Dao
, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 187-207

Shen Dao’s Own Voice in the Shenzi Fragments

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Abstract

Shen Dao 慎到 is known as one of the Legalists who influenced Han Feizi 韓非子 in terms of the concept of shi 勢 (circumstantial advantage, power, or authority). This argument is based on the “A Critique of Circumstantial Advantage (Nanshi 難勢)” chapter of the Hanfeizi, where Han Feizi advances his own idea of shi after criticizing both Shen Dao and an anonymous Confucian. However, there are other primary sources to contain Shen Dao’s thought, namely, seven incomplete Shenzi 慎子 chapters of the Essentials on Government from the Assemblage of Books (Qunshu zhi yao 群書治要) and other fragments preserved in other Chinese texts. This article examines the Shenzi fragments in order to ask whether Shen Dao stresses the concept of shi.

*This paper is a revision of part of my PH.D dissertation, submitted to the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, 2010. I am deeply indebted to my dissertation committee: Paul R. Goldin, Victor H. Mair, Yuri Pines, and the anonymous reviewers of DAO for their thoughtful remarks and insightful suggestions.