Han Fei (/hn/; traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: ; pinyin: Hn Fi; c.280 233 BC), also known as Han Fei Zi, was a Chinese philosopher or statesman of the Legalist school during the Warring States period, and a prince of the state of Han.
Han Fei is often considered to be the greatest representative of Chinese Legalism for his eponymous work the Han Feizi, synthesizing the methods of his predecessors. Han Fei's ideas are sometimes compared with Niccol Machiavelli and his book is considered by some to be superior to the "Il Principe" of Niccol Machiavelli both in content and in writing style. It is said that Shu Han's chancellor Zhuge Liang demanded emperor Liu Shan read the Han Feizi for learning the way of ruling.
Sima Qian recounts the First Emperor as being presented with Han Feis works, going so far as to go to war with Han to obtain an audience with Han Fei, but is ultimately convinced to imprison him, whereupon he commits suicide. After the early demise of the Qin dynasty, the philosophy of Legalism became officially vilified by the following Han dynasty. Despite its outcast status throughout the history of imperial China, Han Fei's political theory and the concept of Legalism as a whole continued to heavily influence every dynasty thereafter, and the Confucian ideal of a rule without laws was never to be realised.
Han borrowed Shang Yang's emphasis on laws, Shen Buhai's emphasis on administrative technique, and Shen Dao's ideas on authority and prophecy, emphasizing that the autocrat will be able to achieve firm control over the state with the mastering of his predecessors' methodologies: his position of power (; Sh), technique (; Sh), and law (; F). He stressed the importance of the concept of Xing-Ming (holding actual outcome accountable to speech), coupled with the system of the "Two Handles" (punishment and reward), as well as Wu wei (non-exertion).