Legalism of the Qin Dynasty
What person was the First Emperor (259-210 BC) of China? How could he succeed in defeating all the other rival nations in China to establish the first full-scale unified empire in the Chinese history 200 years before Christ Jesus?
I really sometimes wondered.
The key to understanding the First Emperor and the Qin dynasty is the special philosophy Qin adopted: Legalism (Fa-jia in Chinese and Ho-ke in Japanese).
The founder of this legalism, Han Fei (c. 280 – 233 BC、Kan Pi in Japanese), wrote a book called the Han Feizi (Kanpishi in Japanese). His thought can be well learnt from this book, though Han Fei himself was not born in Qin. His philosophy was not highly appreciated in his own country, but he became an envoy of the country to Qin as Qin was trying to conquer the country Han Feizi belonged to. His talent won respect from Qin's king (later the First Emperor). The king tried to hire him but some of his subjects hated Fei. Han Fei was arrested for a false charge and eventually forced to commit a suicide. However, his philosophy was adopted by the king.
Han Fei wrote: there was a minister in a country. He had servants each appointed to special tasks. One servant was in charge of taking care of minister's crown; another his clothes; another his shoes, etc.
One day, the minister took a nap on a couch in his room. Meanwhile the air got chilly. So, one servant covered his master with some clothes so that the sleeping minister would not catch a cold.
When waking up, the minister found that somebody put clothes on him. He did not catch a cold. So, he asked who handled the clothes. Then he found that the servant in charge of care of his crown put the clothes round.
The minister called the servants in charge of care of his crown and his clothes. And he punished both. The servant in charge of care of his crown had done unauthorized act of handling his clothes. And the servant in charge of care of his clothes did not prevent the other servant from handling his clothes. Rules and order were more important than health.
This is one example of teachings of Han Fei's legalism. And, the king of Qin introduced this philosophy into his administration of his nation and military. It worked so well that Qin could unify China to become the first full-scale empire in China.
However, soon after the death of the First Emperor, Qin was crushed out. (The empire Qin lasted only for 15 years.) Qin was defeated by the founder of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang, and other warriors. Liu Ban became Emperor Gaozu (256 – 195 BC) who did not take in legalism but adopted Confucianism as the national religion of Han. The Han dynasty lasted for 400 years with a minor interruption of 15 years when an insurgent took over power but soon lost it.
It is apparent that Qin's legalism is closer to ancient Judaism in the era of Christ Jesus and Confucianism is closer to Christianity. But elite politicians and bureaucrats all over the world today still love legalism. Indeed to control people, legalism looks like an appropriate tool. To achieve a great thing, such as establishing an empire, legalism sometimes works well. But, it is not suitable for maintaining a nation and human society.
However, China today looks like being governed by the elite who loves legalism and especially Qin's legalism.
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Mar 10:13 And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them.
Mar 10:14 But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.