xíng qī yú wú xíng 刑期于无刑
The Purpose of Punishment Is to Eliminate Punishment.
The purpose of meting out punishment is to eliminate punishment, which is an extension of the Confucian idea of “rule by virtue.” The Confucian point of view is that education by rites and music is the main means of state governance, and penalties are only auxiliary. The aim of governance is to educate the people through these two means, educating and transforming them so that they adopt virtuous conduct and abide by the laws, thus bringing great order to all under heaven and making punishments unnecessary, that is to say, eliminating punishments. It is also the ideal state attained within the framework of “rule by virtue.” This represents the dialectical point of view of the unity of means and aims.
Emperor Shun said, “…I hope my governance will reach an ideal realm, with meting out punishments for the purpose of eliminating punishments, and the people being in accord with the right path. (The Book of History)