Legalism in ancient China was a philosophical belief that human beings are more inclined to do wrong than right because they are motivated entirely by self-interest and require strict laws to control their impulses. It was developed by the philosopher Han Feizi (l. c. 280 - 233 BCE) of the state of Qin.

More about: Legalism


  • c. 481 BCE - 221 BCE
    Warring States Period in China, Legalism develops in response to the horrors of war.
  • c. 338 BCE
    Death of Shang Yang, early proponent of Legalist philosophy in China.
  • c. 280 BCE - c. 233 BCE
    Life of Han Feizi who developed Legalism in China.
  • 213 BCE - 206 BCE
    Qin Dynasty elevates Legalism as state philosophy and bans all others.
  • 202 BCE - 220 CE
    Han Dynasty under which Legalism relaxes.
  • 141 BCE - 87 BCE
    Han Emperor Wu abandons Legalism in favor of Confucianism.