What Was a Ruler`s Greatest Virtue in Legalism


Although the syncretic Han Feizi speaks of what might be called law, what Western science called „legalists,“ among other things, was not primarily interested in law, but in administration. [44] [6]: 92–93, 101, 103 [75][76] It has implications for the work of judges, but contains „no explicit legal theory,“[46][77] and is „motivated almost exclusively from the point of view of the leader.“ [78] [79] [80] [77] Even Lord Shang`s more „legalistic“ book deals even more with laws from an administrative point of view and deals with many other administrative matters. [34] Playing a „crucial role in promoting the autocratic tradition of Chinese politics,“ the so-called wu wei (or inaction) would become the political theory of fajia (or „Chinese legalists“), if not their general term for political strategy. Many Chinese scholars believe that the backlash against legalism has led Chinese imperial policy to emphasize personal relationships and morality rather than the rule of law. Most Chinese historical documents were written by Confucian scholars persecuted among the Qin, and therefore may represent a biased view. Confucian influence was somewhat curbed by the eunuch Shi Xien, the chief writer of the palace, who had many Confucians arrested and executed for criticizing him. Instead of going to prison, the most prominent Confucian committed suicide. Shi Xien outlived Emperor Yuan; but he was exiled after Emperor Cheng came to power in 33 BC. The office of clerk of the palace was abolished so that eunuchs would not have such power. Like his father, Emperor Cheng placed his maternal parents in important positions. While he enjoyed drinking, dancing banquets and making music, the Wang clan controlled the government. Through education and patient application, Confucianism had gradually triumphed in China, albeit tempered by realist legalists and subtle Taoists.

However, the old Han dynasty was in decline and was to be replaced in the next generation. Shen Buhai formalized the concept of shù (術, „methods“), a bureaucratic administrative model to assist the ruler and prevent mismanagement. In legalism, the intelligent minister was the ruler`s most important instrument of government. The minister`s job was to understand and regulate certain issues; The leader was responsible for properly assessing the ministers` achievements. The ruler must master the technique of comparing words (ming) and performance (xing). Similarly, Jia I argued that the second emperor would have been able to fulfill the hopes of the people if he had taken care of the nation`s ills, corrected the first emperor`s mistakes, allocated land to the people, subservient to dignified ministers, established states to order the empire with decency, emptied prisons, who pardoned those sentenced to death. abolished slavery and humiliating punishments, allowed people to return to their villages, opened granaries and distributed funds to help orphans and the poor, facilitated taxes and work requirements, simplified laws and reduced punishments, and allowed people to make a fresh start and exercise their integrity by presiding over the empire with authority and virtue; Then people would have flocked to him. However, the second emperor did not adopt this policy, but multiplied laws and intensified sanctions with unjust rewards and punishments, as well as unlimited taxes and duties. Civil servants could not supervise all assigned tasks, and people sank into poverty and misery. Then wickedness and fraud appeared everywhere as superiors and subordinates turned against each other.

The number of people accused of crimes increased and everyone feared for their safety. Thus, people were easily awakened to violent rebellion. The leader claims recognition of achievements, but blames ministers for their mistakes. Ministers work and show wisdom, but the leader is their corrector and maintains an intact reputation. The leader must know, but not let it be known that he knows. Each person`s words should be compared to their results. Public servants should not know what others are doing. No one has the right to desire power in this authoritarian regime. The ruler uses the two handfuls of rewards and punishments to control others and examines the results to see how they fit his goals.