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Han Feizi (ca. 280 - 233 BCE), was a philosopher and statesman of the Warring States Period. Han Fei was a member of the royal house of Han and believed to have been a disciple of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi. Han Fei is one of the most representative expounders of the legalist school (fajia) in ancient China. The Hanfeizi, the book named after him, is a collection of 55 chapters which comprises the main arguments of his legalist precursors, one of the earliest commentaries on the Daodejing and an extensive use of anecdotes and stories from historical records to support and develop his own contribution to the school and his criticism of the ru.

Key works Liao 1939 Watson 1967
Introductions Feng 1983 Lai 2008 Liu 2006
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  1. Tongdong Bai (2011). Preliminary Remarks: Han Fei Zi—First Modern Political Philosopher? Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):4-13.
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  2. Alejandro Bárcenas (2013). Han Fei's Enlightened Ruler. Asian Philosophy 23 (3):236-259.
    In this essay I revise, based on the notion of the ‘enlightened ruler’ or mingzhu and his critique of the literati of his time, the common belief that Han Fei was an amoralist and an advocate of tyranny. Instead, I will argue that his writings are dedicated to advising those who ought to rule in order to achieve the goal of a peaceful and stable society framed by laws in accordance with the dao.
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  3. Alejandro Bárcenas (2012). Xunzi and Han Fei on Human Nature. International Philosophical Quarterly 52 (2):135-148.
    It is commonly accepted that Han Fei studied under Xunzi sometime during the late third century BCE. However, there is surprisingly little dedicated to the in-depth study of the relationship between Xunzi’s ideas and one of his best-known followers. In this essay I argue that Han Fei’s notion of xing, commonly translated as human nature, was not only influenced by Xunzi but also that it is an important feature of his political philosophy.
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  4. Roger Boesche (2005). Han Feizi's Legalism Versus Kautilya's Arthashastra. Asian Philosophy 15 (2):157 – 172.
    Writing only decades apart, Han Feizi (ca. 250 BCE) and Kautilya (ca. 300 BCE) were two great political thinkers who argued for strong leaders, king or emperor, to unify warring states and bring peace, who tried to show how a ruler controls his ministers as well as the populace, defended the need for spies and violence, and developed the key ideas needed to support the bureaucracies of the emerging and unified states of China and India respectively. Whereas both thinkers disliked (...)
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  5. Zhizhong Cai (1991). The Sayings of Han Fei Zi: The Severe Code of the Legalist. Asiapac.
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  6. Ti Ch'ing (1978). A Reading of Han Fei's "Wu Tu" [Five Vermin]. Contemporary Chinese Thought 10 (1):19-33.
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  7. Ellen Marie Chen (1975). The Dialectic of Chih (Reason) and Tao (Nature) in the Han Fei-Tzu. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 3 (1):1-21.
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  8. Chung-Ying Cheng (1983). Metaphysics of Tao and Dialectics of Fa: An Evaluation of HTSC in Relations to Lao Tzu and Han Fei and an Analytical Study of Interrelationships of Tao, Fa, Hsing, Ming and Li. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 10 (3):251-284.
  9. Paul D.’Ambrosio (2014). Jiang, Chongyue 蔣重躍, Hanfeizi's Political Thought 韓非子的政治思想. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):273-275.
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  10. Wiebke Denecke (2010). The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought From Confucius to Han Feizi. Distributed by Harvard University Press.
    Introduction: Chinese philosophy and the translation of disciplines -- The faces of masters literature until the Eastern Han -- Scenes of instruction and master bodies in the Analects -- From scenes of instruction to scenes of construction: Mozi -- Interiority, human nature, and exegesis in Mencius -- Authorship, human nature, and persuasion in Xunzi -- The race for precedence: polemics and the vacuum of traditions in Laozi -- Zhuangzi and the art of negation -- The self-regulating state, paranoia, and rhetoric (...)
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  11. David Elstein (2011). Han Feizi's Thought and Republicanism. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2):167-185.
    Feizi’s philosophy is usually represented as an amoral autocracy where the ruler is the sole political power and runs the state by controlling the people through rewards and punishments. While his system is formally autocratic, this article argues that the purpose behind this system bears some similarity to the republican political ideal of non-domination. In this interpretation, Han Feizi makes the ruler the sole power to mitigate the danger of the state being dominated by ministers. He does not employ republican (...)
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  12. Han Fei (2009). Interpreting Lao. In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
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  13. Han Fei (2009). Taking Lessons From Lao. In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
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  14. Owen Flanagan & H. U. Jing (2011). Han Fei Zi's Philosophical Psychology: Human Nature, Scarcity, and the Neo-Darwinian Consensus. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (2):293-316.
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  15. Albert Galvany (2013). Beyond the Rule of Rules: The Foundations of Sovereign Power in the Han Feizi. In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 87--106.
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  16. Paul R. Goldin (ed.) (2013). Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer.
