Confucianism and Legalism

Topics: Confucius, Chinese philosophy, Government Pages: 2 (545 words) Published: November 15, 2007
Confucianism and Legalism

Ancient China's system of government was very erratic, and as the mandate of heaven changed hands, so did the ruling body. The conflict at the end of the Zhou Empire was a result of the end of the dynastic cycle; corruption infiltrated the government and the system fell apart to war between states for power and peasant revolts. This lead a philosopher named Confucius to develop a set of ideals to live by. These codes were built on such virtues as honesty, trust, responsibility, and honor (Doc1). The drastic transition from Confucianism to its opposite, legalism is said to be the result of rulers who were open to new ideas on how to govern their ever growing empires. Sayings like "There is more than one way to bring peace to the world and no need to follow the past," influenced leaders. They were told that a strong government depended not on the moral values of its leader, but rather on strong institutions and laws (Doc6). Emperor Shi Huang Di used harsh punishments and ruthless tactics to maintain power, and thus was born legalism. The two system's views on different issues contrasted greatly.

Confucius incorporated into his philosophy li, which was based on five fundamental relationships. One of those was the relationship between rulers and subject, in which the ruler has a higher status. He believed that a ruler should lead by virtue. This would give his people a sense of shame and standards. If he lead by policy and rules, they would live as they wished, avoiding the law, and have no honor (Doc1). The legalist point of view is the opposite; they believed that goodness alone cannot keep order in unruly people, and force can always secure obedience. They thought that the people should suffer mildly to achieve a greater good (Doc3). The Confucianism adherents believed that leading by example was the key, but the legalists held faith in rule through law.

Another relationship was the bond between ruler and minister. Confucianist...
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