Legalism vs. Confucianism

Legalism, or fajia (法家), the philosophical school that animated Wei Yuan’s Statecraft Anthology, rejected Confucian personal and political ethics.

Traditional Confucian thought stressed loyalty, family, rituals, and harmony as the foundations of a virtuous ruler and a well-governed state. Legalists, by contrast, believe a ruler should be guided by two simple principles, “a wealthy country and a strong army,” fuguo qiangbing (富国强兵). An early proponent of Legalism was Shang Yang, an ancient Chinese ruler who would later interest a young Mao Zedong.