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Legalism in Ancient China

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Jenna Garrity

on 14 December 2012

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Transcript of Legalism in Ancient China

by Jenna Garrity, Dakota MacArthur, Jacob Teuner, & Shawn Topping Legalism in Ancient China Beliefs Legalism is a classic Chinese philosophy that stresses the importance of need for order above all other human concerns. Legalism developed in the brutal, harsh years of the Fourth Century BCE. Legalists believed that government could only become real if rulers were not deluded by devotion.Before Legalism, life in ancient China was very chaotic due to many different warlords within China trying to seize land onto their own kingdoms and attempting to gain power, life in general was very chaotic. Then came Legalism, during the Warring States Period, it’s best described as strict, harshly enforced, and laws must be obeyed under one or a few rulers. Three men, Shang Yang, han Fezei and Li Si wanted to make sure that the people of China followed and were led by a philosophy that would strengthen the government that was in power to cause the people to obey the laws much more strictly. Under Legalism, one of the worst crimes that a someone could commit was to be disloyal to their rulers. Those who committed crimes were punished with brutal torture. State and country came first instead of individual wants or needs. The school of Legalism began to develop, within the school of Legalism, it was taught that people were evil instead of good. It says that humans are evil and need to be tamed and controlled by using laws and strict punishment in order to prevent frantic chaos. Legalism influenced evil upon the people. Legalism wasn't necessarily taught with pen and paper, it was forcefully brought upon the people of China in a forceful manor. Although, the Han Fei Zi and the Book of Lord Shang are the two most important surviving texts from the Legalism period. Rulers made the Chinese people fear them, almost like a propaganda of fear. Fear specifically meaning the possibility of being killed or tortured.

"If the people are stronger than the government, the state is weak; if the government is stronger than the people, the army is strong." -Chapter 2, Paragraph 5 of The Book of Lord Shang, pg 109 of J.J.-L. Duyvendak, 1928 Teachings Legalism didn't consist of any 'rituals,' but more like practices. Within their strict society and law, they worshiped their leaders and the law. As for practicing through actions, the authority of Legalism at the time would burn any book, poem, or any text that went against legalism or showed otherwise in a fire. They would also burn scholars, as in people, if they did not give up their libraries. Rituals Legalism was meant to support the emperor, military,and the state. The emperor and his advisers restricted freedom of speech and religious freedom.
The Legalists represent the antithesis of Confucian thinking.
The emperor forced citizens to act appropriate against their will.
The creativity, intelligence, free thinking, and emotional responses were stifled during the time that legalistic thinking prevailed in China.
Citizens were very afraid of speaking their opinion in fear of being put to death.Although the legalistic system was harsh it was possible for someone to advance in social rank. This was possible if they performed well at their occupation. Societal Influence/Impact on Society Civilians did not like the idea of Legalism because they received harsh treatment from the people who had power. It was believed that people did not need to read, and that the only guidance they needed was the series of laws that governed the country. View of Government Bibliography
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