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Chinese philosophy: School of Law (fajia)
The school of law is a philosophic way of thinking that met the requirements of the time of its nascency. It was a period when the empire was threatened by war and struggle. The School of law dealt directly with political practise and ways to preserve the power of the ruler.
The fundamental idea was to centre the political power in the hands of the ruler and establish an order by means of laws and rules. These actions were supposed to secure the power of the ruler. The only principal work of the school of law which is considered authentic is the Hanfeizi, named after his author Han Fei (280 B.C. 234 B.C.).
Another main work of the school of law is attributed to Shang Yang who implemented the reforms of the state of Qin during the 4th century and therefore laid the foundations for the increasing power and later on the establishment of the Qin dynasty and unification of China.
The basic ideas and the development of the School of law
The School of law aims at concentrating the power in the hands of the ruler. He is supposed to make as many decisions as possible himself instead of delegating. Only he can constitute reward and punishment and no rival can take responsibilities from the ruler and establish himself as and opponent within the state. The reign is secured by laws which are accessible to everybody so that the people can conform to them.
Useful activities are supposed to be patronised through rewards but activities harming the state are supposed to be eliminated through punishment. The ideal ruler is a ruler who wouldn't express his opinion while listening to his advisers be it by mimic, comments or questions. Later he would make his decision and punish or commend his advisers according to their effort. By this behaviour he intends to stay unpredictable for his environment and his authority won't be queried.
The administration of the state is supposed to be based on recorded orders and policies which guarantees the efficiency of the administration and the officials. It also provides objective criteria for the evaluation of the efficiency.
The ideas of the School of Law didn't have a good reputation in China. The State of Qin which was ruled according to the rules of the School of Law and unified China in 221 B.C. is said to be cruel and despotic. The state of Qin which was absolutely administered according to the rules of the School of Law failed after only 15 years and later on the ideas of Confucius were considered ideal according to which the wise ruler governed the state by his own example.
Even though this ideal was officially praised in the centuries following the Qin dynasty the Chinese political system was influenced by the ideas of the School of Law. Without these ideas the Chinese bureaucracy and the civil service system wouldn't have been possible. Especially during the Ming and Qing dynasty the influence of the School of Law was crucial.