This passage explains the general principles of Shen Buhai`s „techniques“ but does not describe how they worked. „Techniques“ and „rules“ are described in legalistic texts as the best way to maintain control of the ruler: the enlightened ruler relies on them, while the reckless ruler throws them away and is then misled by the misleading words of his ministers and the inducements of persuaders (shui 說). But amid the emphasis on the power of techniques, rules, laws and regulations, we can discover the sober realization that even these are not always enough and that a perfect administrative system simply cannot emerge. Thus, one of the last chapters of the book Lord Shang states: Legalism is an ancient Chinese philosophical school in terms of law, reform, governance, management, economic regulation, social order, etc. Although both Confucianism and legalism called for a hierarchy of government and adherence to tradition, the difference between the two schools is that Confucianism advocated a benevolent rule by example. He had an optimistic view of human potential. (Mencius is often cited as a contrasting example of a Confucian philosopher as opposed to the legalistic doctrine of Hsün-tzu.) The difference is also clearly evident in the imagery of the writings of each philosophy. The predominant imagery in the writings of legalism is to straighten or forcibly bend the crooked branches of trees so that they grow perfectly straight, or to use hot irons to burn the branches of trees so that they grow in the desired direction. Wanting his Dao (mode of government) to be both objectively and publicly projectable,[14][14] Han Fei argued that catastrophic results would occur if the ruler made arbitrary and ad hoc decisions based on relationships or morality that are „peculiar and fallible“ as a product of reason. Li or Confucian customs and government are also simply too inefficient. [73] [157] [158] The manager cannot act on a case-by-case basis and must therefore establish a comprehensive system that acts through Fa (administrative methods or standards). The Fa is not biased towards nobles, does not exclude preachers, and does not discriminate against ordinary people.

[158] The ideology of legalism includes a comprehensive and practical system in which people are equally rewarded for obeying the law or contributing, and punished for breaking the law, regardless of class. When public service tests were introduced, Confucian influence prohibited open discussion of Shen Buhai. Xing-Ming is not discussed by the head of the Imperial University, the famous Confucian Dong Zhongshu. However, the emperor under whom it was founded, Emperor Wu of Han, knew and approved of legalistic ideas, and the audit of the civil service took place only with their support from Gongsun Hong, who wrote a book about Xing-Ming. [6]: 86–87, 115 According to Liu Xiang, Emperor Xuan of Han always liked to read Shen Buhai, used Xing-Ming to control his subordinates, and devoted a lot of time to legal affairs. [6]: 87 [277][278] The emperor and his chief advisor/premier Li Siu (also known as Li Si, l.c. 280-208 BC). Another disciple of Xunxi) understood how legalism had worked for the Qin in the war and adopted it as the official philosophy of the state in peacetime.

According to historian and scholar Joshua J. Mark, Shi Huangdi „ordered the destruction of all history or philosophy books that did not conform to legalism, his family lineage, the State of Qin, or himself“ and executed more than 400 Confucian scholars. This warning embodies what can be seen as the main dividing line between legalists and their opponents. Despite their strong belief in the monarchical form of government, most Warring States thinkers insisted that the monarch would never succeed without a worthy advisor. Their common wish was to achieve harmonious relations between ministers and leaders; It is no coincidence that the common parable of these relationships was that of friends, that is, equals. Some thinkers were even more confident in their interpretation of a dignified minister as the de facto superior of the ruler, as a teacher, and not just as a friend (Pines 2009: 163-172). One of the most radical manifestations of this pro-ministerial mindset of the Warring States era was the idea of abdication, according to which a good leader may consider ceding the throne to his meritorious adviser (Allan 2016; Pines, 2005). For legalists, however, it was precisely this idea that proved that their rivals` pro-ministerial discourse was a usurpation in disguise. Ministers should never be trusted: they are neither the leader`s friends nor his teachers, but his bitter enemies and conspirators, who should be controlled and controlled rather than valued and empowered. This sober vision – ironically promoted by members of the ministerial class – added some tragic dimensions to the political theory of the legalists. The strong adherence of the legalists to the principles of monarchism is evident; But it is not free of multiple tensions and contradictions.

These are fully embodied in Han Fei`s thought. Han Fei shared his predecessors` view of the ruler as the pivot of the socio-political order, as the sole guarantor of stability and prosperity for his subjects; But he was also bitterly aware of the sovereign`s inadequacy. The very fact that the monarch – unlike his officials – owed his position solely to the pedigree meant that this position was in most cases occupied by mediocrity. Several historical examples scattered around Han Feizi clearly show how devastating the incompetence of the leader can be (Graziani 2015). The intrinsic contradiction between an institutionally infallible and humanly misguided ruler is the main source of tension in Han Feizi (Pines 2013b).