Shen Buhai

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Shen Buhai
Chinese 申不害

Shen Buhai (Chinese: 申不害; c. 400 BC – c. 337 BC)[1] was Chancellor of the Han under Marquis Zhao of Han for fifteen years, from 354 BC to 337 BC.[2] Born in the State of Zheng, he was likely a minor official there. After Han conquered Zheng in 375 BC, he rose up in the ranks of the Han officialdom, diving up its territories and successfully reforming it. Not dealing in penal law, his administrative innovations would be taken into "Chinese Legalism" by Han Fei, his most famous successor, and Shen Buhai's book most resembles the Han Feizi (though more conciliatory).[3] He died of natural causes while in office.

Though Chinese administration cannot be traced to any one individual, emphasizing a merit system figures like 4th century BC reformer Shen Buhai (400–337 BC) may have had more influence than any other, and might be considered its founder, if not valuable as a rare pre-modern example of abstract theory of administration. Creel sees in Shen Buhai the "seeds of the civil service examination", and, if one wished to exaggerate, the first political scientist.[4]

Shenzi[edit]

Shen was known for his cryptic writing style. Because the writings attributed to him appear to be pre-Han dynasty, he is credited with writing a now extinct two chapter text, the Shenzi (申子), which is concerned almost exclusively with the philosophy of governmental administration.[5] In 141 BC, under the influence of Confucians, the reign of Emperor Wu of Han saw Shen Buhai's name was listed with other legalist thinkers whose ideas were officially banned from the government; from that point on, scholarship on the ideas of Shen Buhai went into a steep decline, despite continued use of his foundational ideas in administration (much of which, consisting of skill and report checking, would be unavoidable).

Widely read in Han times, in comparison to the still-complete Han Feizi the Shenzi was listed as lost by the Liang dynasty (502-556). Appearing again in the bibliographies of both Tang histories, it's only traces remain as quotes in surviving texts in Qunshu Zhiyao, compiled in 631, and Yilin, compiled around 786. During the Qing Dynasty, three major attempts were made to reconstruct the contents of the work, the last mention occurring in 1616, and in a library catalogue from 1700.[6] Its fragments were re-assembled by Sinologist Herrlee G. Creel in Shen Pu-Hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B. C.

Philosophy[edit]

EN-HAN260BCE.jpg

The Huainanzi says that when Shen Buhai lived the officials of the state of Han were at cross-purposes and did not know what practices to follow.[7][8] Though not unifying the laws as did Shang Yang, what Shen appears to have realized is that the "methods for the control of a bureaucracy" could not be mixed with the survivals of feudal government, or staffed merely by "getting together a group of 'good men'", but rather must be men qualified in their jobs.[9] He therefore emphasizes the importance of selecting able officials as much as Confucius did, but insists on "constant vigilance over their performance",[10] never mentioning virtue.

In comparison with Shang Yang, Shen Buhai refers to the ruler in abstract terms - he is simply the head of a bureaucracy.[11] In comparison with Han Fei his system required a strong ruler at the center,[12] emphasizing that he trust no one minister.[13] Ideally, Shen Buhai's ruler had the widest possible sovereignty, was intelligent (if not a sage), had to make all crucial decisions himself,[14] and had unlimited control of the bureaucracy.[15]

Shen believed that the greatest threat to a ruler's power came from within, and unlike Han Fei, never preaches to his ministers about duty or loyalty, championing Shu (術 administrative methods/techniques).[16] He insisted that the ruler must be fully informed on the state of his realm, but couldn't afford to get caught up in details and was advised to listen to no one - and does not, as Sinologist Herrlee G. Creel says, have the time to do so. The way to see and hear independently is by grouping particulars into categories through mechanical or operational decision making (Fa or "method").[17][18] By comparison, the ruler's eyes and hears will make him "deaf and blind" (unable to obtain accurate information).[17]

Shen's "principle tenant" was (Xing-Ming 刑名).[19] Representing equally applied checks against the power of officials, Xing-Ming seeks the right person for the job through the examination of skill, achievement and (more rarely) seniority.

