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Legalism facts for kids

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Legalism was one of the four main philosophies in Chinese history during the Warring States Period. It is a political philosophy which says that people are bad by nature and need to be controlled by the government. It was introduced by Qin Shi Huang.

The School of Law or Legalism (法家; Fǎjiā; Fa-chia; "School of law") doctrine was formulated by Li Kui, Shang Yang (d. 338 BC), Han Fei (d. 233 BC), and Li Si (d. 208 BC), who maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.

One of the most important contributors to Legalism was Han Fei Zi (韓非子). He said that a ruler must use following tools to govern a state:
1. Fa (Chinese: 法; pinyin: fǎ; literally "law or principle"): The law must be known by everyone. Everybody under the ruler is equal before the law. If you do what law wants you will be rewarded. If you break the law or try to break it, you will be punished.
2. Shu (Chinese: 術; pinyin: shù; literally "method, tactic or art"): These are methods the ruler has to use so that nobody is able to abolish the system.
3. Shi (Chinese: 勢; pinyin: shì; literally "legitimacy, power or charisma"): The position of the ruler is important, not the ruler himself.

Legalism greatly influenced the philosophical basis for the imperial form of government. During the Han Dynasty, the most practical elements of Confucianism and Legalism were taken to form a sort of synthesis, marking the creation of a new form of government that would remain largely intact until the late 19th century, with continuing influence into the present.

Related pages

  • "Chinese Legalism: Documentary Materials and Ancient Totalitarianism"

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Legalismo para niños

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