The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(the Legist, or Legalist, school), a philosophical school in ancient China. Its basic tenets were formulated by Shang Yang (390–338 B.C.), author of the Legist treatise Book of the Lord of Shang. A significant contribution to Fa-chia doctrine was made by Han Fei-tzu (288–233 B.C.).

The Legists played an important part in the establishment of the imperial system and the development of jurisprudence in China. Their school reflected the interests of the propertied elite, linked to private land ownership, as well as the interests of the broadly based bureaucracy, which favored a centralized despotic state. The Legists actively opposed ancient Confucianism, which defended the interests of the old hereditary aristocracy.

The most important Fa-chia concepts included state regulation of the country’s economy, systematic renewal of the state apparatus through the promotion of civil servants, access to administrative posts for anyone having proven personal devotion to the emperor, a precise system of gradation within the ruling estate, unity of thought throughout the civil service class, the civil servant’s personal responsibility, and control of the civil servants through censorship. According to the Legists, the people were to devote all their efforts to agriculture and war. Another Legist doctrine held that rewards and punishments were the most effective means of educating the people, with punishments playing the dominant role.

Fa-chia was the official ideology in the Ch’in Empire (third century B.C.). Later, in the Han Empire (third century B.C. to third century A.D), it was subsumed into the official doctrine of Confucianism. The ideas of the Legists had great influence on the traditional institutions of the Chinese state system, which remained substantially unchanged until the Hsinhai Revolution of 1911–13.


Kniga pravitelia oblasti Shan (Shan Chün Shu). Moscow, 1968. (Translated from Chinese, with introduction and commentary by L. S. Perelomov.)
Perelomov, L. S. “O roli ideologii v stanovlenii despoticheskogo gosva v drevnem Kitae.” Narody Azii i A friki, 1967, no. 3.
Perelomov, L. S. “O sushchnosti legizma.” Problemy Dal’nego Vostoka, 1973, no. 2.
Vandermeersch, L. La Formation du légisme. Paris, 1965.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
115, 246), an unaccepted translation of fa-chia. [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII].
Creel, "The Fa-chia [CHINESE CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]: 'Legalists' or 'Administrators'?" in Studies Presented to Tung Tso Pin on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, extra volume 4 (1961), reprinted in idem, What is Taoism?