Wu wei[edit]

(People) go along with whatever has the backing of the authorities and adjust their words and actions according to whichever way the wind is blowing. They think that they will thus avoid mistakes. Deng Xiaoping[20]

Earlier modern scholars suggested that Shen's statecraft blended with Taoism. Rather, since the bulk of the Tao Te Ching appears to have been composed later, it might therefore be assumed that Shen instead influenced the Tao Te Ching. Lacking any metaphysical connotation, Shen used the term Wu wei to mean that the ruler, though vigilant, should not interfere with the duties of his ministers.[21] This Wu wei (or nonaction) might be said to end up the political theory of the "Legalists" , if not becoming their general term for political strategy, playing a "crucial role in the promotion of the autocratic tradition of the Chinese polity." The (qualified) non-action of the ruler ensures his power and the stability of the polity.[22]

Shen Buhai portrays the ruler as putting up a front to hide his dependence on his advisers. Aside from hiding the ruler's weaknesses, Shen therefore also emphasizes the use of administrative methods (Fa) in secrecy.[23] Following Shen strongly advocated by Han Fei, during the Han dynasty up until the reign of Han Wudi rulers confined their activity "chiefly to the appointment and dismissal of his high officials", a plainly "Legalist" practice inherited from the Qin dynasty.[24] The "conception of the ruler's role as a supreme arbiter, who keeps the essential power firmly in his grasp" while leaving details to ministers, has a "deep influence on the theory and practice of Chinese monarchy."[25]

Shen Buhai argued that if the government were organized and supervised relying on proper method (Fa), the ruler need do little - and must do little.[26] Unlike "Legalists" Shang Yang and Han Fei, Shen did not consider the relationship between ruler and minister antagonistic necessarily.[27] Apparently paraphrasing the Analects, Shen Buhai's statement that those near him will feel affection, while the far will yearn for him,[28] stands in contrast to Han Fei, who considered the relationship between the ruler and ministers irreconcilable.[29]

However, Shen still believed that the ruler's most able ministers are his greatest danger,[30] and is convinced that it is impossible to make them loyal without techniques.[31] Sinologist Herrlee G. Creel explains: "The ruler's subjects are so numerous, and so on alert to discover his weaknesses and get the better of him, that it is hopeless for him alone as one man to try to learn their characteristics and control them by his knowledge... the ruler must refrain from taking the initiative, and from making himself conspicuous - and therefore vulnerable - by taking any overt action."[32]

Shen therefore advises the ruler to keep his own counsel, hide his motivations, conceal his tracks in inaction, and himself of an appearance of stupidity and insufficiency, saying:[33]

If the ruler's intelligence is display, men will prepare against it; If his lack of intelligence is displayed, they will delude him. If his wisdom is displayed, men will gloss over (their faults); if his lack of wisdom is displayed, they will hide from him. If his lack of desires is displayed, men will spy out his true desires; if his desires are displayed, they will tempt him. Therefore (the intelligent ruler) says 'I cannot know them; it is only by means of non-action that I control them.'[34]

Acting through administrative method (Fa), the ruler conceals his intentions, likes and dislikes, skills and opinions. Not acting himself, he can avoid being manipulated.[35] Shen says:

The ruler is like a mirror, reflecting light, doing nothing, and yet, beauty and ugliness present themselves; (or like) a scale establishing equilibrium, doing nothing, and yet causing lightness and heaviness to discover themselves. (Administrative) method (Fa) is complete acquiescence. (Merging his) personal (concerns) with the public (weal), he does not act. He does not act, and yet the world itself is complete.

