Yates Source: Early China, Vol. 20 (1995), pp. 331-365 Published by: Society for the Study of Early China Stable URL: Accessed: 31-10-2018 01:36 UTC


I tried to obtain these by interlibrary loan
History of Chinese Political Thought
the bureaucratic vision of han fei tzu


The frequent western mistranslation of Fa as meaning "method" as in "administrative method" for instead "law" lead to the martial art Kenpo or "fist method" being mistranslated to the silly "law of the fist", as stated by that page, the word Kenpo using the Chinese character Fa though using a different (Japanese) sound for it.FourLights (talk) 08:49, 2 May 2020 (UTC)

Working pages[edit]

Xing Lu 1998. Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century, B.C.E.. p.264.

Shang Yang
Shang Yang
Shen Tao
Han Fei and Mohism
Han Fei and Shih
Mao Zedong and Legalism
Han Fei misc,cdr:1,cd_min:1/1/1900,cd_max:1/1/2004&tbm=bks&ei=uRqCWdTpPMaL0wKQ_q4Y&start=10&sa=N&biw=1333&bih=672&dpr=1.2

Minor usage

Basically extra workspace[edit]

Documents of interest[edit]
The Book of Lord Shang: Apologetics of State Power in Early China

Cities of Aristocrats and Bureaucrats

Heritage of China: Contemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization

Autocratic Tradition and Chinese Politics: Zhengyuan Fu

Jia Yi Xin Shu

Strategic Culture and Grand Strategy in Chinese History

A History of Chinese Political Thought, Volume One

On shi 勢, see Roger Ames, The Art of Rulership,

Sources of Chinese tradition

A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy

The Confucian-Legalist State


Leadership and Management in China

The world of thought in ancient China

Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition

T'ung-tsu Chu, Local Government in China under the Ch'ing

Hanfei and Truth: Between Pragmatism and Coherentism?


Search for modern nationalism

Neo-Conucianism and Neo-Laglism in T'ang intelectual life, the confucian persuasion

On Yin Wenzi and his Legal Philosophy Pattern of Taoism

Cultural Roots of Sustainable Management

Rational Choice Analysis

The Legitimation of Chinese Lawmaking (II): Chinese Legalism

The Evolution of Legalists’ theories of the Western Han Dynasty

Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao by R. P. Peerenboom

Law in imperial China. Exemplified by 190 Ch'ing Dynasty Cases. With Historical, Social, and Juridical Commentaries, Harvard Studies in East Asian Law, 1 by Derk Bodde, Clarence Morris and Hsing-an hui-lan

Landers, James R.: "Han Fei's Legalism and Its Impact on the History of China"; p. 101-112

China's Imperial Past

The Legalists and the Fall of Ch'in

The Legalist Philosophers - Chinese Thought

The Legalists and the Laws of Ch'in - Leyden Studies in Sinology

A Tentative Discussion of Pre-Ch'in Legalists

Taoist Silk Manuscripts and Early Legalist Thought - Sages and Filial Sons

The Ch'in Bamboo strip book of divination

The Legalist School and Shi-Huang Ti

Legalist School and Legal Positivism

A Comparison of the legltimacy of power between confucianist and legalist philosophies

the legalist school was the product of great social change

the crystalization of pre-chin legalist thought

the struggle for and against restoration in the course of the founding of the Ch'in dynasty - selection from people's republic of china magazines The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming

the fa-chia and the shang-shu

the reformers of 1898 and pre-chin legalist thought

which books did the first emperor

ancient chinese cosmology and fa-chia theory - exploration in early chinese cosmology

the early legalist school of chinese political thought - open court

the theory of law in the ching-fa

war, punishment and the law of nature in early chinese concepts of the state

Ch'in Shi Huang's bookburning

Chinese Legal Philosophy

The Legalists - Free China Review

On 'Legalism' as an Heuristic device

The book of lord shang. Probstain's Oriental Studies vol.xvii

Shang Yang's reforms and state control in china

In criticism of Shang Yang

The theory and practice of a totalitarian state - individual and state

Some reflections on Shang Yang and his political philosophy.

Shang Yang - Sinica 3

The Book of Lord Shang and the School of Law

Shen pu-hai: a misunderstood and wrongly neglected thinker

shen tzu - early chinese texts

on the transmission of the shen tzu

Shen Tao and Fa-Chia

Shen Dao - Tietze klauss

trauzettel rolf

Han Fei and the Han Feizi

The dialect of chih and tao in the han fei tzu

the political thought of han fei

han fei zi: the man and the work

a study of han fei's thought

han fei's principle of government by law

a concordance to han-fei tzu - chinese materials center, research aids no.13

taoist metaphyiscs in the chieh lao

learned celebrities: a criticism of the confucians

five vermin: a pathological analysis of politics

a reading of han fei's 'wu tu'

trauzettel rolf - han feizi

the philosophical foundations of han-fei's political theory

han fei's theory of the 'rule of law'

han fei's critikue and reconstruction

constrat of the concept of li

han fei tzu: management pioneer

the legalism of the han fei tzu

han fei tzu and nicollo machiavelli

Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese philosophy

Han Feizi’s Legalism versus Kautilya’s Arthashastra

A Comparison of the Legitimacy of Power Between Confucianist and Legalist Philosophies

Xunzi and Han Fei on Human Nature

Rhetorical Authority in Athenian Democracy and the Chinese Legalism of Han Fei

Jurisculture china FourLights (talk) 00:36, 17 October 2018 (UTC)



Viewed as within the domain of the Emperor and his officials, who were responsible for all alterations, the development of a legal profession would be illegal or otherwise unknown, with lawyers described as litigation tricksters, pettifoggers, tigers, wolves or demons. Confucians, on the other hand, left civil matters to custom, emphasizing "spiritual cultivation."[1] This dualism may be compared to Roman continental law, which the late Qing dynasty and the Kuomintang used in their reforms, and which sought the security of the position of the Emperor and territorial integrity and was based on the two authorities of state over citizen and family over dependent.[2]

Lacking modern resources, the Chinese did not distinguish law from administration even under the Maoists.[3] Administrative justice was always an aspect of "executive", general administration.[4] Moreover, even at the local level, and even if the cultural framework for much in the way of individual rights existed (it emphasized family), Fa, or its minimalist government, could not expected to administer much in the way of individual rights or social regulation, let alone from an imperial level.[5] Chinese rulers believed that wise emperors governed their officials rather than their subjects.[6]

Liang Qichao considers the inability to achieve a radical reform of the legislative authority to be the greatest failure of the Fa-Jia, with Shih and Shu, being a government by men, contradicting rule of law. In order to have a government of law, it has to proceed from something like a constitution.[7] Modern Chinese often see the Fa-Jia as autocratic and otherwise lacking a substantial rule of law,[8] though this must be qualified.

