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After the early demise of the Qin dynasty , Han Fei's philosophy was officially vilified by the following Han Dynasty. Despite its outcast status throughout the history of imperial China, his political theory continued to heavily influence every dynasty thereafter, and the Confucian ideal of a rule without laws was never again realized.
Though differing considerably in style, the coherency of the essays lend themselves to the possibility that they were written by Han Fei himself, and are generally considered more philosophically engaging than the Book of Lord Shang. Dedicated to statecraft, Han Fei describes an interest-driven human nature together with the political methodologies to work with it in the interest of the state and Sovereign, namely, engaging in wu-wei passive observation ; and the setting up and systematic use of Fa law, measurement, statistic to maintain leadership and manage human resources, its use to increase welfare, and its relation with justice.
Rather than rely too much on worthies, who might not be trustworthy, Han binds their programs to which he makes no judgement, apart from observances of the facts to systematic reward and penalty the "Two Handles" , fishing the subjects of the state by feeding them with interests.
That being done, the ruler minimizes his own input. Like Shang Yang and other Fa philosophers, he admonishes the ruler not to abandon Fa for any other means, considering it a more practical means for the administration of both a large territory and personnel near at hand.
Han's philosophy proceeds from the regicide of his era. Devoting the entirety of Chapter 14, "How to Love the Ministers", to "persuading the ruler to be ruthless to his ministers", Han Fei's enlightened ruler strikes terror into his ministers by doing nothing Wu wei.
The qualities of a ruler, his "mental power, moral excellence and physical prowess" are irrelevant. He discards his private reason and morality, and shows no personal feelings. What is important is his method of government.
Fa administrative standards require no perfection on the part of the ruler. Han Fei's use of Wu-Wei may have been derivative of Taoism, but emphasizes autocracy "Tao does not identify with anything but itself, the ruler does not identify with the ministers" and Shu technique as arguably more of a "practical principle of political control" than any state of mind. Tao is the beginning of the myriad things, the standard of right and wrong.
That being so, the intelligent ruler, by holding to the beginning, knows the source of everything, and, by keeping to the standard, knows the origin of good and evil. Therefore, by virtue of resting empty and reposed, he waits for the course of nature to enforce itself so that all names will be defined of themselves and all affairs will be settled of themselves.
Empty, he knows the essence of fullness: reposed, he becomes the corrector of motion. Who utters a word creates himself a name; who has an affair creates himself a form.
Compare forms and names and see if they are identical. Then the ruler will find nothing to worry about as everything is reduced to its reality. Tao exists in invisibility; its function, in unintelligibility.
Be empty and reposed and have nothing to do-Then from the dark see defects in the light. See but never be seen. Hear but never be heard.
Know but never be known. If you hear any word uttered, do not change it nor move it but compare it with the deed and see if word and deed coincide with each other. Place every official with a censor. Do not let them speak to each other. Then everything will be exerted to the utmost. Cover tracks and conceal sources.
Then the ministers cannot trace origins. Leave your wisdom and cease your ability. Then your subordinates cannot guess at your limitations. The bright ruler is undifferentiated and quiescent in waiting, causing names roles to define themselves and affairs to fix themselves. If he is undifferentiated then he can understand when actuality is pure, and if he is quiescent then he can understand when movement is correct.
Han Fei's commentary on the Tao Te Ching asserts that perspectiveless knowledge — an absolute point of view — is possible, though the chapter may have been one of his earlier writings. Possibly referring to the drafting and imposition of laws and standardized legal terms, Xing-Ming may originally have meant "punishments and names", but with the emphasis on the latter.
Verbally committing oneself, a candidate is allotted a job, indebting him to the ruler. Han Fei insists on the perfect congruence between words and deeds. Fitting the name is more important than results. Han Fei's "brilliant ruler" "orders names to name themselves and affairs to settle themselves. This means to ascertain if words differ from the job.
A minister sets forth his words and on the basis of his words the ruler assigns him a job. Then the ruler holds the minister accountable for the achievement which is based solely on his job. If the achievement fits his job, and the job fits his words, then he is rewarded.
