Book of Interest: The Book of Lord Shang Edited and Translated by Yuri Pines

Shang, Yang (2019). The Book of Lord Shang: Apologetics of State Power in Early China (Yuri Pines, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN: 9780231179898.

For more information, please see the publisher website.


Compiled in China in the fourth-third centuries BCE, The Book of Lord Shang argues for a new powerful government to rule over society and turn every man into a diligent tiller and valiant soldier. Creating a “rich state and a strong army” will be the first step toward unification of “All-under-Heaven.” These ideas served the state of Qin that eventually created the first imperial polity on Chinese soil. In Yuri Pines’s translation, The Book of Lord Shang’s intellectual boldness and surprisingly modern-looking ideas shine through, underscoring the text’s vibrant contribution to global political thought.

The Book of Lord Shang is attributed to the statesman and theorist Shang Yang and his followers. It epitomizes the ideology of China’s so-called Legalist School of thought. In the ninety years since the work’s previous translation, major breakthroughs in studies of the book’s dating and context have recast our understanding of its messages. Pines applies these advances to a whole new reading of the text’s content and function in the sociopolitical life of its times and subsequent centuries. This abridged and revised edition of Pines’s annotated translation is ideal for newcomers to the book while also guiding early Chinese scholars and comparatists. It highlights the text’s practical success and its influence on political thought and political practice in traditional and modern China.

About the Author

Shang Yang (d. 338 BCE) was a Chinese statesman and reformer active during the Warring States Period.

Yuri Pines is Michael W. Lipson Professor of Asian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His books include The Everlasting Empire: Traditional Chinese Political Culture and Its Enduring Legacy (2012) and Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era (2009).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.