Historiographer Sima Tan's commonly cited criteria held that the Fa-Jia ignored differences and disregarded kinship, evaluating everyone equally according to Fa, saying that they "are strict and have little kindness, but their alignment of the divisions between lord and subject, superior and inferior, cannot be improved upon... Fajia does not distinguish between kin and stranger or differentiate between noble and base; all are judged as one."[9] This equal treatment may be considered a "Fa-Jia" value, akin to Aristotle's value of freedom,[10] but was intended to support the position, prerogatives and policies of the prince,[11] though by definition Fa is never merely his will.[12]

One recent Chinese scholar argued that "Han's legal vision is informed by an expansive view of not only ethics but also justice... defined as a moral choice between personal interests and public obligations..."[13] One of Han Fei's primary notions, zhi emphasizes straightness and the notion of an unbiased heart, saying "What we mean by zi is that, in doing one's duty, to act always impartially and honestly with an unbiased heart." This notion of honest conduct with unbiased intention underlies Qin and Han penal law. Biased judgement, or purposefully handing down judgements in which the punishment is not appropriate to the crime, is defined as a serious crime called buzhi ("not straight"). It is clearly distinguished from mistakes in judging or punishing a crime. Buzhi officials were sent to build the great wall, or exiled to the frontier. A son might be considered crooked for reporting his father, as trying to gain a reputation of honesty at the expense of his father's.[14] Shang Yang argued for Fa ("guided discourse") from the standpoint of the people's interest. "The multitude of people all know what to avoid and what to strive for; they will avoid calamity and strive for happiness, and so govern themselves."[15]

The Fa-Jia emphasizes structuralism and utilitarianism.[16] The Han Feizi may have been as a handbook for statecraft for his cousin, the King of Han.[17]

The appendix to the Book of Changes defines Fa as "to institute something so that we can use it." Part of any institutional structure or process,[18] Fa's basic meanings are "method" and "standard",[19] and are much broader than "law",[20] including rules, measures, codified books,[21] models, technique, or regulation, often implying two or more at the same time.[22] Fa, largely focuses on performance.[23] More properly be understood as yardstick, contrary to the legal positivism (to which "Chinese Legalism" has sometimes been compared) of figures like John Austin in the west, Han Fei considers measurement, and not punishment and reward, to be the essence of law Fa.[24] — Preceding unsigned comment added by FourLights (talk) 19:31, 1 August 2017 (UTC)

Though Han Fei considers people "naturally" self-interested, he suggests that "Once 'law'(Fa) and decrees prevail, the way of selfishness collapses."[24]

The belief in the necessity of an absolute monarch for the attainment of stability and order is common to most political theorists of the Warring States period.[25] Han Fei is not interested in questions like legitimacy, and does not justify his philosophy apart from references to the Dao (or "way" of government), but does hold that the populace fares better under a system of Fa than a Confucian system.[26]

Han Fei stipulated the use of Fa for appointment, measurement, language and reward,[27] as in the following: "An enlightened ruler employs fa to pick his men; he does not select them himself. He employs Fa to weigh their merit; he does not fathom it himself. Thus ability cannot be obscured nor failure prettified. If those who are [falsely] glorified cannot advance, and likewise those who are maligned cannot be set back, then there will be clear distinctions between lord and subject, and order will be easily [attained]. Thus the ruler can only use fa."[28]

The syncretism of Han Fei more broadly defines Shu as "to bestow offices corresponding to [people's] abilities; to hold achievement accountable to claim (xing-ming); to grasp the handles of life and death; and examine into the abilities of the thronging ministers." Han Fei criticizes Shen's philosophy as lacking laws, but insists that the ruler use his technique to recruit ministers, and conversely criticizes Shang Yang as lacking Shu.[29]

Shen was well aware of the possibility of the loss of the ruler's position, and thus state or life,[30] saying:

One who murders the ruler and takes his state," Shen says, "does not necessarily climb over difficult walls or batter in barred doors or gates. He may be one of the ruler's own ministers, gradually limiting what the ruler sees, restricting what he hears, getting control of his government and taking over his power to command, possessing the people and seizing the state."[31]

Liu Xiang attributes ten works in the Han imperial catalogue to the Fa Jia.[20] Fragments of the two Shenzi books of philosophers Shen Buhai (400–337 BC), extant as late as the early eighteenth century, and Shen Dao (350-275 BC) have been recovered, but only two texts have survived to modern day intact, namely the earliest such text, Book of Lord Shang, and the more widely read and "philosophically engaging" Han Fei Zi.[32] The most notable source for Shen Buhai is the Taiping Yulan.[33] Another six later books stopped being circulated more than a millennia ago.[34] Some of the recently translated Mawangdui Silk Texts are quite "Legalistic".[35]

Emperor Wen favored four men who had connections to the Fa-Jia: Governor Wu of Honan, made Chief Commandant of Justice. Wu was a townsman of Li Si, and studied with him. Wu recommended Jia Yi. What is Taoism 106

Li Kui (403–387) wrote the Book of Law (Fajing, 法经) in the state of Wei, which was the basis for the codified laws of the Qin and Han dynasties, in 407 BC. His political agendas, as well as the Book of Law, had a deep influence on later thinkers such as Han Fei and Shang Yang, including the institution of meritocracy, and giving the state an active role in encouraging agriculture, purchasing grain to fill its granaries in years of good harvest to ease price fluctuations. The direct result of these pioneering reform measures was the dominance of Wei in the early decades of the Warring States era. He recommended Ximen Bao, credited as China's first hydraulic engineer, and Wu Qi as a military commander when Wu Qi sought asylum in Wei.[36][37]

