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Alyce Miles

on 3 October 2013

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Ancient China had many different dynasties and Chinese records indicate that the Xia, the Shang and the Zhou were the first of the many families to rule China. The Xia dynasty ruled in 2070 BCE but the family ruled such a long time ago that historians are not sure if they really existed. The Shang dynasty however gained control of northern china and ruled at around 1650 BCE. The Zhou dynasty came from the western border of China and conquered in 1050BCE and ruled until 221BCE. They changed the way China was governed, they made nobles more powerful and the kings weaker. The Quin dynasty then followed and ruled until 206BCE. This dynasty was when China's first emperor ruled; Qin Shi Huangdi. He made very strict laws and taxed everyone in China . When he died, rebellions broke out and the Quin dynasty fell. Then a government official called Liu Bang created the Han dynasty which began in 206BCE. Liu Bang organized a civil service to run the empire which was ran by government officials who made sure laws were being followed and collected the taxes.This dynasty was then followed by the Sui dynasty which made many changes to strengthen China. At this time, China became a very wealthy country and the taxes were put down. Emperor Wendi even created a census to count all the people in china. This dynasty ended when Emperor Wendi died and his son received power, he raised the taxes and was eventually assassinated. Then, in 618AD the Tang dynasty ruled which marked a period of great advancement in China. This period of time is referred to as China's golden age because of the great artistic achievements that were made. Using their powerful armies, China expanded north to Korea, south to Vietnam and west to India. The dynasty collapsed in 906AD which brought disorder to China again. A military leader who became known as Taizu founded the Song dynasty in 960 AD. In the 1100s, most of the Song family was put in jail and the Jin dynasty was established. However a son from the Song dynasty fled to the south and began the Southern Song dynasty in 1127AD. Both dynasties were defeated by invading warriors called Mongols who were the first foreign rulers of China. Today, almost 100 years after the rule of the last emperor ended in 1912AD, Chinese civilization continues to influence the world.

The Government of Ancient China
Most of the laws of Ancient China came from the moral teachings written in the legal-code books. The rest of the laws consisted of orders that were handed down by the emperors. It was the duty of the mandarins (important Chinese officials) to teach the laws to the people, who would gather twice a month for this purpose.

The 6 main laws in Ancient China were:
1. Every man must carry duties with obedience.
2. You must always show greatest respect to family ancestors.
3. Avid legal actions as far as possible.
4. Lots of care shown to the people who run the public schools.
5. All people should be reminded of all laws regularly.
6. Control your anger outbursts.

If any laws were broken in Ancient China, the punishments were very severe. The seriousness of each crime determined the form of punishment that would be received. For example, a small crime would result in a beating from a bamboo stick which was considered a very mild punishment. Pick-pockets were branded on the arms for their first and second offenses, while a third offense brought them before the criminal courts. Armed robbery was considered a very serious crime and was punishable by death. Several crimes were punished by banishment which was often for life but sometimes convicted criminals had to pull the royal barges for three years which was a hard and painful job. Criminals could also have their cheeks branded by red-hot irons which left scars on their face. Other people would then see that person in the street and know that they had been convicted of an offense. Crimes against the emperor brought the worst punishments to the accused. They were not allowed any support from their families and all their possessions were taken away from them. If found guilty, they were tortured cruelly and executed the same day.

There were also many family related crimes that were harshly punished. A father was responsible for the conduct of his children and his servants. If they committed any crimes that he could have prevented them from committing he was charged. Stealing from a member of the family was a most serious crime, especially if younger brothers took an inheritance that should have been shared between older brothers or uncles. Any girl who insulted her parents was strangled; if she wounded them she was tortured and cut up into pieces.

Soldiers were usually chosen to be executioners and they were very proud of this because out of everyone the emperor had chosen them to do his dirty work. The executioner would accompany his victim to the torture chamber. He would wear a yellow silk apron and had a sword wrapped in yellow, which showed that he was acting on the orders of the emperor. Executioners prided themselves on being able to decapitate a prisoner without spilling a drop of blood.

Ancient History-China. 2010. Crime and Punishment. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.hi.com.au/resource/rfacts.asp?kla=16&subtopicid=2508. [Accessed 12 September 2013].

Challen, P.C, 2008. Government in the Ancient World. 1st ed. 3 Charles street Coburg north Vic 3058: Crabtree Publishing Company.

Ancient Military. 2006. Ancient China Government. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.ancientmilitary.com/ancient-china-government.htm. [Accessed 12 September 2012].

Anderson, M.A, 2012. Jacaranda Plus. 1st ed. 42 McDougall Street,Milton, Qld 4064: John Wiley and Sons Australia.

Ancient China was ruled by a form of government called the dynasties. This meant that one family controls the government for a period of time over many generations. China was sometimes united under one dynasty but often there were many dynasties who ruled in different regions of china. These families were always competing to gain control over the entire country. When one of these regional dynasties became dominant their king would become the emperor. The first ever emperor of Ancient China was Qin Shi Huangdi who ruled during the Quin dynasty in 221 BCE. Qin divided china into 36 different areas and sent three officials to govern each area. One of the officials organized control of the army, another one organized taxes and laws, while the third checked that all was going to the emperors orders. Qin Shi Huangdi also had an "army" of officials who were organized into ranks each having their own level of power.This system made it possible for people to be promoted to a higher rank through a set system of rewards.
Ancient China's government was based on legalism which was a system that would not tolerate any opposition to the emperors rule. Legalism was also a system of thought, for example, the emperor forbade people to talk about happy memories of life under other rulers and denied them the right to criticize the present. There were very harsh punishments if citizens were caught disobeying the emperors orders.

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