The 1973 archeological discovery of important documents of classical thought known as the Huang-Lao Boshu ( Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao) coupled with advancements in contemporary jurisprudence make possible a reassessment of the (legal) philosophies of pre-Qin and early Han China. This study attempts to elucidate the importance of the Huang-Lao school within the intellectual tradition of China through a comparison of the Boshu's philosophical position, particularly its understanding of the relation between law and morality, with the respective views of major thinkers of the period— Confucius, Han Fei, Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi, and to a lesser extent, Shen Dao, Shen Buhai and the authors of the Guan Zi and He Guan Zi. So doing reveals Huang-Lao to be a unique and sophisticated social and political philosophy that, until its expulsion from court by Emperor Wu and subsequent adoption by Daoist religion, served as the ideological foundation for the post-Qin reforms of the early Han.
Chapter I consists of two sections. In the first, I review the current state of Huang-Lao studies, summarizing the efforts of leading sinologists to clarify textual issues such as the title, date, and authorship of the lost work. In the second, I present a methodological overview in which I develop the distinctions in contemporary philosophy of law that will provide the conceptual apparatus, the hermeneutic framework as it were, for sorting out the relation of Huang-Lao to other schools of classical Chinese thought. Chapters II and III explicate Huang-Lao thought as exemplified in the Boshu. The former treats the general character of Huang-Lao, with special attention to metaphysics, philosophy of language, and epistemology; the latter treats Huang-Lao social and political philosophy, with special attention to jurisprudence.
Chapters IV to VII examine the intellectual, historical, and political context. In Chapter IV, I examine the relation of Huang-Lao to the Confucianism of Confucius; in V, to the Legalism of Han Fei; in VI, to the Daoism of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. Chapter VII sketches a wider portrait of the evolution of Huang-Lao thought. After exploring the intellectual importance of the Jixia Academy( Zou Yan, Shen Dao, the authors of the Guan Zi