Amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warfare during Chinaʼs Period of Warring States, two new philosophies emerged. Legalism and Confucianism were two of the philosophies intellectual thinkers developed to try and stop the mayhem of China before it could be conquered by a greater nation. “Confucianism became the paramount school of thinking and later signiﬁcant philosophies such as and Legalism gained immense recognition as well. Each party had their own proposals for creating an idealistic political society where the many problems they faced in their everyday lives could be eliminated.” Both approaches were very distinct, but at the same time they contained certain similarities as well.
Confucianism disfavored a harsh government. Confucius urged to lead the people with virtue and rituals as opposed to government policies and punishments. He believed that the ruler should gain respect through his deeds rather than achieving it through his status and authority. Confucianists disliked government that employed killing and wished for a non aggressive rule. They believed individuals should foster compassion, humility and moderation for a successful society, whereas Legalism believed the people should be controlled by fear and aggression. Legalists had a ruthless approach to crimes and even the smallest of unlawful acts resulted in harsh punishment.
Legalism and Confucianism both provided structure and stability for the time they were used. Out of Legalism and Confucianism, Legalism was a success in the sense that it achieved what the other desperately strove for – the uniﬁcation of China. Even though it only lasted twelve years. “Many of the Legalist ideas were quite thought provoking and praiseworthy; they believed in equality for all and government according to merit. However, the system gained a rotten reputation according to the ruthless rule of the First Emperor. Confucianism thus became the ofﬁcial Philosophy, gaining wide acceptance in China.”
The Confucian and Legalist governments had very different morals in which their people should be treated. In Confucian government a ruler had to lead by example and be an overall virtuous person for his subjects to obey him. Government existed for the beneﬁt of the people, not the other way around. People should love each other and treat everyone with respect. In Legalist government the people are there to serve the government. People are ruled by fear and violence. Citizen should not focus on being loving and caring. Instead, they should spy on everyone around them and report and law breaking.
“According to them, a strong rule with a strict hand was necessary in order to keep the citizens from growing lazy and disrespecting the authority.” “One central issue which interested ancient Chinese thinkers was how to regulate human relations and how to govern a country.” Under the Qin dynasty Legalism achieved what many other philosophies wished- control and uniﬁcation of China. Similarities united the two because they had a single goal, but different strategies to fulﬁll it. After multiple rebellions against Legalist rule, Confucianism dominated the competition and accomplished the structure and stability that was needed for a successful and evolving civilization.
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