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Change and Continuity during the
Transcript of Change and Continuity during the
Zhou (1027-256 BCE), Qin (256-202 BCE), and Han (202-220 CE) Dynasties
Political Change Pt. 1
Throughout the history of ancient China, the government was constantly changing. Governments continuously thrived to have the most successful economy, the strongest military, as well as having intellectual and artistic citizens. However, one of the factors that constantly changed was the political structure within China. China was an ancient civilization that was ruled by different dynasties, and dynasties would change if one dynasty took over the ruling one. All these dynasties were ruled by an emperor who was considered the most powerful person of China. Three dynasties that encountered lots of political reformation were the Zhou (1027- 256 BCE), the Qin (256-202 BCE), and the Han dynasty (202-220 CE) (Cranny, 80, 86, 89.) During the Zhou dynasty, territory was divided up into different feudal states (Cranny, 80.) The king would divide the territories and let each territory be governed by a lord, and each lord would have to govern his peasants to help run his territory (Cranny, 80.) By providing the lords with land, the king would get the lords advice and loyalty in times of great need (Cranny 80.) This seemed like the best idea at the time, because the lords started off as loyal friends and family to the emperor. However, eventually this feudal state was one of the factors that led to the downfall of the Zhou dynasty, because lords were constantly fighting for more power (Cranny,80.) To be a citizen with political influence was extremely difficult during the Zhou dynasty, the only way for this to happen was to be born into the role of an important official (if your father was one.) This system is called having a hereditary government (Cranny, 77.) However, during the Han dynasty in 206 C.E. the system changed to one where government power was based on merit not birthright (Cranny, 89.)
Political Change Pt. 2
During the Zhou, Qin, and Han, being in a political position was exclusively reserved for males (Stearns, 65.) During the Zhou dynasty, it was often that men had so much power that they would challenge the emperor for kingship (Stearns, 65.) The Qin dynasty was the next dynasty after the Zhou, and this dynasty took over in 256 BCE, (Cranny, 86.) This dynasty drastically changed the system of government within China. Learning from the mistakes of the Zhou, the Qin decided to abolish all traces of feudalism, because it gave the lords too much power (possibly leading to a revolution.) (Cranny, 86.) However, what remained the same was the centralized form of government (Cranny 86.) This was achieved with the aid of salaried bureaucrats within China, where there was an organized government that would not tolerate rebellion (Stearns, 99.)
Political Pt. 3
The Qin dynasty had a legalist approach to governing China (Stearns, 99), and was against the theory of another popular belief called confucianism. This was for many reasons, but mostly because the opposing belief (confucianism) was based upon virtues, but the Qin believed the best way to rule was by using force and hash laws to control its people (Stearns, 99.) Legalist texts, written by Han Feizi (the philosopher behind legalism) wrote that “The ruler wants people to till the land and maintain pastures to increase production, but they think he is cruel. He imposes heavy penalties to prevent wickedness, but they think he is cruel” (taken from Cranny, Michael. “Pathways: Civilizations through Time” Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice Hall Ginn Canada, 1998, Textbook Page, 84.) This text shows the philosophy behind legalism, which is that (from the perspective of Han Feizi) legalism promotes peace even though the citizens aren’t happy with this method. The leaders of the Qin dynasty believed so strongly with legalism, that the emperor ordered thousands of books (that promoted confucianism) to be burned, as well as ordering many scholars to be assassinated. (Stearns, 99.) When the Qin dynasty was overthrown in 202 BCE, the Han dynasty were the next to become the rulers of China (Cranny, 89.) The laws of the Han dynasty were lenient compared to that of the Qin dynasty (Stearns, 105.) This dynasty was considered to be one that followed the principles of confucianism but had some laws that resembled legalist ideas (Stearns, 105)
Although the government of China was constantly switching dynasties, many features of China remained the same throughout the ancient Chinese empire. However, many fundamental values and beliefs changed as well. The main similarities and differences that changed were the political, religious, social, economic, intellectual, artistic, and nationalistic factors.