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The Philosophical Foundations of Han Fei's Political Theory
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THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF

HAN FEI'S POLITICAL THEORY BY

Hsiao-Po Wang and Leo S. Chang

MONOGRAPH NO. 7 OF THE SOCIETY FOR ASIAN AND COMPARATIVE PHILOSOPHY University of Hawaii Press 1986

© by University of Hawaii Press, 1986 All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wang, Hsiao-po. The philosophical foundations of Han Fei's political theory. (Monograph no. 7 of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy) Bibliography: p. Includes index. 1. Han, Fei, d. 233 B.C.—Political and social views. I. Chang, Leo S., 1935II. Title. III. Series: Monograph . . . of the Society for Asian and Comparative Philosophy; no. 7. B128.H34W265 1986 181'.11 86-16081 ISBN 0-8248-1066-X (pbk.) Camera-ready typescript was prepared under the supervision of the authors.

For Chang Li-man, a true daughter of China, who gave her life so that China may stand up once again. Does she know that the Morning Tide of Kan-chiang River washing up on P'o-yang lake is keeping her faith? Does she know of his unrequited love for his mother, China?

CONTENTS Acknowledgements

vii

Abbreviations

ix

Introduction

1

PART I.

Tao and Fa-chih

Introductory Remarks Tao and Fa-chih Tao Tao and Ch'i A. Introductory Remarks B. Ch'i and Its Transformation Indwelling Powsr: She and Te Quiescence and Nonaction: Hsu-ching and Wu-wei

6 7 13 25 25 27 31 33

PART II. The Tao of Governing Introductory Renarks Tao's Movement and Reversion Dialectical Dogic As A Technique of Governing Hie Governing Principle of Fa-chih Inferential Reasoning and Fa-chih Hsing-ming A. Hsing-ming: Tracing Back to its Roots B. Han Fei and Hsing-ming Ts'an-yen: Comparative Examination and Verification

38 39 41 46 52 57 57 65 69

Concluding Remarks

79

Appendix I: The Authenticity Question

87

Appendix II: The Received Historiography

110

Appendix III: Han Fei on Li-min

117

Footnotes

132

Bibliography

218

Index

231

ACKNOHLEDGQiEWrS

The idea of this brief monograph was initially conceived in the sunmer of 1978.

Ever since, innumerable exigencies conspired

against its ocmpletion.

These interruptions, however, were

blessings in disguise for they afforded us occasions to ponder over the contents, suggestions and critical remarks of our colleagues who generously gave time in spite of busy schedules. Vfe wish to thank Benjamin Schwartz, Angus Graham, Derk Bodde, Tu Vfei-ming, Roger Ames, Robin Yates and Allyn Rickett who read the manuscript and offered us invaluable advice. Above all, we are grateful to Henry Rosemont without whose rigorous critique and sustained encouragement this work would not liave been completed and accepted for publication. We must also thank Ann Braswell, who did a superb job of typing the manuscript, and Olive Holmes for her truly professional compilation of the index. Vfe are aware that this work is controversial; should it serve to generate some debate and urge us to re-examine and re-evaluate Han Fei's political philosophy, then it would have served one of its principal aims.

We are, of course, responsible for the content

of this monograph.

Wang Hsiao-po Leo S. Chang

ABBREVIATIONS

1.

Chan

The Way of Iao Tzu, trans, with introductory essays, comments and notes by Wing-tsit Chan. N.Y.: The Bobbs-I-ferrill Co., Inc., 1963. 2.

Ch'en Tseng-ting Han Fei-tzu Chiao-shih, edited with ccmrentaries by Ch'en Ch'i-t'ien. Taipei: Tai-wan Shang-wu yin-shu kuan,

3.

Creel, Taoism Creel, Herrlee. What is Taoism? And Other Studies in Chinese Cultural History. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

4.

