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Han Feizi

From Academic Kids

Traditional Chinese: 韓非子
Simplified Chinese: 韩非子
Pinyin: Hn Fēizǐ
Wade-Giles: Han Fei-tzu

Han Feizi (韓非子) (d. 233 BC) was a philosopher who, along with Li Si, developed Xun Zi's philosophy into the doctrine embodied by the School of Law or Legalism. Himself a part of the aristocracy, Han Feizi was born into the ruling family of the state of Han during the end phase of the Warring States Period.

His philosophy centered on the ruler. In Han Fei's philosophy, the ruler firmly controls the state with the help of three concepts: his position of power (勢, Shi); certain techniques (術, Shu), and the laws (法, Fa). Han Fei's philosophy assumes that everyone acts according to one principle: avoiding punishment while simultaneously trying to achieve gains. Thus, the law must severely punish any unwanted action, while at the same time reward those who follow it. (compare: Legalism)

Apart from the Confucianist Xun Zi, who was his and Li Si's teacher, the other main source for his political theories was Lao Zi's Taoist work, the Tao Te Ching, which he interpreted as a political text, and on which he wrote a commentary (chapters 20 and 21 in his book, Han Feizi). He saw the Tao as a natural law that everyone and everything was forced to follow. Parallel to this, he envisioned that an ideal ruler made laws, like an inevitable force of nature, that the people could not resist.

His philosophy was very influential on the last King of Qin and the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, becaming one of the guiding principles of the ruler's policies. After the early demise of the Qin Dynasty, Han Feizi's philosophy was officially vilified by the following Han Dynasty. Despite its outcast status throughout the history of imperial China, Han Fei's political theory continued to heavily influence every dynasty afterwards, and the Confucian ideal of a rule without laws was never again realized.

Han Feizi's philosophy experienced a renewed interest under the rule of the Communist Party during the leadership of Mao Zedong, who personally admired some of the principles laid out in it.

Han Feizi's entire recorded work is collected in the Han Feizi, a book containing 55 chapters. It is also important as the only surviving source for numerous anecdotes from the Warring States Period.

References

  • Fung Yu-lan. A History of Chinese Philosophy. (translation by Derk Bodde). Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2 1952

In French:

  • Cheng, Anne. Histoire de la pense chinoise. Paris: ditions du Seuil, 1997

fr:Han Fei Zi ja:韓非 zh:韩非子

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