The Info List - Shen Dao

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(i) (i) (i) (i)


* Huangdi Sijing
Huangdi Sijing
* Huainanzi

Early figures

* Guan Zhong * Zichan
* Deng Xi * Li Kui * Wu Qi

Founding figures

* Shen Buhai * Duke Xiao of Qin * Shang Yang
Shang Yang
* Shen Dao * Zhang Yi * Xun Kuang
Xun Kuang
* Han Fei * Li Si * Qin Shi Huang

Han figures

* Jia Yi * Liu An * Emperor Wen of Han * Emperor Wu of Han * Chao Cuo * Gongsun Hong * Zhang Tang * Huan Tan * Wang Fu * Zhuge Liang
Zhuge Liang

Later figures

* Emperor Wen of Sui
Emperor Wen of Sui
* Du You * Wang Anshi
Wang Anshi
* Li Shanchang * Zhang Juzheng
Zhang Juzheng
* Xu Guangqi

* v * t * e

SHEN DAO (Chinese : 慎到; c. 350 – c. 275 BC) was a "Chinese Legalist " theoretician most remembered for his influence on Han Fei with regards to the concept of shi 勢 (circumstantial advantage, power, or authority), though most of his book concerns the concept of fa 法 (administrative methods "> Thompson states that the Shenzi was available until the fall of the Tang dynasty, though not in its original edition. In 2007, the Shanghai Museum published a collection of texts written on bamboo slips from the State of Chu dating to the Warring States period
Warring States period
, including six bamboo slips with sayings of Shenzi. These are the only known examples of the text of Shenzi that are contemporaneous with its composition.


Iron weight dated from 221 BC with 41 inscriptions written in seal script about standardizing weights and measures during the 1st year of Qin dynasty

Where there is a scale, people cannot deceive others about weight; where there is a ruler, people cannot deceive others about length; and where there is Fa, people cannot deceive others about one's words and deeds. Shen Dao
Shen Dao
Mold for making banliang coins

Shen Dao
Shen Dao
espouses an impersonal administration in much the same sense as Shen Buhai , and in contrast with Shang Yang
Shang Yang
emphasizes the use of talent and the promotion of ministers, saying that order and chaos are "not the product of one man's efforts." He also argued for Wu wei, or the non action of the ruler along the same lines as Shen Buhai, saying

The Dao of ruler and ministers is that the ministers labour themselves with tasks while the prince has no task; the prince is relaxed and happy while the ministers bear responsibility for tasks. The ministers use all their intelligence and strength to perform his job satisfactorily, in which the ruler takes no part, but merely waits for the job to be finished. As a result, every task is taken care of. The correct way of government is thus.

However he challenges the Confucian and Mohist esteem and appointment of worthies as a basis of order, pointing out that talented ministers existed in every age. Taking it upon himself to attempt a new, analytical solution, Shen advocated fairness as a new virtue. Scholar Sugamoto Hirotsugu attributes the concept of Fen, or social resources, later used by the Guanzi and Xunzi , to Shen, given a "dimensional" difference through Fa (measurement, standards, protocol, administrative method), social relationships ("yin") and division. Shen Dao
Shen Dao
eschews Shen Buhai's administrative method (of appraisal and appointment) in favour of a mechanical distribution ("the basis of fairness") with the invariable Fa apportioning every person according to their achievement.

If one rabbit runs through a town street, and a hundred chase it, it is because its distribution has not been determined... If the distribution has already been determined, even the basest people will not fight for it. The way to control All-under-Heaven and the country lies solely in determining distribution.

The greatest function of Fa ("the principle of objective judgement") is the prevention of selfish deeds and argument. However, doubting its long-term viability Shen did not exclude moral values and accepted (qualified) Confucian Li 's supplementation of Fa and social relationships, though he frames Li in terms of (impersonal) rules.

"The state has the li of high and low rank, but not a li of men of worth and those without talent. There is a li of age an youth, but not of age and cowardice. There is a li of near and distant relatives, but no li of love and hate."

