Read preview Synopsis Trenchant, sophisticated, and cynical, Han Feizi has been read in every age and is still of interest today when people are more than ever concerned with the nature and use of power. Han Feizi ? His handbook for the ruler deals with the problems of strengthening and preserving the state, the way of the ruler, the use of power, and punishment and favor. Ironically, the ruler most influenced by Han Feizi, the king of Qin, eventually sent Han Feizi to prison, where he later committed suicide. We are fortunate, however, in the few facts we have, for they supply us with a motive and setting for his writings, and an account of his death which, whatever its reliability as history, adds a fine touch of dramatic irony.
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His essays on autocratic government so impressed King Zheng of Qin that the future emperor adopted their principles after seizing power in bce. The Hanfeizi, the book named after him, comprises a synthesis of legal theories up to his time. A member of the ruling family of Han, one of the weaker of the warring states that were in conflict during the 5th—3rd centuries bce, he studied under the Confucian philosopher Xunzi but deserted him to follow another school of thought more germane to the conditions accompanying the collapse of the feudal system in his time.
Finding that his advice to the ruler of his native state went unheeded, he put his ideas into writing. A speech defect is also reputed to have induced his recourse to writing.
King Zheng of Qin a western state —who became the first emperor of the Qin dynasty in bce—read and admired some of his essays. Zheng was delighted to receive Han Feizi and probably planned to offer him a high government post. Political thought To Han Feizi it was axiomatic that political institutions must change with changing historical circumstances.
It is folly, he said, to cling to outmoded ways of the past, as the Confucians did. It was also axiomatic that political institutions adapt to the prevailing pattern of human behaviour , which is determined not by moral sentiments but by economic and political conditions. According to the Confucians, as virtue confers on a king the right to rule, misrule voids that right. Han Feizi thought differently. Moreover, political duty takes precedence over other duties. A soldier, it was said, ran from battle because he thought that, if he was killed, he could no longer serve his father.
Subscribe today Authority should be wielded not whimsically but through laws fa that the ruler promulgates and that all must obey. Rulers of the Warring States period found it advantageous to employ men skilled in government, diplomacy, and war.
But how to separate solid talent from idle chatter became a serious problem. After assigning posts according to individual capacities, the ruler should demand satisfactory performance of the responsibilities devolving on their posts and punish anyone who is derelict of duty or oversteps his power.
The ruler may authorize an official to carry out a proposal he has submitted. He should punish him not only when the results fall short of the stated goal but also when they exceed it. With supreme authority secure and good order prevailing, the ruler proceeds to aggrandize his realm by means of military power. Might is the decisive factor in interstate relations.
Military power is inseparable from economic strength. Farming being the only productive occupation, all other callings, especially that of the scholar, should be discouraged. Giving relief to the destitute is both unwise and unfair.
Han Feizi: Basic Writings
His essays on autocratic government so impressed King Zheng of Qin that the future emperor adopted their principles after seizing power in bce. The Hanfeizi, the book named after him, comprises a synthesis of legal theories up to his time. A member of the ruling family of Han, one of the weaker of the warring states that were in conflict during the 5th—3rd centuries bce, he studied under the Confucian philosopher Xunzi but deserted him to follow another school of thought more germane to the conditions accompanying the collapse of the feudal system in his time. Finding that his advice to the ruler of his native state went unheeded, he put his ideas into writing. A speech defect is also reputed to have induced his recourse to writing.
A Galaxy of Immortal Women. Basic Writings Translations from the Asian Classics. Han Feizi earnestly sent this advice to his king, the ruler of the small state of Han. This page was last edited on 14 Novemberat Essentially, promoting a subordinate to a higher position because you like him rather than because he is a good Legalist minister invites ruination. It might not have mattered anyway, but Han ignored his advice and fell to the neighboring king of Qin, who became the first Emperor of a unified China in B.
Introduction[ edit ] 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. The qualities of a ruler, his "mental power, moral excellence and physical prowess" are irrelevant.