Forke Forke, Alfred. Geschichte der alten chinesischen Philosophie. Universität Hamburg, Abhandlungen aus dan Gebiet der Auslandskunde, Band 25 - Reihe B. Völkerkunde, Kulturgeschichte und Sprachen Band 14. Hamburg: Cram, De Gruyter & Co., 1964.

5.

Fung/Bodde Fung Yu-lan. A History of Chinese Philosophy. 2 vols, trans, by Derk Bodde. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 19521953.

6.

Jong Jong Tsau-chu. Han Fei-tzu k'ao-cheng. Taipei: Tai-lien Kuo -feng ch'u-pan she, 1 9 7 2 . ^ ^ ^

¿JfölRifc&fc

Hie work is a reprint of the 1936 Shanghai edition, and it is a revised version of his "Han Fei ti chu-tso -fjs.

written in 1927 and reprinted in Ku-shih-pien, Vol. IV,

edited by Lo Ken-tse,

,

^

'

^

1933 Ku-shih-pien was reprinted without date in Taipei by Wannien-ch'ing shu-tien 7.



Liao Han Fei-tzu. The Complete Wbrks of Han Fei Tzu. 2 vols, trans, by W.K. Liao. London: Arthur Probsthain, 1939,1959.

8.

Needham Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilisation in China. Vol.11. History of Scientific Thought. Cambridge: At the University Press, 1969.

9.

Rickett Rickett, Allyn. Kuan-tzu: A Repository of Early Chinese Thought. A Translation and Study of Twelve Chapters. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1965.

10. Runp/Chan Commentary on the Lao Tzu by Wang Pi, translated by Ariane Runp in collaboration with Wing-tsit Chan. Honolulu: The University of Hawaii Press, 1979. 11. Shih-chi Ssu-ma Ch'ien, (145-C.86 B.C.). Shih Chi. 5 vols. Taipei: Ming-lun ch'u-pan she, 1972.

,

, Uftfä]

12. Tai, Kuan-tzu Tai Häng, ed. Kuan-tzu. 5 vols. Taipei: Tai-wan Shang-wu yin -shu kuan yin-hsing, 1 9 6 5 . ^ ^

13. Vandermeersch Vandermeersch, Leon. La Formation de Légisme. Recherche sur la constitution d'une philosophie politique caractéristique de la Chine ancienne. Paris: Publications de l'école Française d'Extrême-orient, 1965. 14. Waley, The Way Waley, Arthur. The Way and Its Pcwer. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1948. 15. Watson The Complete Wbrks of Chuang Tzu, translated by Burton Watson. New York: Columbia University Press, 1970. 16. H. Wilhelm Helmut Wilhelm, Change: Eight Lectures on the I Ching, trans, by Cary F. Baynes. New York: Harper and Rcw, Publishers, 1960.

INTRODUCTION

The Central Purpose and the Scope of the Work This work examines the philosophical foundations of the Han Fei-tzu. More specifically, it analyzes and evaluates five chapters of the Han Fei-tzu, nanely. Chapter 20 "Comrentaries on Lao Tzu's Teachings" ("Chieh Lao,"

), Chapter 21

"Illustrations of Lao Tzu's Teachings" ("Yfl L a o , " ^ ^ ), Chapter 29 "The Principal Features of Legalism" ("Ta-t'i,"

), Chapter

5 "The Tao of the Sovereign" ("Chu-tao,"_J,^ ), and Chapter 8 "Wielding of the Sceptre" ("Yang-ch'ilan,"^ ^

)3 for these

chapters contain Han Fei's (d. 233 B.C.) interpretation and adoptation of not only the philosophical Taoism of Lao-tzu but also the salient strains of thought issuing fran what may be termed the cannon fund of wisdom in classical Chinese thought stretching back 2

to the I Ching and beyond. In short, this work advances the view that Han Fei remains squarely within the mainstream of classical Chinese philosophical speculation. Perhaps beginning with Chia I's (201-169 B.C.) celebrated essay, "The Faults of Ch'in" (Shih-chi, 6: 41a), "The Received Historiography" has persuasively argued to the contrary and has been inclined to bastardize Han Fei's thought system, and it is through the looking glass of this traditional intellectual historiography that many a student of Chinese thought has corns to pass judgirent on the philosophical merits of Han Fei's thought

