Han Fei Zu: Han Fei Zu was Legalist of the Han Kingdom who was,
along with Li Ssu, a student
of Xün Zu;. He was born and raised in the Kingdom of Han. He tried unsuccessfully
to persuade the Han rulers to change their administrative system in order to strengthen Han.
When he could not convince the Han rulers to change their administrative system he put his
ideas into two essays. These essays were ignored in Han but they were taken note of in Qin.
When Han Fei Zu was sent as an envoy of the Han government to Qin, the Qin ruler
a place in his government. Han Fei Zu accepted the offer.
Unfortunately for Han Fei Zu another advisor of the Qin ruler was Li Ssu, who had
been a fellow student with Han Fei Zu with Xün Zu and knew well
Han Fei Zu's abilities. Li Ssu was afraid Han Fei Zu would replace him so
he arranged to have Han Fei Zu imprisoned and then forced him to commit suicide.
Han Fei Zu's writings survived him and he had an influence long after his death.
Han Fei Zu criticized the Confucians and was particularly influential in
promoting the notion that scholars are useless. Time spent in pursuing knowledge was time
taken away from the useful pursuit of growing food.
According to Han Fei Zu
In a state of an intelligent ruler there are no books, instead the laws serve as lessons.
The general principles that Han Fei Zu promoted were:
- Political institutions must change with the times.
- Human behavior is determined by economic conditions rather than morality
- A ruler should waste time trying to make his subjects good but only restrain them
from doing evil.
- People do not know what is best for them anymore than babies do.
- Possession of authority, shih demands unquestioning obedience
- Political loyalty takes precedence over filial duty
- Authority should be exercised through law (fa). A ruler can abrogate a
law but that law which is abrogated should then be abandoned. If a law stands it should
be adhered to even by the ruler.
- Appointments to office should be made according to rules and law rather than
arbitrarily. Merit should be evaluated according to rules rather than by personal
judgments. A ruler should demand satisfactory performance and compliance with directives by the ruler.
- A ruler should trust no one, be suspicious of sycophants, and search out plots to
usurp his power. No subordinate should be allowed to accumulate undue power.
- Statecraft (shu) is of prime importance in ruling a polity.
- In interstate relations military power is of prime importance.
- Farming and weaving are the only productive activities. Scholars are especially to
be discouraged from wasting their time.
- Giving help to the destitute is both unwise and unfair because it takes from the industrious
and frugal and rewards the lazy and prodigal.