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Zhou dynasty, the political organization of China

According to Wing-tsit Chan ‘they [the logicians] represent the only tendency in ancient China toward intellectualism for its own sake’.


According to Wing-tsit Chan ‘they [the logicians] represent the only tendency in ancient China toward intellectualism for its own sake’.The origin of this group is difficult to identify. Even the school itself is hard to distinguish form other schools: the legacy of its ideas had little impact on Chinese history, and the opinions of its members do not have a homogeneous basis. Some scholars believe that this school originated with the ‘debaters’, who were officials specialized in the art of speaking.Legalist School (Fa jia)The word fa means pattern or law. This school was solely concerned with what must be done and how people should and should not behave in order to ensure the flourishing of the state. Because this school is not interested in moral considerations, it is sometimes seen as the opposite thought to Confucianism, which is based on moral principles. From the Legalist standpoint, moral institutions are not a good guide for society and good government should be based entirely on a fixed code of law and practiceDuring the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE), Legalism became the official state policy, reaching its peak of influence. The bad reputation that later Chinese historians gave to the Qin rulers and the many brutalities that they were accused of ended up undermining the respectability of the Legalist school.Before the Zhou dynasty began its decline, the feudal society had in place two different principles of conduct: an unwritten code of honour regulating the behaviour of the aristocrats and another code of punishments which applied to the common people. Punishments were used by the rulers to ensure the obedience of their subjects. The origin of the Legalists is believed to be in those ministers responsible for managing these principles of conduct.