Widely regarded as China's first great general, the Wu-tzu text attributed to Wu Qi (440-381 BC), seriously considering "all aspects of war and battle preparation", has long been valued as one of the "basic foundations of Chinese Military thought."[38] Passages from the Huainanzi suggest that Wu Qi "tried to implement typically Legalist reforms" in Wei.[39] His "impressive administrative contributions" are often ranked with Lord Shang, who served as a household tutor four decades after Wu left.[38]

Often compared with the modern social sciences,[40] they have been regarded by the Chinese as having three tendencies, synthesized by Han Fei:[41] the enforcement of law, the manipulation of statecraft, and the exercise of power,[42]

Han Fei's essays (called the Han Feizi) are commonly thought of as the greatest of all "Legalist" texts, bringing together his predecessors ideas into a coherent ideology.[43][44] This ideology attracted the attention of the First Emperor[45] and it is believed that this school of thought laid the foundation for the Chinese bureaucratic empire[46] that would surpass that of most other national governments until near the end of the eighteenth century.[47]

Though usually dismissed in the west on account of historical evidence of Legalist text preced, the "Legalist's" ruler or Fa has historically often been considered Taoist, that is, as following the Dao, and is still often analyzed in this capacity by Chinese scholars.[50] But figures like Shen Buhai never attempt to articulate natural or ethical foundations for Fa, or provide any metaphysical grounds for appointment (xing-ming).[51]

The philosophy of Shen Buhai would be partially obscured though it is likely similar to Han Fei. However, Creel called the latter a more sophisticated version of Shang Yang for it's emphasis on rewards and punishments. Huang-Lao might be considered similiar to Shen Buhai for it's emphasis on cooperation.


Gaining the people's hearts has no place in good government,[53][54]

Shang Yang did say that "laws which are made without taking (the condition of the people) into consideration can not be implemented".[55]

Han Fei is "without even Xun Kuang's residual need for a cosmos" in which man finds a place for himself through patternizing ritual.[56]

Chen, Chao Chuan an Yueh-Ting Lee 2008 p. . Leadership and Management in China

On the basis of human selfishness the "Legalists" considered morality is hypocritical and useless. 4

Though not concerned with the legitimacy of human rights, this did have effect of affirming the legality of morality of individual self-interest. 4, 8 But it is much more amenable to collectivism. 8

Han Fei had no confidence in morality. Aiming for peace and stability, Han Fei believed in the separation of private and public interest, excercising what Chao Chuan and Yueh-Ting have called "fair and effective ways of excercising power", through laws and manipulation under the sovereignty of the emperor. Laws should be practical,enorceable and well publicized in-order to be effective. To be effective and fair, laws and regulations had to be objective and universally enforced.5, 8

Han Fei believed that rule by law is more effective in the running the state and promoting stability.8 Han Fei's Legalism did not challenge the social hierarchy of Confucianism, though it's individualism provided a philosophical foundation to do so. They designed different means of maintaining social hierarchy and order through laws, regulations, manipulation and control, not unlike Machiavelli. 10

Han Fei adopted many of his fundamental concepts of fa (law) from the Book of Lord Shang.111 Shang Yang emphasized strict control through harsh laws, encouraging agriculture and aggresive warfare, enriching the state within a short period of time. His lack of attention to the shu (ministerial manipulation) of Shen Buhai ultimately brought power to ministers at the expense of the state. Han Fei therefore advocated the necessity both Fa and Shu. 111-112 Legal contradictions (shen buhai) 112

Han Fei's theory of leadership is based on self-interest.113

114, 116

Fa (law) should be initiated by the ruler, but he should not establish it at his own will. Rather, he should work to realize the Dao in constructing rules, studying the operation of the state - which is based on fa (law) - carefully. 116 Rules should be constituted on the basis of ekuity, and therefore not engender complaint. To enable smooth interaction with suborinates and enable long-term profits, the ruler never expresses "malicious anger".117 Because Fa (law) is the standard of the state, it should be publicized and known to everyone, used as teaching materials by the officials.117

Law must be objective and equitable. Intellectuals enjoy no special privileges. It's main purpose is to eliminate private interest.117 If the ruler is unable to insist on the equitability of the law, intellectuals may propose biased arguments, the wise may strive for personal gain, superiors may do favors, inferiors may be dominated by selfish pursuits, and intellectuals may form cliques to incite ruors and incidents, reducing the whole organization to crisis and struggle between cliques and factions.117-118.

Laws should be simple, feasible and enforceable so that they can be carried out universally. Complicated doctrines should not be used, because they cannot be easily understood by ordinary people.15

Emperor Hsuan. Ch'ao Ts'o admonished Emperor Ching, saying "the feudal lords are the gaurdrails and props of the emperor. That subjects are to the ruler assons to the ather has been the rule rom antuity to the present. but now thge great states monopolize power and establish seperate government, not looking to the capital for orders." He was perhaps the chief author of the plan whereby the han eudal states were eventually destroyed. [57] Dubs Han-shu I 292-297

Tung-Sun Hung and EMperor wu, Conucius, the man and the myth 234-242, 254-263. kung-sun tzu

Jixia Academy's Shen Dao (350 – c. 275 BC) emphasized that the head of state was endowed with shi, the "mystery of authority", commanding the respect and obedience of the people. The emperor's very figure brought legitimacy. In the philosophy of Shen Dao and other such philosophers, the establishment of order and the sovereign's restraining hold on the state generates the stability necessary for any rule at all. Shen Dao advised the ruler to monopolize authority in-order to prevent its abuse by feudal magnates and ministers.[58] Shen Dao enjoined the ruler to make no judgements,[59] instead relying on protocol to reward or penalize ministers according to their performance.[60]

Shang Yang's economy was grain-based rather than money-based. Official recognition was given in the production of food and military service. The new elite was based neither on heredity nor wealth. Mutual spying and denunciation were required by law, and rewarded.(five and ten).[61]

When Li Si gained audience with the young king he told him that "The small man is one who throws away his opportunities, whereas great deeds are accomplished through utilizing the mistakes [of others], and inflexibly following them up."[62]

Accepting Shang Yang's earlier emphasis on the standardization of weights and measures, Qin Shi Huang would also accept Shang Yang's philosophy that no individual in the state should be above the law (by ensuring harsh punishments for all cases of dissent) and that families should be divided into smaller households. While there is reason to doubt Sima Qian's claim that Qin Shi Huang did in fact divide households into groups of ten, certainly the other examples of standardization and administrative organization undertaken by the First Emperor reflect the importance of philosopher's thought in Qin law. Reflecting the philosopher's passion for order and structure, Qin soldiers were only mobilized when both halves of tiger-shaped tallies (one held by the ruler and the other by the commanding general) were brought together. Likewise, all documents in the empire had to have recorded the year they were written, the scribe who copied them, and up to the exact hour of delivery.

