This chapter stresses continuity, language, and geography in the development of Chinese empires. One of the key turning points in Chinese history was the third century B.C.E., when the old, quasi-feudal Zhou multi-state system gave way to a centralized bureaucratic government that built an empire from the steppe in the north to Vietnam in the south. This first empire was divided into three parts: the Qin dynasty (246206 B.C.E.), the Former Han dynasty (206 B.C.E8 C.E.), and the Later Han dynasty (25220 C.E.). This chapter also examines the principles and practice of Legalismthe political philosophy of the Zhouand the displacement of this philosophy by Confucianism and Taoism during the Han period. It also considers the impact of the arrival of Buddhism from India.
After reading this chapter you should be able to:
Discuss the Qin conquest of the Zhou territorial states and the formation of a unified China under a bureaucratic government
Outline the dynastic cycle in the Former Han dynasty
Discuss the causes, course, and consequences of the rise and fall of the Later Han dynasty
Describe Confucianism during the Han dynasties and the challenge of Buddhism
Draw out some comparisons between Han dynasty China and the Roman Empire