— Shen Buhai[36]

Personnel selection[edit]

"The Way of Listening is to be giddy as though soused. Be dumber and dumber. Let others deploy themselves, and accordingly I shall know them."
Right and wrong whirl around him like spokes on a wheel, but the sovereign does not complot. Emptiness, stillness, non-action—these are the characteristics of the Way. By checking and comparing how it accords with reality, [one ascertains] the “performance” of an enterprise.[37]
Han Fei
Detail of The Spinning Wheel, by Chinese artist Wang Juzheng, Northern Song Dynasty (960–1279)[38]

Shen Buhai's personnel control, or rectification of names (titles) worked through "strict performance control", correlating performance and posts.[39] It would become a central tenant of "Legalist" statecraft.[40]

In the Han Dynasty secretaries of government who had charge of the records of decisions in criminal matters were called Xing-Ming, a term used by Han Fei, which Sima Qian(145 or 135 – 86 BC) and Liu Xiang(77 BC – 6 BC) attributed to the doctrine of Shen Buhai(400 BC – c. 337 BC).[41][42] Liu Xiang goes as far as to define Shen Buhai's doctrine as Xing-Ming.[43] Shen actually used an older, more philosophically common equivalent, ming-shih, linking the "Legalist doctrine of names" with the name and reality (ming shih) debates of the school of names.[44] Such discussions are also prominent in the Han Feizi.[45]

Sima Qian and Liu Xiang define Xing-Ming as "holding actual outcome accountable to Ming".[46][47] Ming sometimes has the sense of speech - so as to compare the statements of an aspiring officer with the reality of his actions - or reputation, again compared with real conduct (xing "form" or shih "reality").[48] Rather than having to look for "good" men, Xing-Ming (or ming-shih) can seek the right man for a particular post, though doing so implies a total organizational knowledge of the regime.[49] More simply though, it can allow ministers to comes forward with proposals of specific cost and time frame, leaving their definition to competing ministers - the doctrine favored by Han Fei. Favoring exactness, it combats the tendency to promise too much.[50] The correct articulation of Ming is considered crucial to the realization of projects.[51]

The logician Deng Xi(died 501 BCE) is cited by Liu Xiang for the origin of the principle of Xing-Ming. Serving as a minor official in the state of Zheng, he is reported to have drawn up a code of penal laws. Associated with litigation, he is said to have argued for the permissibility of contradictory propositions, likely engaging in hair-splitting debates on the interpretation of laws, legal principles and definitions.[52]

Shen Buhai solves this through Wu wei, or not getting involved, making an official's words his own responsibility.[41] Shen Buhai says, "The ruler controls the policy, the ministers manage affairs. To speak ten times and ten times be right, to act a hundred times and a hundred times succeed - this is the business of one who serves another as minister; it is the not the way to rule."[53] Noting all the details of a claim and then attempting to objectively compare them with his achievements, through passive mindfulness (the "method of yin") Shen Buhai's ruler neither adds to nor detracts from anything, giving names (titles/offices) on the basis of claim.[41]

Shen supported reward for visible results,[54] using ming-shih for investigation and appointment, but the legal system of Han was apparently confused, prohibiting uniform reward and punishment. We have no basis to suppose that Shen advocated the doctrine the doctrine of rewards and punishment (of Shang Yang, as Han Fei did), and Han Fei criticizes him for not unifying the laws.[55]

The Shiji records Li Si as repeatedly recommending "supervising and holding responsible", which he attributed to Shen Buhai.[56] A stele set up by Qin Shi Huang memorializes him as a sage that, taking charge of the government, established Xing-Ming - Shen Buhai and Han Fei's doctrine of personnel selection.[57] The Shiji states that Emperor Wen of Han was "basically fond of Xing-Ming." The scholar Jia Yi advised Wen to teach his heir to use Shen Buhai's method, so as to be able to "supervise the functions of the many officials and understand the usages of government." Two advisors to Wen's heir, Emperor Jing of Han were students of Xing-Ming, one passing the highest grade of examination, and admonished Jing for not using it on the feudal lords.[58]

