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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. Preliminary Remarks: Han Fei Zi—First Modern Political Philosopher?Tongdong Bai - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):4-13.
  2. Han Fei's Enlightened Ruler.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2013 - 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.
  3. Xunzi and Han Fei on Human Nature.Alejandro Bárcenas - 2012 - 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.
  4. Fortune and the Dao: A Comparative Study of Machiavelli, the Daodejing, and the Han Feizi.Jason P. Blahuta - 2015 - Lexington Books.
    Times of prolonged conflict spur great minds to seek a lasting peace. Thus was the case of Warring States China, which saw the rise of the Hundred Schools of Thought, including the Doadejing and the Han Feizi, and Renaissance Italy, which produced Niccolò Machiavelli. Witnessing their respective societies fall prey to internal corruption and external aggression, all three thinkers sought ways to produce a strong, stable state that would allow both the leader and the populace to endure. Fortune and the (...)
  5. Han Feizi's Legalism Versus Kautilya's Arthashastra.Roger Boesche - 2005 - 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 (...)
  6. The Polarization of the Concepts Si (Private Interest) and Gong (Public Interest) in Early Chinese Thought.Erica Brindley - 2013 - Asia Major 26 (2).
    Many scholars of early China agree that the fourth century bce witnessed a surge in intellectual interest in concepts that have been dubbed the self, “subjectivity,” the private realm, and the body. As such a sphere came into greater focus in intellectual circles, so did a new discourse that evaluated what it meant to benefit or deprive the self and its related parts. The famous statement purportedly by Yang Zhu 楊朱 (or Yangzi 楊子) that claims he was not willing to (...)
  7. Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and Politics.Erica Fox Brindley - 2010 - University of Hawaii Press.
    Conventional wisdom has it that the concept of individualism was absent in early China. In this uncommon study of the self and human agency in ancient China, Erica Fox Brindley provides an important corrective to this view and persuasively argues that an idea of individualism can be applied to the study of early Chinese thought and politics with intriguing results. She introduces the development of ideological and religious beliefs that link universal, cosmic authority to the individual in ways that may (...)
  8. The Sayings of Han Fei Zi: The Severe Code of the Legalist.Zhizhong Cai - 1991 - Asiapac.
  9. The Dao Against the Tyrant: The Limitation of Power in the Political Thought of Ancient China.Daniel Rodríguez Carreiro - 2013 - Libertarian Papers 5:111-152.
    In Chinese history the periods known as Spring and Autumn (770-476 BC) and the Warring States (475-221 BC) were times of conflict and political instability caused by the increasing power of centralized and competing states. During this time of crisis many schools of thought appeared to offer different philosophical doctrines. This paper describes and studies ideas about the limitation of power defended by these different schools of ancient Chinese thought, and suggests some reasons why they failed to prevent the emergence (...)
  10. A Reading of Han Fei's "Wu Tu" [Five Vermin].Ti Ch'ing - 1978 - Contemporary Chinese Thought 10 (1):19-33.
    To give the necessary affirmation to the historical role played by the Legalists and to study and analyze the Legalists' writings from the Marxist point of view is a major task on the ideological front called for by the deepening of the Campaign to Criticize Lin Piao and Confucius. Han Fei was an outstanding representative of the Legalists of the late Warring States period. He summed up the experience, both positive and negative, of the newly emerging landlord class in the (...)
  11. Social Thought of Han Fei.Arthur S. Y. Chen - 1938 - Sociology and Social Research 22 (4):340-346.
  12. The Dialectic of Chih (Reason) and Tao (Nature) in the Han Fei-Tzu.Ellen Marie Chen - 1975 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 3 (1):1-21.
  13. 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.Chung-Ying Cheng - 1983 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 10 (3):251-284.
  14. Jiang, Chongyue 蔣重躍, Hanfeizi's Political Thought 韓非子的政治思想. [REVIEW]Paul D'Ambrosio - 2014 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 13 (2):273-275.
  15. Being Worthy of Persuasion: Political Communication in the Han Feizi.Kevin DeLapp - 2014 - China Media Research 10 (4):29-38.
    This paper examines the attitudes toward political persuasion at work in the writings of Han Feizi (280-233 BCE). Particular attention is given to differentiating Han Feizi's thought from Western analogs under which it has suffered hermeneutically, especially comparisons with Plato's so-called "noble lie." After probing some of the psycho-social assumptions of ancient Greek versus Chinese political discourse, Han Feizi's own view is reconstructed, according to which practices of deception and secrecy are permissible under specific moral and political conditions. It is (...)
  16. The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought From Confucius to Han Feizi.Wiebke Denecke - 2010 - 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 (...)
  17. Pre‐Han Persuasion: The Legalist School.John J. Dreher & James I. Crump Jr - 1952 - Central States Speech Journal 3 (2):10-14.
  18. Han Feizi's Thought and Republicanism.David Elstein - 2011 - 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 (...)
