Legalism Vs Confucianism Analysis

Superior Essays
In Ancient China, during the tumultuous Warring States period, government leaders surrounded themselves with advisors, similar to medieval courts and modern cabinets. These advisors espoused their beliefs on how governments should operate, but more importantly, how leaders should act. Two seemingly diametrically opposed schools of thought rose to prominence: Confucianism popularized by Kongzi and Mengzi, and Legalism promoted by Han Feizi and Li Si. Although each camp acknowledged a hierarchical order of society, they disagreed the overarching goals and the methods of proper government. Thus, the Confucian school promoted a system of government and individual behavior based on internal ethical cultivation of the innate benevolent human nature …show more content…
Han Feizi, a prominent Legalist philosopher argues that as social, political, military, and economic climates change, so must the system of government. Additionally, he asserts that people may be innately benevolent, but will also remain selfish and greedy despite ethical education and cultivation. Moreover, by strictly adhering to tradition and repeating successful methods that may have worked in the past, like the Confucians, then people will not be innovative or successful as they “watch a stump awaiting a rabbit.” Therefore, Han Feizi devised five techniques for rulers to act and to structure their government: the power of position, administrative methods, law, the “two handles” of government, and “the Way of the ruler.” Through the aforementioned techniques, people will be permitted to pursue their selfish interests as outlined by the government, but doing so will ultimately benefit the central state and the ruler. Thus, in order for the ruler and the government to properly harness the vast human and natural resources under their domain, administrative methods and the “two handles” were …show more content…
Confucians took an internal approach at the individual, family, and community level arguing that if everyone from the ruler down acted out of benevolence and respect for one another following ethical cultivation, then society would become naturally ordered, prosperous, and harmonious over time; eventually returning to the glory days of the early Zhou. Subjects were expected to cultivate their innate benevolence and respect their ancestors through ritual and tradition while the ruler provided for them like a caring parent. However, time was the major concern for the realist Legalists. They could not wait for generations to pass while people quietly cultivated their virtue. Facing persistent warfare during the Warring States period and barbarian incursions after unification, the Qin and Han government did not have the luxury of time because their survival was at stake. Therefore, through an authoritative central state and a system of external rewards and punishments, the government demanded obedience from their people and harnessed their labor through coercion. Nonetheless, each version of Chinese government proselytized by the ancient philosophers was based on a societal hierarchy with one ruler in command while the subjects dutifully

Related Documents

  • Improved Essays

    Throughout history, Chinese philosophies have referred to various perspectives and values followed among their people. All of these philosophies have a long history of several and many years. Out of the three well-known philosophies, Confucianism and Legalism have polar opposite values and morals. The philosophy that began from Confucius believed in returning good ethics in order for society to have good conduct opposed to bad people. Whereas Legalism believed that the disorder of society would be fixed by harsh punishment and overall government control.…

    • 629 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Confucianism and Confucianism, is the main system of thought in China; It was developed from the teachings of Confucius and his disciples, and had to do with the principles of good practice, the empirical wisdom and the own social relations. Confucianism has influenced the Chinese attitude toward the existence, setting the life patterns and patterns of social value, and providing the basis of political theories and Chinese institutions. From China it spread to Korea, Japan and Viet Nam, and in recent decades it has aroused interest among scholars of the West. Ethical principles of Confucianism, which should directed to perfection are: filial piety, linked to respect for the ancestors and the fidelity tradition and deference to superiors (zhongh): the equity that leads to respect for goods and social position of each which (yi).The way decent conduct, closely tied to ceremonies and the way of governing and restore social order (li).Passion or sympathy that leads to the rescue to the similar (ren).…

    • 421 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    Confucianism Dbq

    • 1017 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Classical China was composed of several major schools of philosophy that generally associated with life on earth rather than spiritual values. These philosophies emphasized a good life on earth and focused on the virtues of obedience to the state rather than speculations about God and heaven. Confucius, or King Fuzi, preached Confucianism, which was a system of ethics stressing virtue and reverence throughout society. Additionally, during the Qin and Han dynasties, an alternate system of political thought arose called Legalism. This philosophical belief was centered around the notion that human nature was naturally evil and required restraint and discipline.…

    • 1017 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Confucianism Dbq

    • 268 Words
    • 2 Pages

    China Philosophy Essay The characteristics of the ideal ruler according to Confucius is to lead the people with governmental measures, laws, Virtue and rules of propriety. There is proof that this thesis is correct in document 2 of our DBQ. The document says that the ruler can avoid wrongdoing in the people and they will have no sense of honor and shame and set themselves right. If a ruler knows what is right and wrong and is a good person his people will follow him and do what he wants before asking them to do it.…

    • 268 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Although they each have many differences their purpose is the same, to make society better, to end conflict. Confucians’ teachings emphasize and esteem education and believe the mandate of Heaven. They believe education would change people. Therefore, Confucians’ teachings are to train people to be a better…

