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Heritage of ChinaContemporary Perspectives on Chinese Civilization$
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Paul Ropp

Print publication date: 1990

Print ISBN-13: 9780520064409

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520064409.001.0001

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The Confucian Tradition in Chinese History

The Confucian Tradition in Chinese History

(p.112) Five The Confucian Tradition in Chinese History
Heritage of China

Paul S. Ropp

University of California Press

This chapter looks at how certain influential early Chinese and Greek political writers treated the problem of balancing the rule of man with the rule of law. The laws of the earliest-known rulers, the sage kings, would for later generations be elevated to the status of Law. It is shown that the Ch'in state assumed the right to interfere in the most intimate affairs of its subjects' lives and that it was concerned above all with protecting human and material resources for its own uses. Chinese political theory took shape in an age of disorder created by local despots, and no practical thinker could afford to rationalize a government based purely on the instincts of a philosopher-king. Good government in China ultimately rested on a flexible balance between the certainty of law and the discretion of rulers and their worthy ministers.

Keywords:   Chinese political writers, Greek political writers, law, sage kings, Ch'in state, Chinese political theory, government, China

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