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.

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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.

He discards his private reason and morality, and shows no personal feelings. What is important is his method of government. Fa administrative standards require no perfection on the part of the ruler.

That being so, the intelligent ruler, by holding to the beginning, knows the source of everything, and, by keeping to the standard, knows the origin of good and evil. Therefore, by virtue of resting empty and reposed, he waits for the course of nature to enforce itself so that all names will be defined of themselves and all affairs will be settled of themselves. Empty, he knows the essence of fullness: reposed, he becomes the corrector of motion.

Who utters a word creates himself a name; who has an affair creates himself a form. Compare forms and names and see if they are identical.

Then the ruler will find nothing to worry about as everything is reduced to its reality. Tao exists in invisibility; its function, in unintelligibility. Be empty and reposed and have nothing to do-Then from the dark see defects in the light.

See but never be seen. Hear but never be heard. Know but never be known. If you hear any word uttered, do not change it nor move it but compare it with the deed and see if word and deed coincide with each other. Place every official with a censor. Do not let them speak to each other. Then everything will be exerted to the utmost. Cover tracks and conceal sources. Then the ministers cannot trace origins.

Leave your wisdom and cease your ability. Then your subordinates cannot guess at your limitations. The bright ruler is undifferentiated and quiescent in waiting, causing names roles to define themselves and affairs to fix themselves. If he is undifferentiated then he can understand when actuality is pure, and if he is quiescent then he can understand when movement is correct.

Qin Shi Huang was called the "Tiger of Qin" Supposing the tiger cast aside its claws and fangs and let the dog use them, the tiger would, in turn, be subjected by the dog. Han Fei Zi A modern statue of the First Emperor and his attendants on horseback The two August Lords of high antiquity grasped the handles of the Way and so were established in the center. Their spirits mysteriously roamed together with all transformations and thereby pacified the four directions.

Verbally committing oneself, a candidate is allotted a job, indebting him to the ruler. Fitting the name is more important than results. This means to ascertain if words differ from the job. A minister sets forth his words and on the basis of his words the ruler assigns him a job. Then the ruler holds the minister accountable for the achievement which is based solely on his job. If the achievement fits his job, and the job fits his words, then he is rewarded.

If the achievement does not fit his jobs and the job does not fit his words, then he will be punished. When names are put in order, things become settled down; when they go awry, things become unfixed.

Whatever the situation Shih brings is the correct Dao. Shang Yang was largely unconcerned with the organization of the bureaucracy apart from this.

Without them he is like any other man; his existence depends upon them. To "avoid any possibility of usurpation by his ministers", power and the "handles of the law" must "not be shared or divided", concentrating them in the ruler exclusively. In practice, this means that the ruler must be isolated from his ministers.

The elevation of ministers endangers the ruler, from whom he must be kept strictly apart. Punishment confirms his sovereignty; law eliminates anyone who oversteps his boundary, regardless of intention.

Law "aims at abolishing the selfish element in man and the maintenance of public order", making the people responsible for their actions.

The ruler cannot inspect all officials himself, and must rely on the decentralized but faithful application of laws and methods fa. Though Fa-Jia sought to enhance the power of the ruler, this scheme effectively neutralizes him, reducing his role to the maintenance of the system of reward and punishments, determined according to impartial methods and enacted by specialists expected to protect him through their usage thereof.

For this reason, the Han Feizi is sometimes included as part of the syncretist Huang-Lao Taoist tradition, seeing the Tao as a natural law that everyone and everything was forced to follow.

Parallel to this, he believed that an ideal ruler made laws, like an inevitable force of nature, that the people could not resist. Translator W. London: Arthur Probsthain. Watson, Burton Han Fei Tzu: Basic Writings. New York: Columbia University Press.


Han Feizi: Basic Writings

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. Preview — Han Feizi by Han Fei.


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.


The title Han Feizi is also used to denote the book written by him. In this context, his works have been interpreted by some scholars as being directed to his cousin, the King of Han. It is said that because of his stutter, Han Fei could not properly present his ideas in court. His advice otherwise being ignored, but observing the slow decline of his Han state, he developed "one of the most brilliant writing styles in ancient China.

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