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Chinese Legalist School

Scholars often classify early Chinese theories of law as li zhi and fa zhiLi zhi, traditionally associated with Confucianism, refers to political order predicated on and achieved primarily by reference to the li, or rites, that is, traditional customs, mores, and norms. In contrast, fa zhi, associated with Legalism, refers to political order attained primarily through reliance on fa, or laws.

Confucius famously declared: “Lead the people with government regulations and organize them with penal law (xing), and they will avoid punishments but will be without shame. Lead them with virtue and organize them through the li, and the people will have a sense of shame and moreover will become humane people of good character” (2000: Analects, 2:3). Confucians were members of the literati (shi) class, ...

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