By Han Fei's standards a good leader must not only accept the advice of loyal ministers when shown to be in error, but also extend courtesy to those beneath him or her and not be too avaricious. Stressing that ministers and other officials too often sought favours from foreign powers by abusing their positions, he urged rulers to control these individuals using the two handles of punishment and favour through Fa (methods, standards), preventing ministers and other officials from performing some other official's duties and punishing them if they attempted to blind the ruler with words or failed to warn them.(citation needed)

To aid his patron in preventing misgovernance, formalized the concept of shu, the bureaucratic model of administration. Shen Buhai argued that the ruler's most important asset was an intelligent minister. He advised that rulers should keep a low profile, hide their true intentions and feign nonchalance, limiting themselves to judging ministers’ performances. It was the minister's duty to understand specific affairs, which the ruler did not involve himself in. Theoretically, by cloaking both his desires and his will, the Emperors checked sycophancy and forced his subject to heed his dictates. Interestingly, according to the Han's Grand Historian Sima Qian (c. 145–86 BC), while the First Qin Emperor hid himself from the rest of the world (perhaps due to a desire to attain immortality) and thus maintained a low profile, he did not necessarily follow all of the philosopher's advice on the role of the ruler. Han Fei blamed him for concentrating all his attention on administrative technique, neglecting law.

"Huang-Lao thought", centering around the Jixia Academy is considered to have early emerged as part of an effort to develop solutions for the restoration of the feudal order. The Taoistic side of this later included texts like the Huainanzi, emerging as the ideological backdrop to the early Han Dynasty feudal court.

One early "Huang-Lao" text coming out of the Jixia academy, the Guanzi, whose traditional author was said to be Guan Zhong, was actually a compilation mostly of Jixia scholars. A number of its chapters chapters express what has been termed a blend of Legalist, Confucianistic, and Daoistc philosophy that may be considered "Huang-Lao".[63] Taoism was thought by earlier scholars to have a considerable influence on Legalism. Creel later considered this view mistaken; there is no evidence that Taoism existed so early, for instance, as Shen Buhai, who makes considerable use of the term Tao, but not in the Taoist manner.[64][65] Confucians also make use of the term Tao.

The ruler should fully utilize the repertoire of methods and techniques aimed at enhancing his power and at reining in his underlings. The ruler should be “enlightened/clear-sighted” (ming明)enough to avoid being duped by the members of his entourage and to determine real worth of his aides.

He should check his ministers’ reports, investigate their performance, and make it clear that only those who properly fulfill their tasks will be rewarded and promoted. Han Fei explains: A sovereign who wants to suppress treachery must investigate jointly the form and the name, the difference between the words and the task. The minister exposes his words; the ruler assigns him a task in accordance with his words, and determines [the minister’s] merit only according to his performance. When the merit matches the task, and the performance matches the words, [the minister] is rewarded; when the merit does not match the task and the performance does not match the words, he is punished. … Thus, when the enlightened ruler nourishes his ministers, the minister should not claim merit by overstepping [the task de fi nitions of] his of fi ce, nor should he present his words which do not match [his performance]. One who oversteps his of fi ce is executed; one who[se words] do not match [his performance] is punished;10 then ministers are unable to form cabals and cliques (Chen Qiyou 2000: 2.7.127)[66]

The term Fa Jia would be introduced Chinese historiographer Sima Tan (c. 165 BC – 110 BCE) in his essay, "The Essential Implications of the Six Houses of Thought" (The other five schools being Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, the School of Names, and the School of Naturalists).

In his History of Chinese Philosophy, Feng Youlan divided the Legalists into three groups, one laying stress on the concept of shi (circumstantial advantage, power, or authority) as espoused by Shen Dao; the second on fa 法 (law, regulation or, standard) of Shang Yang; and the third on the shu 術 (methods or strategy) of Shen Buhai.[67][68]

  • 'Shi' (, p 'shì', lit."situational advantage"): It is the position of the ruler, not the ruler himself or herself, that holds the power. Therefore, analysis of the trends, the context, and the facts are essential for a real ruler.
  • 'Fa' (Chinese, p 'fǎ', lit. "method" or "standard"): The law code must be clearly written and made public. All people under the ruler were equal before the law. Laws should reward those who obey them and punish accordingly those who dare to break them. Thus it is guaranteed that actions taken are systematically predictable. In addition, the system of law, not the ruler, ran the state, a statement of rule of law. If the law is successfully enforced, even a weak ruler will be strong.
  • 'Shu' (, p 'shù', lit. "technique" or "procedure"): Special tactics and 'secrets' are to be employed by the ruler to make sure others do not take over control of the state. Especially important is that no one can fathom the ruler's motivations, and thus no one can know which behavior might help them get ahead, other than following the laws.