For this reason he is said to "laugh at men of worth" and "reject sages", his order relying not on them but on the Fa.

Linking Fa to the notion of impartial objectivity associated with universal interest, and reframing the language of the old ritual order to fit a universal, imperial and highly bureaucratized state, Shen cautions the ruler against relying on his own personal judgment, contrasting personal opinions with the merit of the objective standard, or fa, as preventing personal judgements or opinions from being exercised. Personal opinions destroy Fa, and Shen Dao's ruler therefore "does not show favoritism toward a single person."

When an enlightened ruler establishes ("duke" or "public interest"), desires do not oppose the correct timing , favoritism does not violate the law, nobility does not trump the rules, salary does not exceed one's position, a officer does not occupy multiple offices, and a craftsman does not take up multiple lines of work... neither overworked his heart-mind with knowledge nor exhausted himself with self-interest (si), but, rather, depended on laws and methods for settling matters of order and disorder, rewards and punishments for deciding on matters of right and wrong, and weights and balances for resolving issues of heavy or light...

The reason why those who apportion horses use ce-lots, and those who apportion fields use gou-lots, is not that they take ce and gou-lots to be superior to human wisdom, but that one may eliminate private interest and stop resentment by these means. Thus it is said: 'When the great lord relies on fa and does not act personally, affairs are judged in accordance with (objective) method (fa).' The benefit of fa is that each person meets his reward or punishment according to his due, and there are no further expectations of the lord. Thus resentment does not arise and superiors and inferiors are in harmony.

If the lord of men abandons method (Fa) and governs with his own person, then penalties and rewards, seizures and grants, will all emerge from the lord's mind. If this is the case, then those who receive rewards, even if these are commensurate, will ceaselessly expect more; those who receive punishment, even if these are commensurate, will endlessly expect more lenient treatment... people will be rewarded differently for the same merit and punished differently for the same fault. Resentment arises from this."


The people of Qi have a saying - "A man may have wisdom and discernment, but that is not like embracing the favourable opportunity. A man may have instruments of husbandry, but that is not like waiting for the farming seasons." Mencius
The Chinese Immortal Han Xiangzi
Han Xiangzi
riding a cloud A floating seed of the p'eng plant, meeting a whirlwind, may be carried a thousand li, because it rides on the power (shi) of the wind. If, in measuring an abyss, you know that it is a thousand fathoms deep, it is owing to the figures which you find by dropping a string. By depending on the power (shi) of a thing, you will reach a point, however, distant it may be, and by keeping the proper figures, you will find out the depth, however deep it may be. The Book of Lord Shang

Generally speaking, " Chinese Legalism " understood that the power of the state resides in social and political institutions, and are innovative in their aim to subject the state to them. Like Shen Buhai, Shen Dao
Shen Dao
largely focused on statecraft (Fa), and Confucian Xun Kuang discusses him in this capacity, never referencing Shen Dao
Shen Dao
in relation to power. Shen Dao
Shen Dao
is remembered for his theories on Shih (lit. "situational advantage", but also "power" or "charisma") because Han Fei references him in this capacity.

Han Fei says:

The reason why I discuss the power of position is for the sake of… mediocre rulers. These mediocre rulers, at best they do not reach the level of Yao or Shun, and at worst they do not behave like Jie or Zhou. If they hold to the law and depend on the power of their position, there will be order; but if they abandon the power of their position and turn their backs on the law, there will be disorder. Now if one abandons the power of position, turns one's back on the law, and waits for a Yao or Shun, then when a Yao or a Shun arrives there will indeed be order, but it will only be one generation of order in a thousand generations of disorder... Nevertheless, if anyone devotes his whole discourse to the sufficiency of the doctrine of position to govern All-under-Heaven, the limits of his wisdom must be very narrow.

Used in many areas of Chinese thought, Shih probably originated in the military field. Diplomats relied on concepts of situational advantage and opportunity, as well as secrecy (shu) long before the ascendency of such concepts as sovereignty or law, and were used by kings wishing to free themselves from the aristocrats. Sunzi (Art of War) would go on to incorporate Taoist philosophy of inaction and impartiality, and Legalist punishment and rewards as systematic measures of organization, recalling Han Fei's concepts of power (shih) and tactics (shu).