    This edited volume on the thinker, his views on politics and philosophy, and the tensions of his relations with Confucianism (which he derided) is the first of its kind in English.Featuring contributions from specialists in various ...
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  17. Paul R. Goldin (2011). Persistent Misconceptions About Chinese “Legalism”. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):88-104.
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  18. Paul R. Goldin (2001). Han Fei's Doctrine of Self-Interest. Asian Philosophy 11 (3):151 – 159.
    Chapter 49 of the Han Feizi, entitled 'Wudu' ('The Five Vermin'), includes one of the earliest discussions in Chinese history of the concepts of gong and si: Han Fei (d. 233 B.C.) takes si to mean 'acting in one's own interest'. Gong is simply what opposes si. 'Acting in one's own interest' is not inherently reprehensible in Han Fei's view; but a ruler must remember why ministers propose their policies: they are concerned only with enriching themselves, and look upon the (...)
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  19. Chad Hansen (1994). Fa (Standards: Laws) and Meaning Changes in Chinese Philosophy. Philosophy East and West 44 (3):435-488.
    Argues that throughout the classical period in China, the word `fa' consistently means measurable, publicly accessible standards for the application of terms used in behavioral guidance. Review of the Daoist analysis of the meaning of fa; Original philosophical role of fa; Detail of Chinese philosopher Han Feizi's theories on the legal use of the term `fa.'.
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  20. Christoph Harbsmeier (1989). Humor in Ancient Chinese Philosophy. Philosophy East and West 39 (3):289-310.
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  21. Eirik Lang Harris (2014). Legalism: Introducing a Concept and Analyzing Aspects of Han Fei's Political Philosophy. Philosophy Compass 9 (3):155-164.
    ‘Legalism’ is a term that has long been used to categorize a group of early Chinese philosophers including, but not limited to, Han Fei (Han Feizi), Shen Dao, Shen Buhai, and Shang Yang. However, the usefulness of this term has been contested for nearly as long. This essay has the goal of introducing the idea of ‘Legalism’ and laying out aspects of the political thought of Han Fei, the most prominent of these thinkers. In this essay, I first lay out (...)
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  22. Eirik Lang Harris (2013). Constraining the Ruler: On Escaping Han Fei's Criticism of Confucian Virtue Politics. Asian Philosophy 23 (1):43-61.
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  23. Eirik Lang Harris (2013). Han Fei on the Role of Morality in Political Philosophy. In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer.
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  24. Eirik Lang Harris (2011). Is the Law in the Way? On the Source of Han Fei's Laws. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):73-87.
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  25. Wang Hsiao-po & L. S. Chang (1977). The Significance of the Concept of 'Fa' in Han Fei's Thought System. Philosophy East and West 27 (1):35-52.
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  26. Michael Hunter (2013). The Difficulty with “The Difficulties of Persuasion”(“Shuinan” 說難). In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 169--195.
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  27. Eric Hutton (2008). Han Feizi's Criticism of Confucianism and its Implications for Virtue Ethics. Journal of Moral Philosophy 5 (3):423-453.
    Several scholars have recently proposed that Confucianism should be regarded as a form of virtue ethics. This view offers new approaches to understanding not only Confucian thinkers, but also their critics within the Chinese tradition. For if Confucianism is a form of virtue ethics, we can then ask to what extent Chinese criticisms of it parallel criticisms launched against contemporary virtue ethics, and what lessons for virtue ethics in general might be gleaned from the challenges to Confucianism in particular. This (...)
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  28. Philip J. Ivanhoe (2011). Hanfeizi and Moral Self-Cultivation. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):31-45.
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  29. Yang K'uan (1978). Han Fei's Theory of the "Rule of Law" Played a Progressive Role. Contemporary Chinese Thought 10 (1):4-18.
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  30. Sungmoon Kim (2012). Virtue Politics and Political Leadership: A Confucian Rejoinder to Hanfeizi. Asian Philosophy 22 (2):177-197.
    In the Confucian tradition, the ideal government is called "benevolent government" (ren zheng), central to which is the ruler's parental love toward his people who he deems as his children. Hanfeizi criticized this seemingly innocent political idea by pointing out that (1) not only is the state not a family but even within the family parental love is short of making the children orderly and (2) ren as love inevitably results in the ruin of the state because it confuses what (...)
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  31. W. K. Liao (1939). The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu. London, A. Probsthain.
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  32. Arabella Lyon (2008). Rhetorical Authority in Athenian Democracy and the Chinese Legalism of Han Fei. Philosophy and Rhetoric 41 (1):51-71.
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  33. A. P. Martinich (2011). The Sovereign in the Political Thought of Hanfeizi and Thomas Hobbes. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):64-72.
  34. Aloysius P. Martinich (2014). Political Theory and Linguistic Criteria in Han Feizi's Philosophy. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (3):379-393.
