Han Feizi

(ca. 230 BCE)

Han Fei was an ancient Chinese writer credited with the work that bears his name, the Han Feizi, which is generally translated as The Writings of Master Han Fei. Completed around 230 BCE and divided into fifty-five chapters, the Han Feizi is considered to be the best synthesis of the ideas of Legalism, also referred to as the School of Law. Elements of Legalist thought date to as early as the fourth century BCE, with some accounts tracing them to as far back as the seventh century BCE. Although little is known about the philosophies of earlier thinkers like Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE) and Shen Buhai (d. 337 BCE), their influence in the Han Feizi is widely noted. Scholars also acknowledge the contributions of other Legalist thinkers but credit Han Fei with combining Legalist ideas into a compendium.

Generally regarded as a political treatise rather than a religious text, the Han Feizi is concerned above all with state power. Written in reaction to the widespread political turmoil...