If the achievement does not fit his jobs and the job does not fit his words, then he will be punished. Assessing the accountability of his words to his deeds,  the ruler attempts to "determine rewards and punishments in accordance with a subject's true merit" using Fa. Han Fei considers Xing-Ming an essential element of autocracy, saying that "In the way of assuming Oneness names are of first importance.
When names are put in order, things become settled down; when they go awry, things become unfixed. Whatever the situation Shih brings is the correct Dao. Though recommending use of Shen Buhai 's techniques, Han Fei's Xing-Ming is both considerably narrower and more specific. The functional dichotomy implied in Han Fei's mechanistic accountability is not readily implied in Shen's, and might be said to be more in line with the later thought of the Han dynasty linguist Xu Gan than that of either Shen Buhai or his supposed teacher Xun Kuang.
Though not entirely accurately, most Han works identify Shang Yang with penal law. Shang Yang was largely unconcerned with the organization of the bureaucracy apart from this. As a matter of illustration, if the "keeper of the hat" lays a robe on the sleeping Emperor, he has to be put to death for overstepping his office, while the "keeper of the robe" has to be put to death for failing to do his duty.
Without them he is like any other man; his existence depends upon them. To "avoid any possibility of usurpation by his ministers", power and the "handles of the law" must "not be shared or divided", concentrating them in the ruler exclusively. In practice, this means that the ruler must be isolated from his ministers. The elevation of ministers endangers the ruler, from whom he must be kept strictly apart. Punishment confirms his sovereignty; law eliminates anyone who oversteps his boundary, regardless of intention.
Law "aims at abolishing the selfish element in man and the maintenance of public order", making the people responsible for their actions. Han Fei's rare appeal among Legalists to the use of scholars law and method specialists makes him comparable to the Confucians, in that sense. The ruler cannot inspect all officials himself, and must rely on the decentralized but faithful application of laws and methods fa. Though Fa-Jia sought to enhance the power of the ruler, this scheme effectively neutralizes him, reducing his role to the maintenance of the system of reward and punishments, determined according to impartial methods and enacted by specialists expected to protect him through their usage thereof.
For this reason, the Han Feizi is sometimes included as part of the syncretist Huang-Lao Taoist tradition, seeing the Tao as a natural law that everyone and everything was forced to follow. Parallel to this, he believed that an ideal ruler made laws, like an inevitable force of nature, that the people could not resist. Translator W. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Relevant articles. Early figures. Founding figures. Han figures. Later figures. Zalta ed.
A History of Chinese Civilization. Paul R. Chen Qiyou 5. Ames Art of Rulership, The. Chia I's "Techniques of the Tao". Asia Major, Third Series, Vol. Monumenta Serica, 39, 87— Name and Actuality in Early Chinese Thought. Graham Disputers of the Tao. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought. Hsieh, Goldin, Persistent Misconceptions about Chinese Legalism. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Philosophy of Language in Classical China.
China: Understanding Its Past , Volume 1. Knechtges, David R. In Knechtges, David R. Leiden: Brill. In Loewe, Michael ed. In Loewe, Michael ; Shaughnessy, Edward eds. The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Legalism in Chinese Philosophy
Legalism is a popular—albeit quite inaccurate—designation of an intellectual current that gained considerable popularity in the latter half of the Warring States period Zhanguo, — BCE. They believed that human beings—commoners and elites alike—will forever remain selfish and covetous of riches and fame, and one should not expect them to behave morally. Rather, a viable sociopolitical system should allow individuals to pursue their selfish interests exclusively in ways that benefit the state, viz. Both systems are unconcerned with individual morality of the rulers and the ruled; rather they should be based on impersonal norms and standards: laws, administrative regulations, clearly defined rules of promotion and demotion, and the like.
Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings
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Han Feizi : Basic Writings (Translations from the Asian Classics) [Paperback]
In fact a lot of chapters are older and were only revised and collected by Han Fei. This is identical to the received version. Traditional editions have a length of 20 juan "scrolls". It includes writings by later scholars and other authors.