A Brief Introduction of Shen Zi’s Idea of Law

Hui HE


Shen Zi is an important representative of legalism in the Pre-Qin period. He was the first to incorporate Taoism into legalism, and established his own theoretical system of law with unique characteristics. Shen Zi emphasizes power, and believes that “power” is the political basis for a monarch to find a state and enforce the law. Shen Zi also advocates that “the law” is fundamental for ruling a state, and proposesthe idea of government by law, i.e., “upholding the law guarantees the governing of a state.” He also proposes the judicial principle of “everything should be resolved by law,” explains that “the law is established due to human relationships,” and the function of the law is “abandoning selfishness for justice.” Moreover, a monarch should “use Taoism to change the law” so as to maintain its adaptability. Shen Zi’s idea of law is ingenious; it establishes a system of its own. It summarizes the theories of legalism, and has great significance and far-reaching influences.


Shen Zi; Tao; Power of the law; Justice vs. selfishness

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Guo, M. R. (2012). Book of ten criticisms (p.262). Beijing, China: People’s Publishing House.

Hu, S. (1991). Outline of the history of Chinese philosophy (Vol.1). In a collection of Hu Shi’s academic papers, history of Chinese philosophy (Vol.1, p.232). Beijing, China: Zhonghua Book Company.

Liang, Q. C. (2004). History of pre-Qin political ideas (p.170). Tianjin, China: Tianjing Ancient Books Publishing House.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/8508

DOI (PDF): http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/%25x


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