3

system. The politics of historiography wields a two-edged sword. Hie Manichaean nature of the People1s Republic of China's Marxist historiography on the Confucian-Legalist struggle in general and on

2 Han Fei's thought in particular in the waning years of the Cultural Revolution is equally problematic. As students of classical Chinese thought, it behooves us now to re-examine and re-evaluate the philosophical foundations of Han Fei's political thought by returning to the original text and by analyzing his thought in the context of his time. For this reason, the Han Fei-tzu is quoted extensively in the present work. Aside frcm the central purpose, this work is intended as a study in contrast, viz., comparative philosophy: East and West. This attempt at conparative philosophy constitutes the second most significant theme that underlies and interweaves various sections of this monograph. The Concluding Remarks capsulize this intent manifest in various sections of the present work. The authenticity issue likewise deserves rethinking. The Yi4

ku Mavenent in general and Hu Shih's iconoclastic remarks on the authenticity of the Han Fei-tzu, for instance, powerfully contributed to a persistently shared view that a significant portion of the Han Fei-tzu — especially the chapters gilded with the philosophical Taoism of Lao-tzu — is spurious. A clarification of the authenticity question involved — at least, a carefully thought out response to Jong Tsau-chu, Han Fei-tzu k'aocheng — is a sine qua non for discussing the five as well as the other relevant chapters of the Haul Fei-tzu as the text authored by Han Fei himself. Since the central purpose of this study ought to be at the forefront, the interested reader is advised to turn to Appendix I: Hie Authenticity Question.

3 Ihe Continuing Relevance of Han Fei's Political Philosophy Towards the last years of the Warring States period, even as the Hundred Schools continued to challenge one another with sustained intensity/ the compelling process of pien-fa

),

the process of changing over fron the old to the new socioeconomic and political system, was nearly completed. However, the historically momentous movement of the unification of All-under-Heaven under an imperial control was not yet at hand, although, with a remarkable simultaneity, the several states were experiencing the final, irreversible phase of systemic disintegration of the Chou ()$]) tsung-fa

) feudal order^.

Not the least among the causes for the groping against the historical tide was the phenomenon of the "powerful men" (chung-jen,^ /J ® carving out by might and cunning their private "fiefdcms" as the last bastions of the old order. They, in effect, partitioned the states frcm within and did vrfiat they could to reduce to impotence the central political and military power of the several states• The historical tide, nevertheless, was with the Kuo-chun ((§);&), the rulers of these states. In the end, the more successful of the kuo-chun effectively centralized their detrain both politically and militarily with the aid of "those who were well -versed in the principles of techniques and capable of administering law" (chih-shu nung-fa chih shih, ffif ^fe 7 -t ) . In later years, "those vrtio were well-versed in the principles of techniques and capable of administering law" came to be known as the Legalists or Fa-chia (

^

). ®

4 It was the Fa-chia who helped to prepare the way for the final military and political unification under Ch'in Shih Huang Ti. Li Ssu

•Jjft ), the Fa chia Grand Councillor (ch'eng hsiang,

)

of Shih Huang Ti and the schoolmate of Han Fei, played a 9

significant role in this radical historical transformation. The Fa-chia of the Warring States period were bent on radical pien-fa in the name of "saving the present a g e . L i k e the Confucians, the Mohists and the early philosophical Taoists, the Fa-chia sought to put an end to the seemingly endless chaos and suffering wrought not only by the incessant political turmoil within the several states but also by the constantly shifting horizontal and vertical alliances of the Chan-kuo Machtpolitik. In the midst of such an exacerbated and turbulent political milieu, they sought to inaugurate an era of political order, a political order that they envisioned to be rrore predictable and germane to socioeconomic security and grcwth. Such was the rationale for Fa-chia's thrust for pien-fa; they aimed to redesign the governing institutions to reflect the realities of the socioeconcmic and political transformations of the late Ch'un ch'iu and Chan-kuo periods.11 During the last half of the Chan-kuo period especially, 12

the Fa-chia pursued its "vision of the good society"

with a

conviction as to its correctness (ko shih so shih, ko fei so fei, '' a characteristically partisan 13 attitude shared by just about every one of "The Hundred Schools." We are more interested in the substance of thought than in the partisan 14

style with which the separate schools' ideas were broadcast.

