fǎ zhě tiān zǐ suǒ yǔ tiān xià gōng gòng yě 法者天子所与天下公共也
The Law Must Be Respected Equally by the Son of Heaven and All the People.
Laws should be respected by the sovereign ruler and people equally. This means that once a law is promulgated, everyone, regardless of status or wealth, has to abide by it; even the supreme ruler of the state cannot make changes at will. This notion can be seen as an extension of the ancient Legalist idea that “the law does not favor those of high rank.” It emphasizes not just the inflexibility and equality of the law; the law supersedes power and politics.
Zhang Shizhi said, “The law must be respected equally by the Son of Heaven and all the people. This is what the law prescribes today, and if I imposed a heavier punishment, the people would have no faith in the law. …The commandant of justice dispenses impartial justice to the whole country. If he shows the least bias, all other law enforcers would reduce or increase penalties, and how would the people know how to behave? (Records of the Historian)