Shen Buhai did not actually use the term Shu, he used Fa; Shu may have been invented to contrast Shen's doctrine with that of Shang Yang.[69] Creel comments that Sima Tan, inventor of the term Fa-Jia, was "clearly aware that the school (and Fa itself) had two emphases", both "law" and "method".[70]


  1. ^ Youlan Feng 1952. p. 318. A History of Chinese Philosophy, Volume 1.
  2. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 pp. 30,32. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  3. ^ Stanley B. Lubman 1999. p. 6. Bird in a Cage: Legal Reform in China After Mao
  4. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 pp. 22–23. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  5. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 pp. 22–23. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  6. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 pp. 22–23. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  7. ^ Kung-chuan Hsiao 1979. p. 76. History of Chinese Political Thought, Volume 1.
  8. ^ Samuli Seppänen 2016. p. 30. Ideological Conflict and the Rule of Law in Contemporary China.
  9. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 p.15. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  10. ^ Peng He 2014. p.86. Chinese Lawmaking: From Non-communicative to Communicative.
  11. ^ Jian Fu Chen 2016 p.15-16. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  12. ^ Chad Hansen, 1992 p.367 A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought
  13. ^ Mingjun Lu. p.349. Implications of Han Fei's philosophy
  14. ^ Zhang Zhaoyang, 2011 p.3-6. Monumenta Serica, The Legal Concept of Zhi
  15. ^ Cite error: The named reference Hansen, Chad p435 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  16. ^
  17. ^ Ronnie Littlejohnz 2011 p.60, Confucianism: An Introduction
  18. ^ Zhongying Cheng 1991 p.315. New Dimensions of Confucian and Neo-Confucian Philosophy.
  19. ^ Paul R. Goldin, Persistent Misconceptions about Chinese Legalism. p.7-8
  20. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference ReferenceB was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  21. ^ Jianfu Chen 2016 p.16. Chinese Law: Context and Transformation: Revised and Expanded Edition
  22. ^ S.Y. Hsieh, 1995. p.81 Chinese Thought: An Introduction.
  23. ^ Chad Hansen, 1992 p.349 A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought.
  24. ^ a b Kenneth Winston p.346. Singapore Journal of Legal Studies [2005] 313–347. The Internal Morality of Chinese Legalism.
  25. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 5.1 The Ruler's Superiority
    • Creel 1974: 380
  26. ^ Jay L. Garfield, William Edelglass 2011, p.64 The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy
    • Chung-ying Cheng 2002. p.175. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy. Integrating the onto-ethics of virtues (east) and the meta-ethics of rights (west)
    • Hansen, Chad. Philosophy East & West. Jul94, Vol. 44 Issue 3, p435. 54p. Fa (standards: laws) and meaning changes in Chinese philosophy.
  27. ^ Cite error: The named reference Chad Hansen p.349 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  28. ^ Paul R. Goldin, Persistent Misconceptions about Chinese Legalism. p.10
  29. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 65, 82, 95, 100, 114 /Persistent_Misconceptions_about_Chinese_Legalism_
  30. ^ Creel 1970 p.97. What Is Taoism?
  31. ^ Creel 1970 p.97. What Is Taoism?
  32. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 1.1 Major Legalist Texts
  33. ^ Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.120. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
  34. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 2.2 Defining Legalism
  35. ^
  36. ^ Zhang, Guohua, "Li Kui". Encyclopedia of China (Law Edition), 1st ed.
  37. ^ Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 4, Part 3. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.
  38. ^ a b Ralph D Sawyer, 1993. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. Wu-Tzu p.192, Notes to Wu-Tzu p.453
  39. ^ Ralph D Sawyer, 1993. The Seven Military Classics of Ancient China. Wu-Tzu p.201
  40. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 2. Philosophical Foundations.
    • Origins of Statecraft in China. Herrlee Glessner Creel
    • Benjanmin I. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China
  41. ^ Chen, Chao Chuan an Yueh-Ting Lee 2008 p.13. Leadership and Management in China
  42. ^ Wing-Tsit Chan, the Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, editor in chief, P.Edwards, Vol. 2, Lodon, 1967, p. 89
    • K. K. Lee, 1975 p.27, 32. Legalist School and Legal Positivism, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 2.
    • Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao's Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. Soon-ja Yang
    • Jay L. Garfield, William Edelglass 2011, p.65 The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy
  43. ^ Cite error: The named reference indianaedu was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  44. ^ Paul R. Goldin, Persistent Misconceptions about Chinese Legalism. p.15
  45. ^ Chad Hansen, 1992 p.344 A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought
  46. ^ Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.120. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
    • Zhengyuan Fu, 1996 China's Legalists p.7
  47. ^ Ewan Ferlie, Laurence E. Lynn, Christopher Pollitt 2005 p.30, The Oxford Handbook of Public Management
    • Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.119. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
    • Creel, The Origins of Statecraft in China, I, The Western Chou Empire, Chicago, pp.9-27
    • Otto B. Van der Sprenkel, 'Max Weber on China', in History and Theory3(1964), 357.
  48. ^ Christopher Hood 1998 p.16, The Art of the State: Culture, Rhetoric, and Public Management
  49. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 1. Defining Legalism
  51. ^ R. P. Peerenboom 1993 p.242. Law and Morality in Ancient China.
  52. ^ Karen G. Turner p.viii,1 The Limits of the Rule of Law in China.
  53. ^ Cite error: The named reference Creel p.203 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  54. ^ Eirik Lang Harris 2013 p.55 Constraining the Ruler
  55. ^ Jinfan Zhang 2014 p.151. The Tradition and Modern Transition of Chinese Law.
  56. ^ A.C. Graham 1989. p.289. Disputers of the Tao.
  57. ^ Creel, 1959 p.207. THE MEANING OF HSING-MING. STUDIA SERICA: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
  58. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 5.1 The Ruler's Superiority
  59. ^ Shen Dao. Chad Hensen, University of Hong Kong.
  60. ^ Paul R. Goldin, Persistent Misconceptions about Chinese Legalism
  61. ^ K. K. Lee, 1975 p.28. Legalist School and Legal Positivism, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 2.
  62. ^ Leonard Cottrel, 1962 p.124 The Tiger of Chin
  63. ^ Rickett (1993), p. 244.
  64. ^ Creel,What Is Taoism?, 1-24
  65. ^ Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.120, 122-123. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
  66. ^ Yuri Pines 2003 p.76 Submerged by Absolute Power
  67. ^ (Fung 1952: 1.318)
  68. ^ Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao's Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. Soon-ja Yang
  69. ^ A.C. Graham 1989. p.283. Disputers of the Tao.
  70. ^ Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.122. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.

