In later dynasties, legalism was discredited and ceased to be an independent school of thought. However, ancient and modern observers of Chinese politics have argued that some legalistic ideas have merged with mainstream Confucianism and still play a role in government. More recently, Mao Zedong, who had some knowledge of ancient Chinese philosophy, compared himself to Qin Shi Huang and publicly endorsed certain legalistic methods. Since the 1990s, however, the associated concept of the rule of law has prevailed. Legalism was the idea of the central government of the Qin Dynasty, culminating in the unification of China under the “first emperor” (Qin Shi Huang). He is the master in the 2002 film Hero and several other films. Most Chinese philosophers and political thinkers had very negative views about legalism and blamed it for what would now be considered a totalitarian society. Many Chinese scholars believe it was a backlash against legalism that gave Chinese imperial policy its personalist and moralistic flavor instead of emphasizing the rule of law. However, this view of the Qin may be biased, as most Chinese historical documents were written by Confucian scholars who were persecuted among the Qin. The history of Korean legalism dates back to Gyeonggukdaejeon, a code of laws compiled during the Joseon Dynasty. There is a mixed perception of legalism in South Korean society, as the military regime after World War II used the idea of legalism as a tool of its governance. The ideas are related to Chinese legalism, but often differ due to Korean aversion to what they see as the Chinese use of legalism in an attempt to legitimize Han imperialism.1 Legalism in ancient China was a philosophical belief that people were more inclined to do evil than good because they are motivated solely by self-interest and need strict laws.
to control their impulses. It was developed by the philosopher Han Feizi (l. c. 280 – 233 BC) of the State of Qin. Legalism is an approach to the analysis of legal issues characterized by abstract logical thinking that focuses on the applicable legal text, such as a constitution, law, or jurisprudence, rather than the social, economic, or political context. In its narrower versions, legalism perpetuates the idea that the pre-existing body of authoritative legal documents already contains a predetermined “right answer” to any legal problem that may arise; and that the task of the judge is to ensure this unequivocal answer by means of an essentially mechanical procedure. This application of the Western law school has little to do with the Chinese philosophical school of the same name, which is being discussed from now on. The founder of the legalistic school was Hsün Tzu or Hsün-tzu. The most important principle in his thinking was that humans are inherently evil and prone to criminal and selfish behavior. So if people are allowed to engage with their natural inclinations, the result will be conflict and social disorder. As a solution to this problem, the ancient wise kings invented morality. Since morality does not exist in nature, the only way to behave morally is through habituation and severe punishment (Lau 120).
Like the Italian political philosopher Machiavelli, Hsün Tzu clearly distinguishes between what belongs to heaven and what belongs to man. Later legalistic thought influenced Chinese political theorists such as Tung Chung-shu, who believed in a rigid mathematical relationship in social arrangements. Who was the most powerful proponent of legalism in ancient China? In Chinese history, legalism (Chinese: 法家; pinyin Fǎjiā) was one of the four most important philosophical schools of the Spring and Autumn periods and the Warring States period (towards the end of the Zhou dynasty from the sixth century BC to about the third century BC). It is in fact more of a pragmatic political philosophy with maxims such as “As times have changed, paths have changed” as an essential principle, than jurisprudence. In this context, “legalism” here may have the meaning of “political philosophy that defends the rule of law” and thus differ from the Western meaning of the word. Hanfeizi believed that a ruler should rule his subjects through the following trinity: Legalism remained in force throughout the Qin dynasty until its fall in 206 BC. After the fall of Qin, the states of Chu and Han fought for control of the country until Xiang-Yu of Chu (l. 232-202 BC) was defeated by Liu Bang of Han (l. c.
256-195 BC) at the Battle of Gaixia in 202 BC. AD and the Han Dynasty was founded. The Han Dynasty ruled for a long time, from 202 BC. J.-C. in 220 AD, and began many of the most important cultural advances in Chinese history, the opening of the Silk Road being only one of them. Han Fei`s immediate response is that the ruler should protect himself by carefully applying the techniques of government described above. It should review the reports of its ministers, review their performance, promote them or demote them according to the correspondence between “performance” and “name”; He must remain calm and mysterious, and let them be exposed; He should encourage mutual spying and whistleblowing between his ministers.