Shen Dao’s Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei

  • Soon-ja Yang
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP)


It has been generally agreed that Han Fei was influenced by Shen Dao 慎到in terms of the concept shi 勢 (circumstantial advantage, power or authority). This conventional view, which is based the “Critique of Circumstantial Advantage” (“Nanshi” 難勢) chapter of the Han Feizi, would lead us to believe that Shen Dao was a theorist of shi. This article attempts to examine whether Shen Dao’s main idea is shi by analyzing Shenzi 愼子fragments and other early Chinese texts. Contrary to the traditional view of Shen Dao, this article shows that his central idea is relevant to a theory of fa法 (law, standard or model).

In addition, this article proposes a reason why Han Fei cited Shen Dao’s theory of shi in the “Nanshi” chapter despite the fact that Shen Dao’s writings give detailed discussions of another concept, fa. Han Fei was influenced by Shen Dao’s insight that shi (political authority or power) takes precedence over moral and intellectual superiority (xianzhi 賢智) in drawing obedience from people. In other words, Han Fei quoted Shen Dao in the “Nanshi” chapter not because Shen Dao focused on the concept of shi, but because he pointed out that political power or authority takes precedence over other individual capabilities in achieving political control.


Political Authority Average Ruler Chinese Text Legal Positivism Warring State Period 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Korea Studies Graduate SchoolInha UniversitySuwon-siSouth Korea

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