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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

Front. Philos. China    2016, Vol. 11 Issue (4) : 587-607
Orginal Article |
The Development of Traditional Chinese View of Rule of Law and Its Modern Transformation
PENG Xinwu()
School of Philosophy, Renmin University, Beijing 100872, China
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In the traditional order of the “rule of rites,” social status and relationships always held priority positions, which apparently went against the realization of social justice; Legalists thought highly of objectivity and avoided subjective randomness, and were more reasonable in this regard. However, following the integration of rites and law in the Han Dynasty, the technical aspect of Legalism emphasizing control of society and of the populace was strengthened, and in the meanwhile, their “true spirit” became concealed before long. The main signs of this are follows: (1) In the order of the “rule of rites,” the objectivity of law was gradually devoured by the subjectivity of human beings, thus the tradition where “human relationships replace law” came into being; (2) The law, which had shown the spirit of equality to a certain extent in the guise of Legalism, now degraded into a tool to maintain a hierarchy; (3) Rights were separated from duties, that is, some people enjoyed “rights without duties” as much as they wanted, while the rest were forced to carry out “duties without rights.” As history has warned us, in ruling a country, one cannot stake even the least bit of fortune upon human nature, and there can be only one bottom line and criterion, that is, common strict observance of and respect to “rules.” That should be the great value of the lesson that the pre-Qin Legalism has left for future generations.

Keywords rule of rites      rule of law      integration of rites and law      supremacy of law     
Issue Date: 17 January 2017
 Cite this article:   
PENG Xinwu. The Development of Traditional Chinese View of Rule of Law and Its Modern Transformation[J]. Front. Philos. China, 2016, 11(4): 587-607.
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