  19. Interpreting Lao.Han Fei - 2009 - In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
  20. Taking Lessons From Lao.Han Fei - 2009 - In Thomas F. Cleary (ed.), The Way of the World: Readings in Chinese Philosophy. Shambhala.
  21. The Ch 'in Dynasty: Legalism and Confucianism'.Lanny B. Fields - 1989 - Journal of Asian History 23 (1):1-25.
  22. THE LEGALISTS AND THE FALL OF CH 'IN: HUMANISM AND TYRANNY'.Lanny B. Fields - 1983 - Journal of Asian History 17:1-39.
  23. Han Fei Zi's Philosophical Psychology: Human Nature, Scarcity, and the Neo-Darwinian Consensus.Owen Flanagan & H. U. Jing - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (2):293-316.
  24. The Court as a Battlefield: The Art of War and the Art of Politics in the "Han Feizi".Albert Galvany - 2017 - Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies:1-24.
    Most scholarly contributions analysing the Han Feizi tend not only to overlook the influence military literature might have had on its conception and unfolding, but also to assert that the figure of the ruler, as described in this text, and that of the commander, as portrayed in military treatises, are incompatible. In refuting this view, I shall attempt to demonstrate that the writings collected in the Han Feizi fully embrace the logic of military con- frontation, which entails, among other things, (...)
  25. Beyond the Rule of Rules: The Foundations of Sovereign Power in the Han Feizi.Albert Galvany - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 87--106.
  26. Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei.Paul R. Goldin (ed.) - 2013 - 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 ...
  27. Persistent Misconceptions About Chinese “Legalism”.Paul R. Goldin - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):88-104.
  28. Han Fei's Doctrine of Self-Interest.Paul R. Goldin - 2001 - Asian Philosophy 11 (3):151 – 159.
    Chapter 49 of the Han Feizi, entitled 'Wudu', includes one of the earliest discussions in Chinese history of the concepts of gong and si: Han Fei 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 ruler as nothing more than a (...)
  29. Monarch and Minister: The Problematic Partnership in the Building of Absolute Monarchy in the Han Feizi 韓非子.Romain Graziani - 2015 - In Yuri Pines, Paul Goldin & Martin Kern (eds.), Ideology of power and power of ideology in early China. Leiden and Boston: Brill. pp. 155-180.
  30. Fa (Standards: Laws) and Meaning Changes in Chinese Philosophy.Chad Hansen - 1994 - 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.'.
  31. A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought: A Philosophical Interpretation.Chad Hansen - 1992 - Oxford University Press.
    This ambitious book presents a new interpretation of Chinese thought guided both by a philosopher's sense of mystery and by a sound philosophical theory of meaning. That dual goal, Hansen argues, requires a unified translation theory. It must provide a single coherent account of the issues that motivated both the recently untangled Chinese linguistic analysis and the familiar moral-political disputes. Hansen's unified approach uncovers a philosophical sophistication in Daoism that traditional accounts have overlooked. The Daoist theory treats the imperious intuitionism (...)
  32. Humor in Ancient Chinese Philosophy.Christoph Harbsmeier - 1989 - Philosophy East and West 39 (3):289-310.
  33. Legalism: Introducing a Concept and Analyzing Aspects of Han Fei's Political Philosophy.Eirik Lang Harris - 2014 - 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 (...)
  34. Constraining the Ruler: On Escaping Han Fei's Criticism of Confucian Virtue Politics.Eirik Lang Harris - 2013 - Asian Philosophy 23 (1):43-61.
    One of Han Fei’s most trenchant criticisms against the early Confucian political tradition is that, insofar as its decision-making process revolves around the ruler, rather than a codified set of laws, this process is the arbitrary rule of a single individual. Han Fei argues that there will be disastrous results due to ad hoc decision-making, relationship-based decision-making, and decision-making based on prior moral commitments. I lay out Han Fei’s arguments while demonstrating how Xunzi can successfully counter them. In doing so, (...)
  35. Han Fei on the Problem of Morality.Eirik Lang Harris - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer.
    In much of pre-Qin political philosophy, including those thinkers usually labeled Confucian, Daoist, or Mohist, at least part of the justification of the political state comes from their views on morality, and the vision of the good ruler was quite closely tied to the vision of the good person. In an important sense, for these thinkers, political philosophy is an exercise in applied ethics. Han Fei, however, offers an interesting break from this tradition, arguing that, given the vastly different goals (...)
  36. Is the Law in the Way? On the Source of Han Fei's Laws.Eirik Lang Harris - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):73-87.
    In this paper, I analyze the ‘Da ti’ chapter of the Han Feizi 韓非子. This chapter is often read as one of the so-called Daoist Chapters of text. However, a deeper study of this chapter allows us to see that, while Daoist terminology is employed, it is done so in a way that is certainly not reminiscent of either the Zhuangzi 莊子 or the Laozi 老子. Neither, though, does it have quite the flavor of other chapters in the Han Feizi (...)
