What Is an Important Symbol of Chinese Legalism?

The most important symbol of Chinese legalism is the Great Wall of China. Built during the third century by the Ch’in emperor known as First August Supreme Ruler or Shish Huang-ti, the wall represented the rule of law, according to the International World History Project.

The philosophy of legalism is defined by three principles: the rule of law “fa”; the mystery of authority,”shu”; and the legitimacy of the position, “shi,” says Encyclopædia Britannica. The rule of law was founded on the belief that order, structure and a system of rewards and punishments would ensure equal treatment of citizens and absolute loyalty to the dynasty. The Great Wall was a symbol of the separation between civil agricultural society and the nomadic tribes who lived in Central Asia, and a means of protecting Chinese cities from frequent barbarian attacks. In an attempt to enforce the rule of law, the emperor ordered all scholarly books burned in order to eliminate the Confucianist practice of feudalism. Scholars who refused to participate in the standardization of writing and thought were sentenced to forced labor and sent north to work on the wall as punishment. To show that no one was exempt from the rule of law, even the emperor’s own son was sentenced to forced labor after warning his father not to kill scholars.