On the Shih of the Sunzi, relatable to Shen Dao's, Henry Kissinger says: "Chinese statesmanship exhibits a tendency to view the entire strategic landscape as part of a single whole… Strategy and statecraft become means of 'combative coexistence' with opponents. The goal is to maneuver them into weaness while building up one's own shi, or strategic position." Kissinger considers the "maneuvering" approach an ideal, but one that ran in contrast to the conlicts of the Qin dynasty.

Searching out the causes of disorder, apart from his recommendation of Fa, Shen Dao
Shen Dao
observed splits in the ruler's authority. Shen Dao's theory on power echoes Shen Buhai , referenced by Xun Kuang
Xun Kuang
as its originator; Shen Buhai says "He who (can become) singular decision-maker can become the sovereign of All under Heaven". Shen Dao's theory may otherwise have been borrowed from the Book of Lord Shang .

For Shen Dao, "Power" (Shih) refers to the ability to compel compliance; it requires no support from the subjects, though it does not preclude this. (Shih's) merit is that it prevents people from fighting each other; political authority is justified and essential on this basis. Shen Dao
Shen Dao
says: "When All under Heaven lacks the single esteemed , then there is no way to carry out the principles …. Hence the Son of Heaven is established for the sake of All under Heaven… All under Heaven is not established for the sake of the Son of Heaven…"

Talent cannot be displayed without power. Shen Dao
Shen Dao
says: "The flying dragon rides on the clouds and the rising serpent wanders in the mists. But when the clouds disperse and the mists clear up, the dragon and the serpent become the same as the earthworm and the large winged black ant because they have lost what they ride." Leadership is not a function of ability or merit, but is given by some a process, such as giving a leader to a group. "The ruler of a state is enthroned for the sake of the state; the state is not established for the sake of the prince. Officials are installed for the sake of their offices; offices are not established for the sake of officials…

Usually disregarded by the Fa-Jia, Shen Dao
Shen Dao
considers moral capability useful in terms of authority. If the ruler is inferior but his command is practised, it is because he is able to get support from people. But his ideas otherwise constitute a "direct challenge" to Confucian Virtue. Virtue is unreliable because people have different capacities. Both morality together with intellectual capability are insufficient to rule, while position of authority is enough to attain influence and subdue the worthy, making virtue "not worth going after."


* ^ Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao’s Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. p49. Soon-ja Yang. * ^ Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao’s Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. p52. Soon-ja Yang. * ^ Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao’s Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. Soon-ja Yang * ^ John Emerson 2012. p.1. A STUDY OF SHEN DAO * ^ Hansen, Chad, "Zhuangzi", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2015/entries/zhuangzi/ * ^ Antonio S. Cua 2003 p.362, Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy * ^ Knechtges (2014) , p. 871. * ^ Julia Ching, R. W. L. Guisso. 1991. p.76. Sages and Filial Sons. https://books.google.com/books?id=ynfrlFZcUG8C&pg=PA76 * ^ Dao Companion to the Philosophy of Han Fei. Shen Dao’s Theory of fa and His Influence on Han Fei. p48. Soon-ja Yang * ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20120215105445/http://www.ewen.cc/books/bkview.asp?bkid=136537&cid=408155 * ^ Masayuki Sato 2003. p.137. The Confucian Quest for Order. https://books.google.com/books?id=FXJuJl5XTqAC&pg=PA137 * ^ John S. Major, Constance A. Cook. 2007 p.207. Ancient China: A History. https://books.google.com/books?id=vh8xDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT207 * ^ L.K. Chen and H.C.W Sung 2015 p.251 Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy. https://books.google.com/books?id=L24aBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA251 * ^ Emerson. Shen Dao: Text and Translation

* ^ John Knoblock 1990. p.172. Xunzi: Books 7-16. https://books.google.com/books?id=DNqmAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA172

* Masayuki Sato 2003. p.122,126,133-136. T