By the time of the civil service examination was put into place, Confucian influence saw outright discussion of Shen Buhai banned. However, the Emperor under which it was founded, Emperor Wu of Han, was both familiar with and favorable to Legalist ideas, and the civil service examination did not come into existence until its support by Gongsun Hong, who wrote a book on Xing-Ming.[59] The Emperor Xuan of Han was still said by Liu Xiang to have been fond of reading Shen Buhai, using Xing-Ming to control his subordinates and devoting much time to legal cases.[60] Zhuge Liang attached great importance to the works of Shen Buhai and Han Fei.[61] Emperor Wen of Sui is recorded as having withdrawn his favour from the Confucians, giving it to "the group advocating Xing-Ming and authoritarian government".[62]

Regarded as being in opposition to Confucians, as early as the Eastern Han its full and original meaning would be forgotten.[63] Yet the writings of "Tung-Cung-shu" discuss personnel testing and control in a manner sometimes hardly distinguishable from the Han Feizi. Like Shen Buhai, he dissuades against reliance upon punishments. As Confucianism ascended the term disappeared,[64] though it appears in later dynasties.

References[edit]

Footnotes
  1. ^ Knechtges (2014), p. 874.
  2. ^ S.Y. Hsieh, 1995. p.90 Chinese Thought: An Introduction. https://books.google.com/books?id=-E5LZeR7QKwC&pg=PA90
  3. ^ Creel 1970, p.62. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA62
  4. ^ Creel 1970 p.94. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA94
  5. ^ Creel 1970 p.62. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA62
  6. ^ Creel 1970 p.62, What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA62 http://www3.nccu.edu.tw/~kangchan/legalism/ShenBuHai.doc 申不害]
  7. ^ Creel 1970 p.86. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA86
  8. ^ Creel, 1959 p. 206. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Studia Serica: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
  9. ^ Creel 1970 p.86. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA86
    • Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.125. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
  10. ^ Creel 1970 p.65. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA65
  11. ^ Creel, 1974 p.59-60 Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  12. ^ Creel 1970 p.63. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA63
  13. ^ Zhengyuan Fu 1995. p.120. China's Legalists: The Early Totalitarians: The Early Totalitarians. https://books.google.com/books?id=7YQYDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT20
  14. ^ Creel, 1974 p.59-60 Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  15. ^ Creel, 1974 p.59-60 Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  16. ^ Creel 1970 p.63. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA63
  17. ^ a b Creel, 1974 p.33, 68-69. Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  18. ^ Herrlee G. Creel, 1974 p.120. Shen Pu-Hai: A Secular Philosopher of Administration, Journal of Chinese Philosophy Volume 1.
  19. ^ Creel 1970 p.62. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA62
  20. ^ Deng Xiaoping, Emancipate the Mind http://en.people.cn/dengxp/vol2/text/b1260.html
  21. ^ Creel 1970 p.62-63. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA62
  22. ^ Xuezhi Go, 2002. p.198 The Ideal Chinese Political Leader.
  23. ^ Karyn Lai 2017. p.171. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. https://books.google.com/books?id=3M1WDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA171
  24. ^ Creel 1970 p.99. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA99
    • Pan Ku. trans. Homer Dubs, The History of the Former Han Dynasty
  25. ^ Creel 1970 p.99. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA99
  26. ^ Creel 1970 p.69. What Is Taoism? https://books.google.com/books?id=5p6EBnx4_W0C&pg=PA69
    • Creel, 1974 p.66. Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  27. ^ R. P. Peerenboom 1993 p.241. Law and Morality in Ancient China. https://books.google.com/books?id=ctWt6bvFaNAC&pg=PA241
  28. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 67, 81
    • Creel, 1959 p. 201. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Studia Serica: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
  29. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/chinese-legalism/
  30. ^ Creel, 1974 p.35 Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  31. ^ Xuezhi Go, 2002. p.143 The Ideal Chinese Political Leader.
  32. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 66
  33. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 67
    • Creel, 1974 p.35. Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C*
