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Lecture 3

EAST 211 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Shen Buhai, Han Feizi, Eurasian Steppe


Department
Asian Language & Literature
Course Code
EAST 211
Professor
Rebecca Doran
Lecture
3

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A. Dynastic Timeline
Warring States 戰國(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(韩非子), Shen Buhai(申不害), Shang Yang(商鞅)
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 西漢 (206 B.C.-9 A.D.; capital at Chang’an)
Founder = Liu Bang 刘邦 (Emperor Gaozu 高祖)
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was revoked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 王莽: relative of the Empress Dowager 慈禧太and regent for two child emperors; used his
position to usurp the throne
Eastern Han 東漢 (25-220 A.D.; capital at Luoyang): Founder = Liu Xiu 刘秀(Guangwu 光武 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 Emperor’s 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 mother’s 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

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Relations 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 匈奴
Major steppe enemy of the Han: Formation of major tribal confederacy in the 3rd 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 Wu’s 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 merchants
The Plight of the Small Landowner:
o Technological improvements benefit the wealthy
o Custom of equal inheritance of property: farms get smaller, but the tax rate and expenses do not decrease
o Rise of the landlord class as bureaucrats to staff vacancies left by Emperor Wu’s purge of the princes
Wang Mang 王莽/Xin
Radical reform program based on the Zhou classics:
o nationalization of land
o redistribution of agricultural and land systems according to a program outlined by Mencius in the 4th
century B.C.
o attacked the power of large landholders
o prohibited slavery
Rebellion by large landholders and reestablishment of the Han by Liu Xiu (25 A.D.)
Eastern Han: Rise of the manor system: a wealthy landlord has tenants and retainers
D. Intellectual Trends and the Han as a “Confucian” Empire
1. Patronage of Confucian scholars to create a sense of differentiation from the Qin (under Emperor Wu)
imperial academy
“erudites” (boshi 博士) in classical texts (the Five Classics: Classic of Poetry; Book of Rites; Spring and Autumn
Annals; Book of Documents; Book of Changes)
2. Syncretism (versus “schools”)
Ru (“Confucian”): Traditionalist; versed in classical texts
Fa (“Legalist”): Experts in statecraft
Trend towards syncretism
Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒(179-104 B.C.) and Syncretism
Yin-yang
(阴阳)
: complementary opposites; yin is female, weak, passive, dark, cold, and yielding, while yang is
male, strong, active, bright, warm, and opposing; their interactions drive natural and human phenomena
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