An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Li Kui 李悝

Dec 19, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Li Kui 李悝 was a high minister in the state of Wei 魏 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). His name is also written 李克, 里克 (not to be confused with the nobleman in Jin, Li Ke 里克), or even erroneously Ji Chong 季充.He served the Marquesses Wen 魏文侯 (r. 424-387) and Wu 魏武侯 (r. 386-371) as Counsellor-in-chief and prefect of Shangdi 上地 near the border to Qin 秦.

What is historically proved is the fact that Li Kui contributed to the growing strength and importance of the state of Wei and made it an important competitor to the other states.

In his political standpoint, Li Kui was a representative of the school of legalists (fajia 法家). Li Kui stressed the importance of the appropriate use of reward and punishment. This would attract worthy officials and benefit the people. The people, on its side, had to work the fields in a way that the tax revenue would profit the state and the peasantry themselves. He reformed the tax system and geared the height of the taxes to the actual income of the peasants. His grain price equalizing law (pingdifa 平糴法) institutionalized three tax brackets.

Li Kui had compiled a penal law codex, the Fajing 法經. The six chapters covered the themes robbery (dao 盜), murder (zei 賊), jail (qiu 囚), arrestation (bu 捕), miscellaneous themes (za 雜), and general remarks (ju 具). Among the miscellaneous laws there were restrictions of adultery or polygamy (yinjin 淫禁), forgery of official seals (jiaojin 狡禁), trespassing city boundaries (chengjin 城禁), gambling (xijin 嬉禁), crowding (tujin 徒禁), and bribery (jinjin 金禁). The Fajing served as a model for the penal law code of the state of Qin, as created by Shang Yang 商鞅.

The Fajing is not preserved, but there is a relatively detailed description of it in Huan Tan's 桓譚 Xinlun 新論 from the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). Quotations are preserved in the book Qiguokao 七國考 by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Dong Shuo/Yue 董說. The collection of fragments of the Fajing as presented in Ma Guohan's 馬國翰 Yuhan shanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房輯佚書 from the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) contains parts of religious books that have nothing to do with Li Kui's Fajing.

The imperial bibliography in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 lists three books compiled by Li Kui: A book Lizi 李子 "Master Li", 32 chapters, in the legalist section; a book Li Ke 李克, 7 chapters, in the Confucian section; and a book Lizi 李子, 10 chapters, in the section of military strategists. Nothing is known about the content of these writings.

Chen Sheng 陳升 (1996). "Li Kui 李悝", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, ed. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 32.
Chen Tao 陳濤 (1993). "Li Kui 李悝", in Shi Quanchang 石泉長, ed. Zhonghua baike yaolan 中華百科要覽 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 261, 350.
Huang Huixian 黃惠賢, ed. (1998). Ershiwushi renminng da cidian 二十五史人名大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), Vol. 1, 20.
Kong Qingming 孔慶明 (1990). "Li Kui 李悝", in Yang Chunxi 楊春洗 et al., ed. Xingshi faxue da cidian 刑事法學大辭書 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 309.
Li Bingzhong 李秉忠, Wei Canjin 衛燦金, Lin Conglong 林從龍, ed. (1990). Jianming wenshi zhishi cidian 簡明文史知識詞典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 74.
Liu Mengxun 柳孟訓 (1997). "Li Kui bianfa 李悝變法", in Men Kui 門巋, Zhang Yanjin 張燕瑾, ed. Zhonghua guocui da cidian 中華國粹大辭典 (Xianggang: Guoji wenhua chuban gongsi), 5.
Liu Wenying 劉文英, ed. (1987). Zhexue baike xiao cidian 哲學百科小辭典 (Lanzhou: Gansu renmin chubanshe), 199.
Shi Xuanyuan 施宣圓 et al., ed. (1987). Zhongguo wenhua cidian 中國文化辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai shehui kexue yuan chubanshe), 182.
Wu Chaolin 吳朝林 (1998). "Li Kui 李悝", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Jingjixue 經濟學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 552.
Wu Rongceng 吳榮曾 (1992). "Li Kui 李悝", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 557.
Wuhan daxue lishi xi Jianming lishi cidian bianxiezu 武漢大學歷史系《簡明歷史辭典》編寫組, ed. (1983). Jianming lishi cidian 簡明歷史辭典 (Zhengzhou: Henan renmin chubanshe), 373.
Yang Qingwang 楊慶旺, Ha Hua 哈鏵, ed. (1987). Zhongguo junshi zhishi cidian 中國軍事知識辭典 (Beijing: Huaxia chubanshe), 408.
Yi Xingguo 衣興國, ed. (1988). Shiyong Zhongguo mingren cidian 實用中國名人辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 64.
Zhang Guohua 張國華 (1998). "Li Kui 李悝", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Faxue 法學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 366.
Zhang Huizhi 張撝之, Shen Qiwei 沈起煒, Liu Dezhong 劉德重, ed. (1999). Zhongguo lidai renming da cidian 中國歷代人名大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe), Vol. 1, 920.
《中國百科大辭典》編委會1990華夏出版社 《中國百科大辭典》 第262.