Legalism vs. fascism vs. communism[edit]

How do legalism, fascism, and communism compare with one another? How are they alike? How are they different? (talk) 16:35, 31 May 2012 (UTC)

They are alike in regards the expansion of the state, whose administration (albeit with a certain emphasis toward minimalism in the form devolvement toward family, village and local magnate) defined post-Qin Chinese history up to the modern day. But in terms of rights, it is not like the feudal period of history was full of them, though I wouldn't say China was rights-poor. It is a faulty comparison, except for those who wish to say "look, the feudal era, like Mussolini, had an authoritarian state, in those areas developed enough to have a state." Yes, and I'd pick China to live in rather than Feudal Europe for much of history, too. Perhaps if China was more militarist they'd have kicked out the Mongols rather than merely wall them out. Consider your era. If anything, once established, China's superstate could afford to be humane than Feudal Europe, and generally lasted longer. The Chinese like their unified periods. FourLights (talk) 23:10, 1 June 2013 (UTC)

1. The Fascist idea as applied in Italy consists in the incorporation of corporations into the high state, albiet unsuccessfully since the capitalists are disinterested in this and prefer the state be a separate entity at their command (Italian corporations eventually boycotted the Fascist state). Albiet emphasizing farming at the expense of the merchant class, Legalism isn't necessarily anti-business, as emphasized by the granting of audience and office to successful business persons (more feudal states did not entertain merchants). Chinese dynasties would have state monopolies run by business persons as attempts at economic management or taxation, though the usefulness of the attempt by this method is variable. While Fascism's relations with the capitalists were actually dubious and they ultimately wanted to be rid of it (probably only wanting it to manage labor problems for a time), I would say that the Absolutism of Chinese Legalism more definitely excludes such class interests in favor of that of the ruler, much as it tries to exclude any class interests of the bureaucrats.

Regarding plutocracy, it's implied that one trades the option of the larger monetary sums offered for the higher offices, as one and the other are separate rewards. The state's entertaining of the merchants was a profound innovation for the aristocratic, warring era, and in the philosophy of the Fajia a merchant, or anyone found to be beneficial for that matter, might be able to take reigns as a state function, but the functions of the office and the person must be clearly defined and it is recommended that they be particular.

2. Bolshevism emphasized central planning. Obviously the Qin became very centralized, but Shang Yang Legalism doesn't consider the predominance of the private sphere a threat at lower levels, giving land to those who make the most successful use of land. Han Fei recommends the product be stored in public granaries, something that seems to have been carried out. Regarding Communist concepts, in some ways Legalist practice actually "fades away" the state (i.e. the bureaucracy) more successfully than Bolshevism, in the sense of passing responsibility for implementing law onto the family and village. Though historically the Chinese state was pervasive, it was also defined by this decentralization/minamlism, less legalism post-Qin. FourLights (talk) 01:01, 7 April 2015 (UTC)

Fa 法, shu 術, and shi 勢[edit]

These keep being translated incorrectly in this article. In the present version, someone says that they "literally" mean "law, method, and legitimacy," respectively. All three of those are wrong. Fa literally means "method" or "standard"; shu literally means "technique" or "procedure"; and shi literally means "situational advantage," i.e. the advantage that one enjoys as a result of one's position, whether on a battlefield or in society. All three have very different "literal" meanings from their common usage in Modern Mandarin. Indicating definitions of such terms without any references, especially when they're as inaccurate as this, is highly misleading to readers who don't know better.-- (talk) 04:20, 13 November 2015 (UTC)

In corroboration with my understanding I agree with the definitions as given here by anonymous user and have changed the page. Fa preceded law and thus has a broader meaning, as discussed in sources on the page. Shi has broader implications than situation advantage, but is used this way by the philosophers Shang Yang and Shen Dao. I've given a couple sources discussing Shen Buhai.FourLights (talk) 05:37, 13 November 2015 (UTC)

Regarding my inclusions or antecedents, it clarifies the Fa concept, which as my sources state is essentially identical to the Legalist usage.FourLights (talk) 20:48, 24 March 2020 (UTC)

Too many citations[edit]

The summary paragraph at the beginning has way too many citations to read comfortably (per WP:OVERSITE). It'll probably take a while to fix this; just thought I'd point this out. Llightex (talk) 13:01, 18 September 2016 (UTC)

I've truncated a few but I'll have to dig through bot truncated sources to more fully merge them. Let me know if you have any additional citational criticism or other.FourLights (talk) 22:06, 18 September 2016 (UTC)

dig deeper[edit]

The note about being "incorrectly translated" with its accompanying ref is disjointed and distracting and should be brought up later in the article. The phrase "usually translated..." gives the readers a hint that there may be something more about the translation. The intro shouldn't read like a debate. Dig Deeper (talk) 06:51, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

I'm not sure why these refs appeared. Please disregard stuff below.Dig Deeper (talk) 06:54, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

Thanks, let me know if you have any other recommendations.FourLights (talk) 10:13, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

Making general grammar and flow edits[edit]

I'm going to go through the article and make some changes in grammar and flow. I know nothing about this particular topic except what is here in the text, so if I change the meaning, don't hesitate to change parts of it back. I hope this proof reading is helpful. Dig Deeper (talk) 21:33, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

Fixed up the lead. The lead should not be too detailed or technical, but provide an easy to understand summary of the article.Dig Deeper (talk) 22:01, 3 December 2016 (UTC)

The narrative is a little hard to follow. A chronological approach might be best. Not sure the intro is required at all. The article needs to be simplified so that a person such as myself, who knows nothing about this subject can quickly learn. See WP:TECHNICAL. As I struggle through it it seems that this Han Fei and his writing are quite important, though this was not apparent at first reading. I think it is a bit better. The intro and rest need some simplifying.Dig Deeper (talk) 02:48, 4 December 2016 (UTC)

I agree with your recommendations and will try and reorganize the article chronologically, and move material from the introduction. I can only go so far using my own viewpoint, to make it more readable for the lay person, so your contributions and commentary are appreciated. Maybe some of the material in the introduction should just be a footnote at the end.FourLights (talk) 15:48, 4 December 2016 (UTC)

I'm glad my comments and edits were helpful. It's very important not to stray too far from the main topic of the article. Too much information (also called data hoarding can bring confusion. Footnotes are a good place to put extra detail you don't want to delete, that's a good idea. You can also move the detail to another page (for example the page on Han Fei or Han Feizi) or perhaps save it for a future page creation.Dig Deeper (talk) 15:55, 5 December 2016 (UTC)

Any link between legalism and corruption? Comment[edit]

Reflecting on legalism, with its amoral and "get the job done" philosophy, I couldn't help but wonder if corruption and bribery etc were a result of this. If so perhaps it should be mentioned.Dig Deeper (talk) 04:56, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

I can only mention things that I have sources for. I can make some comments on the issue. One, as I mentioned in the article, Legalism restricts the freedoms of ministers, while Confucianism deregulates. Two, for much of Chinese history, for instance under the Ching, administration was less formal.