    Han Feizi’s 韓非子 thought, I argue, contains a political theory that justifies principled, law-governed government. A key element of his theory is a solution to the problem of rectifying names. He recognized that the same word can have varying criteria of application depending on the purpose of the practice that requires a criterion. Some criteria for a practice are good and some bad. A wise ruler knows which criteria are good and appropriate to ruling. His view is illuminated by considering (...)
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  35. Peter R. Moody (2011). Han Fei in His Context: Legalism on the Eve of the Qin Conquest. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):14-30.
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  36. Peter R. Moody (1979). The Legalism of Han Fei-Tzu and Its Affinities with Modern Political Thought. International Philosophical Quarterly 19 (3):317-330.
    The legalism of han fei-Tzu has affinities with much of modern political thought, Particularly in its denial of an objective morality. Because legalism is modernism unmoralized, It shows clearly some of the less savory implications of the truisms we accept. Han fei's ideas are interesting in their own right, But it is also interesting to see these ideas in a comparative setting, That we might gain a broader understanding of modern political thought, Both of its merits and its limitations.
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  37. Yuri Pines (2013). Submerged by Absolute Power: The Ruler's Predicament in the Han Feizi. In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 67--86.
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  38. Sarah A. Queen (2013). Han Feizi and the Old Master: A Comparative Analysis and Translation of Han Feizi Chapter 20,“Jie Lao,” and Chapter 21,“Yu Lao”. [REVIEW] In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 197--256.
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  39. Masayuki Sato (2013). Did Xunzi's Theory of Human Nature Provide the Foundation for the Political Thought of Han Fei? In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 147--165.
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  40. Masayuki Sato (2013). Studies of the Han Feizi in China, Taiwan, and Japan. In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 257--281.
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  41. Henrique Schneider (2014). Goldin, Paul, Ed., Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (3):425-429.
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  42. Henrique Schneider (2013). Han Fei, De, Welfare. Asian Philosophy 23 (3):260-274.
    This paper explores the relation of order and welfare for Han Fei's philosophy. It will be claimed that the Legalist did indeed show concern for the overall quality of life of society, claiming that his model state would lead to a substantial increase for the individual's welfare. On the other hand, although he acknowledges (and cares) for these positive consequences, Han Fei does not attach any value for legitimizing the system he proposes to them. Even if there were any value (...)
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  43. Henrique Schneider (2012). Reading Han Fei as "Social Scientist&Quot;: A Case-Study in "Historical Correspondence&Quot;. Comparative Philosophy 4 (1).
    Han Fei was one of the main proponents of Legalism in Qin -era China. Although his works are mostly read from a historic perspective, the aim of this paper is to advance an interpretation of Han Fei as a “social scientist”. The social sciences are the fields of academic scholarship that study society and its institutions as a consequence of human behavior. Methodologically, social sciences combine abstract approaches in model-building with empiric investigations, seeking to prove the functioning of the models. (...)
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  44. Xiaobo Wang (1986). The Philosophical Foundations of Han Fei's Political Theory. University of Hawaii Press.
  45. Burton Watson (ed.) (1967). Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsün Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu. Columbia Univ Pr.
    Compiling in one volume the basic writings of these three seminal thinkers of ancient China, each from a different philosophical school, this book reveals the richness and diversity of the ancient Chinese intellectual world.
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  46. Kenneth Winston (2005). The Internal Morality of Chinese Legalism. Singapore Journal of Legal Studies:313-347.
    It is widely held that there are no indigenous roots in China for the rule of law; it is an import from the West. The Chinese legal tradition, rather, is rule by law, as elaborated in ancient Legalist texts such as the Han Feizi. According to the conventional reading of these texts, law is amoral and an instrument in the hands of a central ruler who uses law to consolidate and maintain power. The ruler is the source of all law (...)
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  47. Soon-ja Yang (2013). Shen Dao's Theory of Fa and His Influence on Han Fei. In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. 47--63.
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  48. Soon-Ja Yang (2012). Song, Hongbing 宋洪兵, New Studies of Han Feizi's Political Thought 韓非子政治思想再硏究. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 11 (263):266.
    Song, Hongbing 宋洪兵, New Studies of han Feizi’s Political Thought 韓非子政治思想再硏究 Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11712-012-9265-2 Authors Soon-ja Yang, Inha University, 253 Yonghyeon 4-dong, Nam-gu, Incheon, South Korea 402-751 Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009.
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  49. Soon-Ja Yang (2011). Shen Dao's Own Voice in the Shenzi Fragments. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2):187-207.
    Feizi 韓非子 in terms of the concept of shi 勢 (circumstantial advantage, power, or authority). This argument is based on the A Critique of Circumstantial Advantage (Nanshi 難勢) chapter of the Hanfeizi, where Han Feizi advances his own idea of shi after criticizing both Shen Dao and an anonymous Confucian. However, there are other primary sources to contain Shen Dao’s thought, namely, seven incomplete Shenzi 慎子 chapters of the Essentials on Government from the Assemblage of Books (Qunshu zhi yao 群書治要) (...)
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