  34. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 66
  35. ^ S.Y. Hsieh, 1995. p.92 Chinese Thought: An Introduction https://books.google.com/books?id=-E5LZeR7QKwC&pg=PA92
  36. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 64
  37. ^ Paul R. Goldin 2013. p.10. Introduction: Han Fei and the Han Feizi. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/ealc/system/files/bio/%5Buser-raw%5D/papers/Introduction.pdf
    • Chen Qiyou 2000: 2.8.156
  38. ^ Deng, Yingke and Pingxing Wang. (2005). Ancient Chinese Inventions. 五洲传播出版社. ISBN 7-5085-0837-8. Page 48.
  39. ^ Chad Hansen, 1992 p.359 A Daoist Theory of Chinese Thought https://books.google.com/books?id=nzHmobC0ThsC&pg=PA359
  40. ^ John Makeham 1994 p.67. Name and Actuality in Early Chinese Thought. https://books.google.com/books?id=GId_ASbEI2YC&pg=PA67
  41. ^ a b c Makeham, J. (1990) p. 91. The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming: An Example of the Contribution of Archaeological Evidence to the Re-Interpretation of Transmitted Texts. Monumenta Serica, 39, 87-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40726902
  42. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 72, 80, 103
    • Creel, 1959 p. 199-200. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Studia Serica: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
  43. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 104
  44. ^ Makeham, J. (1990) p. 87, 89. The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming: An Example of the Contribution of Archaeological Evidence to the Re-Interpretation of Transmitted Texts. Monumenta Serica, 39, 87-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40726902
  45. ^ Mark Czikszentmihalyi p. 54. Chia I's "Techniques of the Tao" and the Han Confucian Appropriation of Technical Discourse. Asia Major, Third Series, Vol. 10, No. 1/2 (1997), pp. 49-67 http://www.jstor.org/stable/41645528
  46. ^ Pines, Yuri, "Legalism in Chinese Philosophy", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), 1. Defining Legalism http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2014/entries/chinese-legalism/
  47. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 87, 104
    • Makeham, J. (1990) p. 91. The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming: An Example of the Contribution of Archaeological Evidence to the Re-Interpretation of Transmitted Texts. Monumenta Serica, 39, 87-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40726902
  48. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 83
    • Creel, 1959 p. 203. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Studia Serica: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
  49. ^ Creel, 1974 p.57 Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  50. ^ Paul R. Goldin 2013. p.9. Introduction: Han Fei and the Han Feizi. https://www.sas.upenn.edu/ealc/system/files/bio/%5Buser-raw%5D/papers/Introduction.pdf
  51. ^ John Makeham 1994 p.67. Name and Actuality in Early Chinese Thought. https://books.google.com/books?id=GId_ASbEI2YC&pg=PA67
  52. ^ Antonio S. Cua 2003 p.492. Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy https://books.google.com/books?id=yTv_AQAAQBAJ&pg=PA492
  53. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 65
  54. ^ A.C. Graham 1989. p.283. Disputers of the Tao. https://books.google.com/books?id=QBzyCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA283
  55. ^ Creel, 1974 p.32. Shen Pu-hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B.C.
  56. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 83
  57. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 105, 112, 114
  58. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 87, 103, 106-107, 115
  59. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 86-87, 115
  60. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 87
    • Herrlee G. Creel. Shen Pu-Hai: A Chinese Political Philosopher of the Fourth Century B. C. p.155
    • Han-shu 9.1a; Dubs, Han-shu II. 189, 299-300
  61. ^ Baogang Guo 2008 p.38. China in Search of a Harmonious Society. https://books.google.com/books?id=UkoStC-S-AMC&pg=PA38
    • Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 112
  62. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 112
  63. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 80
    • Makeham, J. (1990) p. 88. The Legalist Concept of Hsing-Ming: An Example of the Contribution of Archaeological Evidence to the Re-Interpretation of Transmitted Texts. Monumenta Serica, 39, 87-114. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/40726902
  64. ^ Creel 1970, What Is Taoism?, 90
    • Creel, 1959 p. 210. The Meaning of Hsing-Ming. Studia Serica: Sinological studies dedicated to Bernhard Kalgren
Works cited

External links[edit]