Legalism formalizes administration. which is generally a good thing. If you read the xing-min related material, the Shu aspect of Legalism focuses on legal contracts. It is sometimes seen as a solution these days for this very reason, as I have articulated a little in the modern section.FourLights (talk) 16:41, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

Object preceding subject[edit]

Having the object precede the subject is OK occasionally, but doing it constantly is distracting and confusing to the reader. For example...

Grouping thinkers crucial to laying the "intellectual and ideological foundations of the traditional Chinese bureaucratic empire",[4] it emphasizes political reform through fixed and transparent rules and a realistic consolidation of the wealth and power of the state, with the goal of achieving increased order and stability. Largely ignoring morality or questions on how a society ideally should function, it examines the present state of the government.[5]

That there is any evidence at all in the ancient world for a field of management is notable.[6] Including possibly the first, if not highly centralized bureaucratic state, and earliest (by the second century BC) example of an administrative meritocracy based on civil service examinations,[7] it may well be said to have originated in ancient China.


Legalism groups together society's thinkers, believed to be crucial for laying the "intellectual and ideological foundations of the traditional Chinese bureaucratic empire". It emphasizes political reform through fixed and transparent rules and a realistic consolidation of the wealth and power of the state, with the goal of achieving increased order and stability. Legalism also examines the present state of the government, while largely ignoring morality or questions on how a society ideally should function.

A copy edit request (tag) may be wise after your editing is complete.Dig Deeper (talk) 02:45, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

I'll have a look tomorrow.FourLights (talk) 05:14, 13 December 2016 (UTC)

Confusing organization[edit]

Having re-read this article several times, I must say that it suffers from poor organization. Unlike other articles on philosophies which distinguish sections for history and the principles and doctrines, its explanations and analyzes on the latter is scattered all over the place. The section "Administrative realpolitik" is grouped under "Historical background", but honestly seems to deal more with the fundamentals of Legalism rather than the historical development of it. Then this is followed by sections on the main contributors to Legalism, such as Guan Zhong, Mozi, Shen Dao, and Han Fei, but they are all top-tier sections which put them on the same level as "Historical background" when arguably, they can be grouped together under one section identifying the different contributors or main branches. Exacerbating this is the fact that there is a section on "Branches" which deal with "Shang Yang" and "Shen Buhai", two other major Legalists and yet Han Fei is excluded from this section and given his own top-tier section. As a matter of fact, I think that the section on Guan Zhong and Mozi might better fit under "Historical background", a section on the development or precursors to Legalism. Finally, the last sections from "Fall" to "Modern" would appropriately be grouped under a section titled "History" which can be distinguished "from Historical Background" in dealing with the history after it came into fruition if one so wishes.

All in all, I found this article to be a nightmare to navigate in spite of providing a lot of helpful information. Sol Pacificus (talk) 05:08, 5 May 2018 (UTC)

Issues as of July 2019[edit]

The article is in better shape than when Sol Pacificus posted above, but I think it still needs some substantial cleanup. Some specific issues:

  • The use of "Fa-Jia" is odd—based on the references, the hyphen seems to have been taken via sources using Wade–Giles, which uses hyphens to delimit Chinese syllables, but in pinyin it should be either "Fajia" (fajia) or "Fa Jia" (fa jia). Generally the transcription does not appear to be capitalised in modern sources. I am also not sure in the context of Wikipedia that the predilection for "Fajia" over "Legalism" is helpful for English readers: the name "Legalism" and its potential issues are discussed in the article. Once those caveats are given, there's no reason to insist on an unfamiliar Chinese term and I think it's problematic to one-sidedly promote Goldin's statements on the issue.
  • There's a general mixing-up of pinyin and Wade–Giles: e.g. "Shih" should be "shi" in pinyin. Pinyin should be used consistently per WP:CHINESE.
  • There are syntax (and occasionally grammatical) issues which result in quite a few confusing or ambiguous sentences. For example, "Usually disregarded by the Fa-Jia, Shen Dao considers moral capability useful in terms of authority." What is usually disregarded by the Fajia: Shen Dao, his theory of moral capability, or moral capability itself? Logically I assume the third, but on reading the sentence I initially interpreted it as the first.
  • Difficult to be specific on this point but the style needs improvement in many places.
  • Citations are in a non-standard style and difficult to follow up: e.g. what is "Emerson. Shen Dao: Text and Translation" supposed to be and how can I verify it?
  • Some of Sol's concerns about the structure of the article are still valid. I am not sure that the large section on antecedents contributes proportionally to the article, and it makes sense for it to be considered "historical background".

Beyond the issues I maintenance-tagged:

  • Some important statements in the article are unsourced or fail verification. I tagged one instance in the lede (edit: fixed this one with a source); I also tagged a couple of others I found e.g. the claim that Han Fei was "Intending to abolish philosophy" was not given in the citation. I haven't gone through the references systematically so I'm not sure if this applies to much of the article, but given that out of the 6 or so I checked half failed verification it's a fairly serious potential problem area.
  • Various of the images are used without citation and imply connections to legalism which need to be justified. For example, the images seem to be used to claim that Deng Xiaoping and the Communist Party are Legalist, which needs to be supported.

