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In Search of the Way

Legal Philosophy of the Classic Chinese Thinkers

Wejen Chang

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What did the classical Chinese thinkers have to say about law in their search for the Way?

Wejen Chang brings a fresh perspective to the most prominent Chinese classical philosophers – Confucius, Laozi, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Mencius, Xunzi, Lord Shang and Han Fei. These thinkers founded or influenced the Confucian, Daoist, Mohist and Legalist schools of thought, and their ideas continue to guide China’s thinking and behaviour today. He shows how these thinkers addressed the key question of how philosophical thinking can serve humanity and society. Chang systematically presents their different solutions and evaluates them according to reason and experience, helping you to understand the philosophical roots of law and Chinese law in particular.


Periods, Dynasties and Important Persons
1. Prologue
2. Lun-Yu
3. Laozi
4. Mozi
5. Zhuangzi
6. Mengzi
7. Shang-Jun-Shu
8. Xunzi
9. Han-Fei-Zi
10. Epilogue

About the Author

Wejen Chang is one of only a few of his contemporaries to have had traditional Chinese education in youth learning the Classics exclusively. He studied law and political science in Taiwan and received an LL.M. from Yale and an SJD from Harvard. Following research at Academia Sinica, Taiwan, he has taught Chinese legal history and jurisprudence in Taiwan (Taiwan University), China (Peking and Tsinghua universities), the US (UCLA, Harvard, NYU) and Europe (Collège de France, Leuven Catholic University).


Anyone and everyone interested in the foundations of Chinese thought about law and legal institutions should applaud the publication of In Search of the Way by Professor Chang Wejen. It is the culmination of a lifetime of learning and deep reflection by an extraordinary scholar, and replete with enormous insight and wisdom.
- William P. Alford, Harvard Law School

What we bear witness to in reading this book is a brilliant conversation among these ancient thinkers, orchestrated and gently probed by the author in a way that brings them to life and illuminates their relative strengths and weaknesses, similarities and differences. The works of the authors – Lun-yu, Laozi, Mozi, Zhuangzi, Mengzi, Xunzi, Shang-jun-shu and Han-fei-zi – covered each in their own way grapple with fundamental questions ranging from the meaning of life and humanity’s place in the universe, to the nature of continuity and change in human relations and the sources of normativity in social life. So, while this book can be read on one level as a detailed survey of the history of ancient Chinese legal thought, it is on another level nothing less than an investigation into the human condition.

- Scott Veitch, University of Hong Kong

Professor Wejen Chang’s eagerly anticipated survey of ancient Chinese legal philosophy makes a key contribution to the study of Chinese law, a field increasingly important in a world where the future of Asia is a central concern … The structure and content of In Search of the Way enable the non-specialist reader to enter that thought world and become a participant in an ongoing dialogue on the questions raised in the ancient texts.

- Hugh T. Scogin, Jr., NYU School of Law

In this magnum opus, the deeper roots of the Chinese legal culture are revealed.

- Jacques H. Herbots, Catholic University of Leuven

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