    • 703 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Imperial Rome (31 B.C.E. -476 C.E.) and Han China (206 B.C.E.-220 C.E.) are likely the two most well known empires of the time period Because of their large size and influence. When describing methods of political control, the two mirrored each other in many ways but, in some respects, had contradicting ideas. The methods of political control used by Imperial Rome and Han China were similar regarding their use of political theologies to justify leadership, their centrally structured government, and their use military power, but exhibited different roles of citizens in government and techniques for maintaining order in the lower class. In Imperial Rome and Han China, the leaders used political theologies to explain and justify their rise to…

    • 522 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    During the Period of the Warring States, from 403 B.C.E. - 221 B.C.E., political confusion aroused in China. During this time, many thoughtful people sought to restore political and social order by reflecting on the proper roles of human beings in society. As a result, three philosophical schools of thought emerged: Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism. Although all three of these philosophies were formed to restore order to China, each one had very different ideals about how to cure the ills of society. Whereas these three philosophies agreed on forming a cure for society, they had very different ideals on the way of human nature.…

    • 815 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Legalists believed that peace and order can only be obtained through a strong government. They also believed that humans were evil and needed a strong forceful hand in order to do the right thing, and in order to do the right thing harsh punishments and tough laws needed to be created. Because of Legalism brutal enforcement of laws, many commoners turned to Confucianism and Daoism, even though the government followed legalism. The only reason that Legalism adopted this government was to gain control of other…

    • 1619 Words
    • 7 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    One of the key components of any successful civilization throughout history is political control. It has proven itself absolutely necessary when it comes to maintaining order in any society. Political organization began to become much more elaborate during the Classical period, offering government leaders more control over the population. We see many different approaches to maintaining this control throughout the classical period civilizations. The Classical period Han and Mauryan dynasty sought and achieved political control through both religion and social hierarchy.…

    • 875 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Decent Essays

    Wudi even began a university to teach Confucian ideas. If a person passed an exam on Confucian teachings, he could get a good position in the government. However, not just anyone could take the test. The exams were only open to people who had been recommended for government service already. As a result, wealthy or in uential families continued to control the government.…

    • 115 Words
    • 1 Pages
    Decent Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Warring States Essay

    • 1057 Words
    • 5 Pages

    Although the Qin Dynasty was very short-lived, the imperial system it set down and built upon Legalist foundations helped set the pattern of Chinese institutional development for the next two millennia. Nevertheless, the new Han Dynasty was converted at a very early point to Confucianism. The process began with Emperor Gaozu himself, who although he himself was, and remained, a Legalist, he began filling his Court and government bureaucracy with Confucians who in turn gradually established Confucianism’s supremacy not just within the Han Dynasty but in China and much of East Asia from then…

    • 1057 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Meng Tzu, who was known in the west as Mencius, was a Chinese philosopher. He was “the most important figure in the development of Confucianism” (Mencius 94), which was a system of rites, rituals and social observances. Confucianism was the official state religion of china for nearly two thousand years. He lived and wrote during one of the most spectacular eras of social upheaval that the world has ever known. During this period of time, there was a question that all philosophers were asking, “what is the best way to ensure political stability?…

    • 602 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Moral Code Of Confucianism

    • 1356 Words
    • 6 Pages

    It was a new idea for the government and it gave men a quick answer to being powerful and rich. They could turn to the Confucianism to answer questions about their future. Confucius tells his followers that, “Riches and honors are things people desire; but if one obtains them by not following the Way, then one will not be able to hold them.” (Sourcebook, 20) Confucius is telling his followers that if they want power and a long lasting position in government then he must follow the Way.…

    • 1356 Words
    • 6 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Improved Essays

    Confucius Argument Essay

    • 1086 Words
    • 4 Pages

    I’m sure we’ve all heard the quote, “Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life (Brainy Quote, 2015).” When I first heard the quote, it was from my 9th grade English teacher and I couldn’t tell you who had said it. But every day, she would repeat the same quote almost like clockwork and it stuck with me. With a little help from google, I found out that the quote belong to Kong Qiu or for many of us Confucius. Born around 551 BC, he lost his father at the tender age of 3 and grew up in poverty with his mother.…

    • 1086 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Improved Essays
  • Superior Essays

    The founder Confucian created an up to date moral standard for their Chinese families. Family was the top propriety in their life and parents became glorified. The Chinese Confucianist would try to please their parents, respect them, and honor them because they are a product of them. their ethical teachings from Confucius, says that highest moral standing is giving to a individual who legitimately cares about others and displays it through their actions. His ethical teachings also inspired rulers to care more about the wellbeing of his people.…

    • 1142 Words
    • 5 Pages
    Superior Essays