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Shenzi (Master Shen) and his book
By Xinfajia
2008-02-11 05:25:01

Shen Dao(about 395-315 BC), a native of the state of Zhao, was a teacher at the Jixia Academy  in the capital of the state of Qi during the Warring States period.in his opinion: wisdom and morality are not enough for a ruler to govern his evil ministers, but only power and ability (shi 勢) enable him to take control of his officials. These are the real instrument for the not-moving ruler to make his state wealthy and powerful. He was later criticized because he did not consider the thoughtful use of able and loyal followers but instead only relied on penal regulations. Only small parts of his 42-chapter-book Shenzi are preserved.

Exemplary translation (Translated by Ulrich Theobald):

Fragment A

Therefore, governing a state without codified regulations will end in chaos; observing regulations without adapting them will weaken [the state]; if [a ruler] acts on his own behalf in spite of existing regulations - then these regulations are worthless. The one who works the regulations with his manpower, is the people. The one who protects the regulations with his own life, is the state official. The one who alters the regulations according to the Dao (Tao), is the ruler.

Fragment B

An enlightened ruler and upright ministers are the good fortune of a state. A benevolent father and a filial son, a trustworthy husband and a honest wife are the good fortune of a family. In old times, Bi Gan, although being a loyal person, was not able to save the Shang (Yin) Dynasty. And although Master Shen was filial, he could not bring peace to the state of Jin. Why were such loyal subjects and filial sons not able to save their country and family from destruction? Because there was no enlightened ruler or wise father that respected their words. A son, how filial he could be, is not able to create a benevolent father, and a minister, how loyal he ever could be, will not be able to make his ruler a sage.

Fragment C

Codified regulations are a measure to equalize all activities under Heaven, they are the rules that are issued by the highest public institution in a great act. Therefore, the wisest man can not bypass the law and make plans for himself, the wickest man can not overleap the law and make decisions for himself; no noble man can make himself a name by offending the law, and no minister can earn merits by offending the regulations. Joy may be repressed by me, my anger may be obstructed, but I may never disobey the law. Bones and flesh can be maltreated by punishment, parents and relatives can be murdered by punishment, but as to the law - it can not be disrespected.


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