An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Shenzi 申子

Jul 18, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Shenzi 申子 "Master Shen" is a book attributed to the legalist philosopher Shen Buhai 申不害 (420-337 BCE), who acted for a long period as chief counsellor of Marquis Zhao 韓昭侯 (r. 358-333) of Han 韓 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent-221 BCE).

The oldest bibliographies put the book side by side with the Daoist book Laozi 老子, just like the greatest legalist book Hanfeizi 韓非子.

Shen Buhai laid stress upon the use of punishment in order to strengthen the state and the position of the ruler. His book consisted of 6 chapters in two juan. The largest part of the book is lost. It is known that there existed a chapter called Junchen 君臣篇 "Lord and minister", and probably one called Sanfu 三符 "The three tallies". The chapter Dati 大體 "Great embodiment" is preserved in the collection Qunshu zhiyao 群書治要. Several other fragments are collected in various books quoting from the Shenzi. The commonly used version is the compilation by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Ma Guohan 馬國翰 (1794-1857) in his series Yuhan shanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房輯佚書.

Although the most important contribution of Shen Buhai to the state philosophy of legalism is the penal law (fa 法), his vicinity to Daoist thinking is clearly seen in his interpretation of the ruler's role as a kind of non-moving pivot in the state system, signifying the dao 道 "Way" (or fundamental principle of nature and cosmos). Without revealing his proper thought the sovereign was, by his own "skill of governing" (shu 術), able to make use of his ministers. Competent ministers would be remunerated, wile the incapable would be punished. Yet the very personal or "subjective" art of governing was not sufficient to govern a state efficiently: What Shen Buhai's state still lacked were "objective", universal, and reliable laws.

Hansen, Chad (2003). "Shen Buhai (Shen Pu-hai)", in Antonio S. Cua, ed. Encyclopedia of Chinese Philosophy (New York/London: Routledge), 689-692.
Hao Tiechuan 郝鐵川 (1996). "Shenzi 申子", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Zhengzhi falü 政治法律卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 71.
Jiang Chongyue 蒋重跃 (1988). "Shenzi fei fajia bian 申子非法家辨", Wenxian 文献, 1988 (3): 81-93.
Li Dingsheng 李定生 (1992). "Shenzi 申子", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Zhexue 哲學卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 66.
Li Shen 李申 (1992). "Shenzi 申子", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 913.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1640.
Pan Zhoushan 潘周灿 (2021). "Shenzi liuchuan shuyao 《申子》流传述要", Hengyang Shifan Xueyuan xuebao 衡阳师范学院学报, 2021 (1): 99-105.
Wu Shuchen 武樹臣, ed (1999). Zhongguo chuantong falü wenhua cidian 中國傳統法律文化辭典 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe), 444.
Zhang Jue 张觉 (1991). "Shangjunshu, Shenzi, Shenzi liuchuan kaolüe 《商君书》,《申子》,《慎子》流传考略", Zhongguo tushuguan xuebao 中国图书馆学报, 1991 (1): 81-85+95.
Zhuang Zhong 庄仲 (2016). "Shenzi ming sixiang de jiexi 申子'名'思想的解析", Daqing Shifan Xueyuan xuebao 大庆师范学院学报, 2016 (1): 9-13.