Legalists, late 300s B.C.E.

Emperor Qin Shihuangdi, a strong Legalist


Qin Dynasty

Important Legalists

external image 403px-Shangyang.jpg
Shang Yang (390-338 B.C.) - was the chief minister to the duke of the Qin state. The
work The Book ofLord Shang contained many of his Legalist policies. He was a great
administrator butgained unpopularity for his strict punishments which we believe were

external image hanfeizi.jpg
Han Feizi (280-233 B.C.) - a Confucian student who began to study the ideas of
Legalists and put them together into well-written essays. He was an advisor to the Qin
court and his tactics (which we believe were highly effective) caused many to dislike him
and he was force-fed poison.


As Legalist we had a very strong faith in our laws. We wanted many of our citizens
involved in the military. Having careers as a poet or scholar were frowned upon
because these jobs did not benefit the state in any way. We beileved in a strict
environment where people wouldn't dare to commit crimes. In order to effectively
rule, we gave very harsh punishments to those who committed eventhe smallest of
crimes. For such a small thing as litteriong, we were known to punished by
amputation. All members of a family were expected to watch one another very
closely because we had set up a sytem where if the felon was caught, the entire
community had a chance of facing punishment. We may not have been very
popular but we certainly got our point across.

Map of Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) which relied heavily on our form of


Most of our attention was directed toward matters of the state. We felt no need to
focus on ethics or morality. We differed greatly from Confucians and Daoists. We
did not care about the place human beings had in nature. Our beliefs were much more


Blog Entry One: 390 B.C.E.
All of these Confucians and Daoists have their heads in the clouds.
They go around think of the secrets of the universe and get caught up in dealing with
ethics and morality. We need to focus on the problems of the state. What does it
matter where people fit into nature if they have no idea how they should act and how
to follow the rules. Everything should be given up for the state, no matter what the
cost is. We will begin to hand out punishments in a strict fashion so that nothing can
harm the interests of the state.

Blog Entry Two: 250 B.C.E.
Today I saw a man on the street toss a piece of litter on the ground carelessly. Due
to my fear of others following his example, I knew I had to take action to stop this
from getting out of hand. I told my fellow Legalists of his crime and we all agreed that
he should be met with severe punishment. To make it clear to all those who decided
to break the rules, we cut the man's hand off. Now people will realize what happens
to those who go against the state.

Blog Entry Three: 221 B.C.E.
Because I am the First Emperor, I have decided to take immediate action in
preserving the state. I have heard many complaints from Confucians and Daoists and
to make sure that no one dares to go against me, I have ordered books to be burned.
Any books that contain philosophy, ethics, history, or literature are not to me
permitted in my state of Qin. I have alos decided that scholars who live in the capital
shall be condemned to being burned alive because without discussion of classical or
philisophical works, I believe we will have a better state.

The Wall

Qin Dynasty - Legalism rocks. The idea that the state should come before ethics and morality is awesome. Logic and focus on laws are the way to create a strong state. Utalizing your ideals we were able to unify China for the first time. Do you know how hard it is to unify an area that big? Couldn't have done it without you.
Bentley, Jerry H., and Herbert F. Ziegler
Traditions and Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. New York. McGraw-Hill. 2006History Facebook Home