Legalism (Chinese philosophy)

Chinese school of philosophy / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Fajia (Chinese: 法家; pinyin: fǎ jiā), often translated as Legalism,[1][2][3] was a school of thought in classical Chinese philosophy. It represents several branches of thought from early thinkers, such as Guan Zhong, Li Kui, Shen Buhai, Shang Yang, and Han Fei, whose reform ideas contributed greatly to the establishment of the bureaucratic Chinese empire. With early figures mainly from the Warring states period, and an influence in the Qin, it formed into a school of thought in the Han dynasty. The Qin to Tang were more characterized by the tradition.

Quick facts: Legalism, Chinese, Literal meaning, Transcrip...
Statue of the legalist Shang Yang
Literal meaningSchool of law

Though the origins of the Chinese administrative system cannot be traced to any one person, prime minister Shen Buhai may have had more influence than any other in the construction of the merit system, and could be considered its founder. His philosophical successor Han Fei, regarded as their finest writer, wrote the most acclaimed of their texts, the Han Feizi. Sun Tzu's Art of War incorporates both a Daoistic philosophy of inaction and impartiality, and a Legalist system of punishment and rewards, recalling Han Fei's use of the concepts of power (勢, shì) and technique (術, shù).

Concerned largely with administrative and sociopolitical innovation, Shang Yang's numerous reforms transformed the peripheral Qin state into a militarily powerful and strongly centralized kingdom. Much of Legalism was the development of the ideas underlying his reforms, which led the Qin to ultimate conquest of the other states of China in 221 BCE. With an administrative influence for the Qin dynasty, he had a formative influence for Chinese law, and succeeding emperors often followed the templates set by Han Fei, Shen Buhai and Shang Yang.

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