5

We have undertaken the enterprise of exploring the nature of the philosophical foundation underlying the political theory of Han Fei-tzu, the greatest theoretician of the Fa-chia, for a good reason. Without understanding this Fa-chia thought system and the institutions and practices founded on it, we can hardly have a full grasp of Chinese political reality over the past

millennia.

Both covertly and overtly, Fa-chia has been exercising a remarkably persistent and powerful influence in Chinese statecraft ever since Han Fei's time.^ Whether we can or cannot embrace the values put forth in the Han Fei-tzu is a question apart frcm the issue of understanding Han Fei's thought system as objectively as possible. It is one thing to understand Hobbes and quite another to accept his political philosophy. Clearly, both Michael Oakeshott and Leo Strauss do not espouse Hobbesian philosophy and yet they understand Hobbes well. Those of us who cherish Mill's On Liberty naturally entertain serious reservations about Han Fei's authoritarianism.^®

In short,

in our effort to cone to terms with the reality of Chinese political culture for the past two millennia, it is essential to bracket our values and preconceptions and do the best we can to re-examine Han Fei's thought in terms of Han Fei's own conscious 17

response to the crises of his tame. Moreover, Han Fei is a political philosopher for all times. He bore witness to the final agonizing years of the Warring States period and asked the perennial question: "What is the good society and hew does one bring it about?" Quite naturally, Han Fei's political philosophy was a conscious response to the crucially

6

maxentous political questions of his time in the final decades of the Warring States period. His political thought, nevertheless, remains relevant today precisely because in the process of responding to the salient and ccnpelling issues of his time, he addressed in his cwn fashion the recurrent philosophical themes of philosophia perennis in a meaningful way, and he cormunicated his vision of the political world through a rich mixture of cogent 18

analogies, metaphors, maxims, and similes.

In this way, he

transcends his own time. Today as in generations past, we are confronted with the fundamsntal philosophical questions of a human society cast in relief by such concepts and themes as "power," "legitimacy," "political authority," "law," "individual and society," "public interest v. private interest," "human rights," "political responsibility," and "the vision of the good society." 19 We should continue to read and reflect on Han Fei's (d. 233 B.C.) political philosophy for the very same reason that we have been reading and evaluating Plato's masterpiece, The Republic, for well over two millennia: they continue to be relevant. Part I.

Tao and Fa-chih( yh.

)

Introductory Remarks It is intriguing that even those who label Han Fei as an antiintellectual, often recognize him as the most systematic and theoretically sophisticated synthesizer of the various strains of Fa-chia thought patterns. His theoretical sophistication is nurtured by his imaginative interpretation and adoption of the philosophical Taoism of Lao Tzu as well as of pertain streams of thought and intuition issuing from the ocrnnon fund of ancient wisdom. In so doing, Han Fei was able to secure a more profound

6

maxentous political questions of his time in the final decades of the Warring States period. His political thought, nevertheless, remains relevant today precisely because in the process of responding to the salient and ccnpelling issues of his time, he addressed in his cwn fashion the recurrent philosophical themes of philosophia perennis in a meaningful way, and he cormunicated his vision of the political world through a rich mixture of cogent 18

analogies, metaphors, maxims, and similes.

