History 1601E Lecture Notes - Xiang Yu, Emperor Gaozu Of Han, Han Dynasty
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HISTORY 1601E October 5th, 2010
HISTORY – LECTURE 04
THE QIN AND HAN DYNASTIES
Unification under Qin (221 BCE)
o Qin unified all the Chinese warring states in 221 BCE
o State based on Legalist principles, harsh punishment
o Emphasis on military and agriculture
o Qin King declared himself ruler of “all under Heaven”
o Took title of “First Emperor of Qin”
o Legalism applied throughout new empire
o Qin system of impersonal laws and taxation also applied – very much a culture shock for the
other states who were not used to Legalism and such harsh punishment
o Mutilation as punishment – losing nose, an ear, a limb, castration, and then even harsher
punishment—being sent to work on the Great Wall, etc. Thousands of deaths.
o Arms in former rival states confiscated
o Empire divided into 42 commanderies (civilian administration and military administration)
o Aristocracies of rival states forced to live in the Qin capital, being able to watch over their
enemies and kept them confined to the capital so they would not have power anymore. Tight
o Legalism stressed uniformity, everyone has to be the same, policies have to be the same.
o Standardisation of weights and measures, coinage, writing, and transportation. They banned all
other currencies, melted them down for use somewhere else, and installed the use of their
coinage which was the round one with the square hole in the middle. In addition, all the other
variation of characters for writing was eliminated and the Qin standardized their one writing
style to all the others.
o Gave cohesion to the new empire and provided the basis of traditional culture.
o Qin administration abhorred possibilities of any alternate centres of power.
o Most infamous policy was the burning of all non-Legalist philosophical and historical books in
o Resisting scholars were banished or executed.
Decline of the Qin…
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