In the long history of ancient China, there had been two very prominent philosophies which had been present for the rulers and people in living on and guiding their lives. Both philosophies were under the guise that such laws are for the betterment for the people but in plain reality, the two are very much differed, much like water and fire. One was Legalism, a form of philosophy that was centered upon strict judgment in the own interpretation of the sage king or ruler. It was based on intellectual and structural knowledge constructs that were perceived as good. On the other hand, there was Daoism which was a philosophy that almost literally proliferated the thought of being carefree, but in deeper truth, care-free was a high state of being in acceptance of how fate flowed and how life’s dynamic play was actually more like music, a piece greatly appreciable in its totality and movement. The differences of the two are greatly visible in the way that each handled and intellectualized how government and culture be perceived and consciously influenced. In line of their differences, they were somewhat similar on their views of education. That is why Legalism and Daoism differ in many ways but is similar also in other aspects.
Both legalism and Daoism perceive their set of beliefs and rules as guides for a philosopher king or a sage king that could be utilized in ruling. The modes of government of China in ancient periods were imbued with many philosophies and the government that adapted the legalist and Daoist systems are two of the prominent belief structures. Legalism is best described by this quotation. “The ancient kings had a perfect virtue and all-embracing rule of conduct, through which they were accord with all under heaven”. The legalist form of government ruled the people through the own and singular perspective of whoever was ruling. This made the people blindly follow the leader without hesitation. Legalism, in layman’s term was dictatorship, wherein the massive centralization of power and order was put upon the sage king or the prominent leader. This left the people and country in a state of orderly distress, a feeling of chaotic serenity. On the other hand, the philosophy of Daoism almost literally imparted a carefree philosophy. However, in Daoism, being carefree is a state of being at peace and of acceptance and allowance of the mystery of how fate flowed and how the ups and downs of life were all present for a higher purpose, which was to learn the truth and be at peace. They inherently followed and sought for harmony which they perceived as inherent in the ways of nature. Since their main goal was to reach harmony they just wanted to cast aside the government seeing as it was hindering their journey.
Both philosophies were tools for the ancients in order to guide and manipulate culture and social groups. Culture was another stage of difference for the Daoist and the Legalist. The legalist way believed that Order and Law are upon the powers of men, that they could alter and take whatever they want in order to create true order. However, this was not the case, as the legalist forms of government tended to make the people in power more powerful by small allowance of privilege which led to the imbalance and ego centrism of the ruling bodies. A huge example of the legalism error can be seen in how such government forms destroyed the economy of the whole country and led the people to hunger and poverty. Daoist on the other hand followed “Wu-wei” where in the search for truth was something that was hidden in stillness and the acceptance that everything is happening for a higher purpose. Daoists wanted everything to be somewhat equal in social ranking while the Legalists thought there were only people in the government and scum on the earth. Daoists perceived their bodies as little universes and so they thought that a healthy and long life was necessary in following the way of the Dao.