In this way, he

transcends his own time. Today as in generations past, we are confronted with the fundamsntal philosophical questions of a human society cast in relief by such concepts and themes as "power," "legitimacy," "political authority," "law," "individual and society," "public interest v. private interest," "human rights," "political responsibility," and "the vision of the good society." 19 We should continue to read and reflect on Han Fei's (d. 233 B.C.) political philosophy for the very same reason that we have been reading and evaluating Plato's masterpiece, The Republic, for well over two millennia: they continue to be relevant. Part I.

Tao and Fa-chih( yh.

)

Introductory Remarks It is intriguing that even those who label Han Fei as an antiintellectual, often recognize him as the most systematic and theoretically sophisticated synthesizer of the various strains of Fa-chia thought patterns. His theoretical sophistication is nurtured by his imaginative interpretation and adoption of the philosophical Taoism of Lao Tzu as well as of pertain streams of thought and intuition issuing from the ocrnnon fund of ancient wisdom. In so doing, Han Fei was able to secure a more profound

7 and theoretically integrated philosophical mooring for Kuan Chung, Shang Yang and Shen Pu-hai. They were men of action, and, unlike Han Fei, certainly did not have the requisite leisure''' and probably did not possess the philosophical bent of mind to work out an integrated theoretical foundation for Fa-chia. It is this philosophical foundation that we propose to examine; hence, we shall not be discussing at length his theory of fa (j^ ), shufc^J)and shih

) and their intricate inter-

relationship, his philosophy of history, his theory of human 2

nature, and so on.

In Part I, our gaze is fixed on the

centerpiece, namely, Tao, and hew Han Fei chose to understand it. Tao and Fa-chih

)

Han Fei sees the natural world and the human world in one continuum. Hie very same Tao and principle

) pervade both

worlds, and it is by being informed by the objective Tao and li that the ruler is able to conform to the truly natural order of things and realize the fullness of his inborn potentiality. In his terse and elegant style, Han Fei begins "The Principal Features of Legalism" with these wards: The ancients who completed the principal features of legalism, looked upon heaven and earth, surveyed rivers and oceans, and follcwed mountains and ravines; wherefore they ruled as the sun and the noon shine, worked as the four seasons rotate, and benefited the world in the way clouds spread and winds move. They never burdened their minds with avarice nor did they ever burden themselves with selfishness, but they entrusted law and tact with the settlement of order and the suppression of chaos, depended upon reward and punishment for praising the right and blaming the wrong, assigned all measures of lightness and heaviness to the yard and weight. They never acted contrary to

8

the course of heaven, never hurt the feeling and reason of mankind, never blew off any hair to find small scars, never washed off any dirt to investigate anything hard to knew, never drew the inked string off the line and never pushed the inked string [objective standard] inside the line, and were neither severe beyond the boundary of law nor lenient within the boundary of law, but [they] observed acknowledged principles and followed self-existent standards... If in accordance with Tao, the law is successfully enforced, the superior man will rejoice and the great culprit will give way. Placid, serene and leisurely, the enlightened ruler should in accordance with the decree of heaven maintain the principal features of legalism.1 If the superior is not as great as heaven, he never will be able to protect all inferiors; if his mind is not as firm as earth, he never will be able to support all objects, Mount T'ai, seeing no difference between desirable and undesirable clouds, can maintain its height; rivers and oceans, making no discrimination against small tributaries, can accomplish their abundance. Likewise, great men, patterning after the features of heaven and earth, find the myriad things well provided, and, applying their mind to the observation of mountains and oceans,find the country rich. The superior shews no harm from anger to anybody, the inferior threws no calamity of hidden resentment at anybody. Thus, high and lew both live on friendly 2

terms and take Tao as the standard of value. The text quoted above is pregnant with several important philosphical points. The initial paragraph lucidly articulates the ancient Chinese philosophical insight that the natural world and the human world are within one continuum. Tao permsates all things and its principle (li) informs both worlds; therefore, the natural world and the human world are intimately interconnected. Wte find a similar passage in the I Ching; "The holy sages were able to survey

9

all the movements under heaven. They contemplated the way in which these movements inet and became interrelated, to take their course according to eternal laws. T'ien-jen kan-ying ( A /\

)