On the plus side, apart from the unsourced statements these could generally be fixed by a thorough copy-edit of the article. I'll maybe try to have a stab at this at some point myself but it's a big article so I can't promise anything—hence writing this up. —Nizolan (talk · c.) 18:27, 26 July 2019 (UTC)

After finding another statement—in the lede—that failed verification upon comparison with the cited source (namely "The correlation between Shen's conception of the inactive (Wu wei) ruler responsible for examination into performance, claims and titles likely also informed the Taoist conception of the formless Tao", which I couldn't find a better source for either) I have tagged the article for potential original research. —Nizolan (talk · c.) 19:03, 26 July 2019 (UTC)

I am busy at the moment, but will look over your statements here. The term Legalism is frequently derided by scholars in general, not only by Goldin, even if they still end up using it sometimes, and I could probably collect sources here in the talk doing so to form a small article. I do not specifically know Pinyin distinctions, and have changed it to the more-modern Fajia at your recommendation. I would point out that terms like Confucianism and Taoism are Chinese-ish, so the use of Chinese terms is not unheard of. I have fixed the Shen Dao sentence mentioned. Although I would like to assure that I have no tried to do any original research here, and try to do exhaustive sourcing, I recently re-acquired the book regarding Shen Buhai and can try improve matters on that front.FourLights (talk) 21:02, 31 July 2019 (UTC)

The inclusion of the antecedents clarifies the Fa concept utilized by the Fajia, and as being virtually identical between it's earlier usage and later usage by the Fajia. I consider it an objective report as detailed in the article and by my sources.FourLights (talk) 20:55, 24 March 2020 (UTC)

Though I believe my sources would indicate a definite undercurrent or philosophical background, I removed a caption which seemed to imply too much connection between the Fajia and the Communists, as you suggested. Regarding other images: I am open to additional specific criticism and removal requests at the cost of the images. Perhaps some might not be "related" enough, I included images to decorate the article and make it less "barren", as psychology indicates that readers, well, pay more attention if there is an image, than they would with just bare text. People are much more likely to read something if it has pictures. FourLights (talk) 09:15, 2 May 2020 (UTC)

The Emerson text is simply a translation. I only utilize it as a source when making a direct quote of the original Chinese text itself, namely so that you can go and read it if you wish. I do this with Han Fei as well. There may be, and usually (possibly always) I quote a book that makes the quote, but then I include the original Han Feizi as a source so that you can go read it if you want.FourLights (talk) 09:34, 2 May 2020 (UTC)

The current citation format I am using I adopted after Llightex's comment in 2016. I am open to transitioning my citation to something better but I adopted it because it doesn't require much knowledge of wikipedia coding. I just type ref and /ref and put the sources in it. If someone wishes to instruct me how i should improve the citations maybe I can pick it up.FourLights (talk) 09:57, 2 May 2020 (UTC)

It would help to summarize the subject here: perhaps "law and morality in ancient Chinese philosophy".[edit]

The article concludes presently, 11 April 2020, with seeming acceptance that "Legalism", fajia, is amoral: Finally, as late as late as 2011, the Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy paints the Legalists as Realists, stating that "What linked these men is that all were theorists or practitioner's of a realistic amoral brand of statecraft aimed at consolidating and strengthening the power and wealth of the state and it's autocratic ruler. Their thought was realistic in being premised on what they took to be brute facts about how people actually behave... It was amoral in that they were utterly unconcerned with whether the institutions and methods they advocated were morally justified."[376] (end of excerpt) To summarize in terms of law and morality would require a definition of each. If law is fa, meaning a method or standard, this would correspond to the European idea of rule, which is a statement of procedure. In a word, a yardstick. That is, a symbol used to verify something. Morality, then, would have to be something that is not a yardstick. Let me propose that morality is a "when all is said and done" consideration, a sort of "well, I've done all I could: how do you like it so far?" The point would be that language reaches only so far. If we stop to program everything we do, we'd never even draw a breath: "Diaphragm, stand by to contract; check mouth and nose for obstructions; ascertain if ambient air is safe; consult all other relevant considerations . . ." I like the remark by an economics professor who'd been to law school: a STOP sign is an example of a good law: you know what to do, it's cheap, it's fair, etc. And yet a STOP sign in the wrong place can do great harm. Who decides where the STOP sign goes? In the ancient Chinese context, when there was not one China, or indeed today, after China has been under concerted European attack for centuries, a strong nation was and is the highest morality, one might say: if there were signs on the Shanghai waterfront saying "No dogs or Chinese" enforced by US Marines (?), could anything wonderful happen anywhere in China? I offer a truism: martial law is indicated in national emergency. Is this an emergency? You pays your money, you takes your chances. If you try to enforce martial law when the situation, the shi, does not require it, you will pay the price eventually. So I leave law and morality as I distinguish them under that third consideration--eventually.Chrisrushlau (talk) 20:42, 11 April 2020 (UTC)Chrisrushlau (talk) 20:49, 11 April 2020 (UTC)

Chrisrushlau, I appreciate your input, though I don't understand a lot of it, but I only reorganize and report what my sources say, albeit using some judgement such as, if one scholar is more recent than another one and more importantly has better scholarship representing a more accurate viewpoint closer to the truth. I can't interject a definition of morality unless one of sources does that in a way pertaining to the Fajia, though even then may it constitute a commentary (so that I'd have to language it as such referencing them). If you find a source discussing legalism that does that (defines morality) I can include such a commentary in my article referencing said author (I'll try and keep it in mind, in case I come across such a thing). But to comment on some of what you said, the Mohists did indeed use the sun as a moral exemplar, the Confucians their sages etc, and the Legalists wrote up "laws" or rather models (Fa) as their "yardsticks." This isn't a forum, and while it doesn't bother me personally, wanting to debate the nature of morality serves no purpose here, I only report what my sources say.

However, maybe the article I wrote is unclear in a respect you mentioned. The "Realists" section is not a "conclusion", it was simply intended to be a subsection about how 1900's western scholarship interpreted the Fajia, which has continued to an extent but with more criticism (i.e., modern scholarship doesn't all consider the Fajia entirely amoral). Maybe I can make this more clear, and reference a counter-arguement.FourLights (talk) 09:05, 2 May 2020 (UTC)