Form and Name
Xing (形) refers to the form of an object, and ming (名) refers to its name. The ancient Chinese believed that objects have forms, and that each formed object has its own specific nature which distinguishes it from other objects, whereas its name specifies the object. An order comprised of names establishes the relationships between the objects as well as their positions in the order. Certain schools of thought felt that the forms and names inherent in objects already incorporate a certain rational order, and that those who govern should abide by and uphold this order. Other schools of thought believed that an order of forms and names could be created after the fact through punishments (xing) and education. When emphasizing the need to analyze and judge things and actions while meting out punishments, 形名 (form and name) is also rendered as 刑名 (punishment and name).
Thus a ruler who follows moral principles will rule the realm without stubbornness, without claiming credit, without arrogance, and without biases. Hence in all matters, he will first determine the form and the name. Once form and name are ascertained, nothing will be able to conceal its traces or its normal state. (The Four Classics of the Yellow Emperor)
If a ruler wishes to prohibit evil deeds, he must determine whether the forms and names of things accord with each other; that is, whether people’s words accord with their deeds. (Hanfeizi)