The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han (History of Imperial China)

The Early Chinese Empires: Qin and Han (History of Imperial China)

Mark Edward Lewis

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0674057341

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In 221 bc the First Emperor of Qin unified the lands that would become the heart of a Chinese empire. Though forged by conquest, this vast domain depended for its political survival on a fundamental reshaping of Chinese culture. With this informative book, we are present at the creation of an ancient imperial order whose major features would endure for two millennia.

The Qin and Han constitute the "classical period" of Chinese history--a role played by the Greeks and Romans in the West. Mark Edward Lewis highlights the key challenges faced by the court officials and scholars who set about governing an empire of such scale and diversity of peoples. He traces the drastic measures taken to transcend, without eliminating, these regional differences: the invention of the emperor as the divine embodiment of the state; the establishment of a common script for communication and a state-sponsored canon for the propagation of Confucian ideals; the flourishing of the great families, whose domination of local society rested on wealth, landholding, and elaborate kinship structures; the demilitarization of the interior; and the impact of non-Chinese warrior-nomads in setting the boundaries of an emerging Chinese identity.

The first of a six-volume series on the history of imperial China, The Early Chinese Empires illuminates many formative events in China's long history of imperialism--events whose residual influence can still be discerned today.

















military units, and the administration into military districts; and then he mapped the individual households of the population onto the grid in accordance with merits earned in battle or through agriculture. This identity of military and civil order and the dedication of the entire society to military conquest were hallmarks of the Warring States period and the foundation on which the first empire was built. Shang Yang’s reforms ultimately brought an end to the Zhou nobility and to the armed

contemporary world. 1 the geography of empire g e o g r a p h y is a human science, not just the study of land forms, riverways, and soil types. It investigates the manner in which human beings shape, and are shaped by, their physical environment, and the way they interact with one another in space. Since the Neolithic period, people throughout the world have extracted their subsistence from the soil. But Chinese civilization in particular is noted for its ties to a landscape that has formed

wall he gazed down into the fathomless depths and thought that he was secure.”15 Sima Qian extended this pattern by describing how the First Emperor denuded Mount Xiang of trees because a storm caused by the goddess of a local shrine blocked his river passage. He cut through mountains and filled up valleys in order to run a road straight from Jiuyuan in the northwest to Yunyang, near the old Qin capital. When seeking the isles of the immortals, he dreamt that he was wrestling with a sea god, who

the city, if they love large sleeves, Then everywhere else they will use up whole bolts of silk. Urban dwellers’ authority in fashion challenged the state, for in the political texts of the period it was the tastes in attire of the ruler that were supposed to set the model for others to follow.18 The market’s violence and criminality were generally associated with butchers and “wicked youths” but most importantly with “wandering swordsmen” or gangsters (you xia)—men who devoted themselves to an

and vil- 16 the early chinese empires: qin and han lagers become obsessed by material objects. In contrast to the superior man who “makes things serve him,” the petty man is “reduced to the service of things.” As summarized in the Springs and Autumns of Master Lü (Lüshichun qiu), an encyclopedic text sponsored by the chief minister of Qin just before unification, “One who is prince over the people and desires to cause the lands beyond the seas to submit must restrain to the highest degree his

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