A comparative study
Abstract: As we know, Hanfeizi is the most representative figure of the legist school. His ideas are best described in his book “Hanfeizi ”,in which he strongly advocated the importance of “law”, “means”, “force ” for an emperor
to control his country. About one thousand years later, in Italy there was an politician named Machiavelli. In his famous book called “The Prince”, he adopted the same attitude with Hanfeizi towards how an emperor should rule his country. In this paper, the author tries to explore some similarities and some dissimilarities between the two great thinkers from the aspect of their background, their attitudes towards the nature and relationship of human beings and so on.
I Similarities in their backgrounds
Hanfeizi (280BC_233BC) was born in the Spring and Autumn Period in Han state. At that time Han state was the most weakest state of the seven states. Hanfeizi ,who was much influenced by his teacher Xunzi and the Taoism, saw the political corruption in his country and put forward much useful advice to carry out reform.. Unfortunately the emperor of Han would not like to adopt his ideas and let his country wither away. However the emperor of Qinshihuang admired the talent of Hanfeizi and wanted to give him a position in Qin state. Although Qinshihuang finally killed Hanfeizi owing to listening to the unfaithful advice of Lisi., he ruled his country on the principles advocated by Hanfeizi. Until that time did the divived situation come to an end and the united central right come out.
Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy at a time when the country was in political upheaval . Italy was divided between four dominant city-states, and each of these was continually at the mercy of the stronger foreign governments of Europe. Since 1434 Florence was ruled by the wealthy Medici family. Their rule was temporarily interrupted by a reform movement, begun in 1494, in which the young Machiavelli became an important diplomat. When the Medici family regained power in 1512 with the help of Spanish troops, Machiavelli was tortured and removed from public life. For the next 10 years he devoted himself to writing history, political philosophy, and even plays. He ultimately gained favor with the Medici family and was called back to public duty for the last two years of his life. Machiavelli's greatest work is The Prince, written in 1513 and published after his death in 1532. The work immediately provoked controversy and was soon condemned by Pope Clement VIII. Its main theme is that princes should retain absolute control of their territories, and they should use any means of expediency to accomplish this end, including deceit. Scholars struggle over interpreting Machiavelli's precise point. In several section Machiavelli praises Caesar Borgia, a Spanish aristocrat who became a notorious and much despised tyrant of the Romagna region of northern Italy. During Machiavelli's early years as a diplomat, he was in contact with Borgia and witnessed Borgia's rule first hand. Does Machiavelli hold up Borgia as the model prince? Some readers initially saw The Prince
as a satire on absolute rulers such as Borgia, which showed the repugnance of arbitrary power (thereby implying the importance of liberty). However, this theory fell apart when, in 1810, a letter by Machiavelli was discovered in which he reveals that he wrote The Prince to endear himself to the ruling Medici family in Florence. To liberate Italy from the influence of foreign governments, Machiavelli explains that strong indigenous governments are important, even if they are absolutist.
II Similarities in their attitudes reflected in their works
From the experience Machiavelli learned that weak countries had no diplomatic relationship with other counties. In his work he put forward that the weakest thing in the world was the power that was exaggerated. He tried to persuade the emperor to make a strong army, which would become the solid foundation of any course. While Hanfeizi held the same opinion with Machiavelli, he said that the most important task for an emperor was to develop his country in many ways such as increasing the production of agriculture, establish clear encouragement and punishment laws, have a forceful army under his control.