  37. Legalism and Autocracy in Traditional China.Kung-Chuan Hsiao - 1976 - Chinese Studies in History 10 (1-2):125-143.
    There is ample justification for characterizing imperial China as a "Confucian State" (or "Confucian Society") as many students of Chinese history do. Such characterization is justified by the fact that Confucianism had contributed much to shaping and sustaining the imperial system from the Han dynasty to the Ch'ing. But it should be pointed out that Legalism had also played a crucial part in the development of that system and that, insofar as the above-mentioned characterization ignores the Legalist role, it is (...)
  38. The Significance of the Concept of 'Fa' in Han Fei's Thought System.Wang Hsiao-po & L. S. Chang - 1977 - Philosophy East and West 27 (1):35-52.
  39. The Legalists Philosophers.S. Y. Hsieh - 1985 - In Donald H. Bishop (ed.), Chinese Thought: An Introduction. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 81-109.
  40. The Difficulty with “The Difficulties of Persuasion”(“Shuinan” 說難).Michael Hunter - 2013 - In Paul R. Goldin (ed.), Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Springer. pp. 169--195.
  41. Han Feizi's Criticism of Confucianism and its Implications for Virtue Ethics.Eric Hutton - 2008 - 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 (...)
  42. Hanfeizi and Moral Self-Cultivation.Philip J. Ivanhoe - 2011 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38 (1):31-45.
  43. Han Fei's Theory of the "Rule of Law" Played a Progressive Role.Yang K'uan - 1978 - Contemporary Chinese Thought 10 (1):4-18.
    Han Fei was a famous Legalist in the late Warring States period. During the struggle to criticize the Confucian school, he developed the theory of the "rule of law," which laid a theoretical groundwork on which the newly emerging landlord class could build a centralized feudal state. His works had been appreciated by Ch'in Shih-huang. When Ch'in Shih-huang read the book Han Fei Tzu, he sighed and said, "I would feel no regret about dying if I could meet this person (...)
  44. Virtue Politics and Political Leadership: A Confucian Rejoinder to Hanfeizi.Sungmoon Kim - 2012 - 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 (...)
  45. The [Not So] Hidden Curriculum of the Legalist State in the Book of Lord Shang and the Han-Fei-Zi.Brandon R. King - 2018 - Comparative Philosophy 9 (2):69-92.
    This paper loosely draws some parallels between the experience of a subject in a so-called “Legalist” state with that of a contemporary student in Western schooling today. I explore how governance in the Book of Lord Shang and the Hanfeizi can be interpreted as pedagogy. Defining pedagogy in a relatively broad sense, I investigate the rationalizations for the existence of the state, the application of state mechanisms, and even the concentration of the ruler’s power all teach subjects habits, attitudes, and (...)
  46. Crystallization of Prechin Legalist Thought - Commentary on 'Han Fei Tzu'.Li Liang - 1976 - Chinese Studies in Philosophy 7 (4):35-56.
  47. The Complete Works of Han Fei Tzu.W. K. Liao - 1939 - London: A. Probsthain.
  48. The Crystallization of Pre-Ch 'in Legalist Thought'.Liang Ling-I. - 1976 - Contemporary Chinese Thought 7 (4):35-56.
    Han Fei was a fierce general in the anti-Confucian struggle of the late Warring States period and was also an outstanding pre-Ch'in Legalist theoretician. Han Fei Tzu, this piece of writing, which was critical of Confucius and full of a violently militant spirit, vividly recorded the course of the difficult combat of the landowning class which led to its victory over the slave-owning class. It summed up the historical experience of the struggle between the Confucian and Legalist lines during the (...)
  49. Implications of Han Fei’s Philosophy for China’s Legal and Institutional Reforms.Mingjun Lu - 2016 - Journal of Chinese Political Science:1-18.
    In his treatise Han Fei Zi, the Chinese ancient thinker Han Fei proposes a governance structure that emphasizes the institutionalization of legal norms, judicious sovereign intervention, and ministerial obligations. These three core concepts of Han’s legal thinking are informed by both the Taoist law of Nature and the Confucian philosophy as is expounded by Xun Zi. Recognition of the Taoist and Confucian influences brings to light the ethical and normative dimensions of Han’s legal thought, dimensions that, I propose, provide new (...)
  50. Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E. A Comparison with Classical Greek Rhetoric.Xing Lu - 1998 - University of South Carolina Press.
    In Rhetoric in Ancient China, Fifth to Third Century B.C.E., Xing Lu examines language art, persuasion, and argumentation in ancient China and offers a detailed and authentic account of ancient Chinese rhetorical theories and practices in the society's philosophical, political, cultural, and linguistic contexts. She focuses on the works of ten well-known Chinese thinkers from Confucius to Han Feizi as well as on the Later Mohists, a group that represents five schools of thought-Mingjia, Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, and Legalism. Lu identifies (...)
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