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Lecture 3

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Asian Language & Literature
EAST 211
Rebecca Doran

A. Dynastic Timeline Warring States (481-221 B.C.) 300 B.C.: Only seven large states remains 256 B.C.: Zhou formally ended, but inter-state wars continue for the next 30 years 221 B.C.: Qin victory in the conflict between Qin and Chu Qin (221 B.C.-207 B.C.) First true empire in Chinese history Qin and Legalism: o Legalist ministers of Qin: Han Feizi, Shen Buhai, Shang Yang o Direct taxation and administration o Standardized legal code and strict system of rewards and punishments o Lasting image of tyranny of the Qin o Succession dispute after the death of the First Emperor leads to full-scale civil war Western Han (206 B.C.-9 A.D.; capital at Changan) Founder = Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu ) o able advisors o reliance on the state apparatus designed by the Qin; at first rewarded allies with territory, but gradually was revoked Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 B.C.): major reformer: trend towards centralization Xin (New; 9-23 A.D.) Wang Mang : relative of the Empress Dowager and regent for two child emperors; used his position to usurp the throne Eastern Han (25-220 A.D.; capital at Luoyang): Founder = Liu Xiu (Guangwu Emperor) B. The Tyranny of the First Emperor of Qin: Images and Revisions 1. Excessive Severity and Cruelty Image: Exploitation of the populace: taxation, conscription labor burdens to support massive ventures (Great Wall, transportation network); harsh legal code: family responsibility, cruel punishments Possible revision: success in centralizing transportation and communication (including writing system); legal emphasis on collection of evidence 2. Repressive and Anti-Intellectual Image: the burning of the books (attempt to unify thought and purge all dissident opinions), burying Confucian scholars alive emphasizes on Legalist Possible revision: exaggeration in traditional sources of the extent and purpose of burning the books 3. Megalomania and Obsession with Immortality Image (1): Terra Cotta mausoleum as a monument to the First Emperors obsession with the afterlife; attempt to create a microcosm of the entire world; required the mobilization of massive amounts of labor and resources Image (2): Patronage of charlatans and wizards claiming possession of the key to immortality; delegations of young people sent out to search for immortal islands o Religious/esoteric Daoism: breathing exercises, imbibing elixirs and drugs in the search for immortality o Possible revision: these stories about the First Emperor are part and parcel of his de-legitimation in Han sources (cf. the gossip about his mothers various affairs and claims that he was not the legitimate heir to the Qin throne) Continuing fascination with the First Emperor throughout the world C. The Han Empire 1. Foreign Relations: the Steppe The topography and peoples of the Inner Asian Steppe: o grasslands, mountains, and deserts; not suitable to agriculture o nomadic or semi-nomadic groups; raised animals; moved north in summer and south in winter. o skill in cavalry and horse riding 1Relations with the Chinese: o trade relationships often disintegrate when the nomadic groups resorted to conducting raids on Chinese frontier settlements; defense against raids was a major concern from Warring States times onwards The Xiongnu Major steppe enemy of the Han: Formation of major tribal confederacy in the 3 century B.C. Han policy under Emperor Wu (r. 141-87 B.C.) o Early efforts at conciliatory policy replaced by aggressive stance of Emperor Wu o Successful but costly campaigns throughout Central Asia o Xiongnu acceptance of tributary status (required to give tribute to the Han and send a hostage prince to live in the Han capital) The Silk Route o Han gifts of silk to their tributary states made their way far west to Rome via the Silk Route o Silk was sold and passed along by merchant in middleman kingdoms, including Sogdia, Parthia, and India o Traders returning to China brought luxury goods, including gold, horses, and dishware. 2. Economy o The Role of the Small Landowner: Important for the tax base Western Han Government Efforts to aid small farmers and break up the power of entrenched elites: o forced relocation o land redistribution from rich to poor o promotion of irrigation projects o land grants for small farmers who settled in underdeveloped western and southern regions Emperor Wus attack on the power of entrenched local elites o Confiscation of land o Decree requiring equal distribution of property among all heirs o Commercial taxes and state monopolies to limit the wealth of
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