Han Feizi: Basic Writings

By Han Feizi; Burton Watson | Go to book overview

THE WAY OF THE RULER

(Section 5)

The Way is the beginning of all beings and the measure of right and wrong. Therefore the enlightened ruler holds fast to the beginning in order to understand the wellspring of all beings, and minds the measure in order to know the source of good and bad. He waits, empty and still,1 letting names define themselves and affairs reach their own settlement. Being empty, he can comprehend the true aspect of fullness; being still, he can correct the mover.2 Those whose duty it is to speak will come forward to name themselves; those whose duty it is to act will produce results. When names and results3 match, the ruler need do nothing more and the true aspect of all things will be revealed.

Hence it is said: The ruler must not reveal his desires; for if he reveals his desires his ministers will put on the mask that pleases him. He must not reveal his will; for if he does so his

1 Omitting the first ling. This section, like sec. 8 below, is distinguished by the frequent use of end rhymes.

2 Reading wei for the second zhi.

3 Literally, “forms” or “realities.” But Han Feizi is discussing concrete problems of political science, i.e., do the officials really do what they say they are going to do? Does their actual performance match the title they hold?

-15-

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Han Feizi: Basic Writings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Outline of Early Chinese History vi
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • The Way of the Ruler 15
  • On Having Standards 21
  • The Two Handles 29
  • Wielding Power 1 35
  • The Eight Villainies 43
  • The Ten Faults 49
  • The Difficulties of Persuasion 1 73
  • Mr. He 81
  • Precautions within the Palace 85
  • In Facing South 1 91
  • The Five Vermin 97
  • Eminence in Learning 119
  • Index 131
  • Other Works in the Columbia Asian Studies Series 139
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