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    Shelach-Lavi, Gideon 2018. Memory and Agency in Ancient China. p. 28.

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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: March 2008

14 - The Heritage Left to the Empires

Summary

This chapter attempts to identify some of the institutions that were devised and the advances that were achieved principally in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods and with out which no idea of a united empire could have been implemented. In some instances it may be seen how an experiment in administrative or economic practice that was carried out with in the confines of a particular region could later be adopted or adapted to suit the needs of a mighty empire. But it is in no way suggested here that those who initiated such steps so as to control a people or organize its labors saw them as instruments devised to lead toward such a unification.

While the unification of Qin and Han should be seen as a definite break and reaction against the practices of the past, it would be erroneous to judge it as a sudden and immediately effective change. For some time, earlier methods of statecraft and the lessons of the past continued to exert their influence, affected as they had been by the ambitions that many had entertained to exercise power and their struggles to do so in the face of the antagonism of their rivals. Alliances could be formed or abandoned with scant attention to personal integrity; loyalties could shift from master to master as circumstance might require. Only rarely were kings or their senior advisers brought face to face with moral aspects of their behavior. Ideas of what had come to be regarded as the normal policies of princes persisted into imperial times; they may well have accounted for the suspicions that some of the emperors entertained of their immediate followers and supporters, seeing them as potentially disloyal rebels.

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The Cambridge History of Ancient China
  • Online ISBN: 9781139053709
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521470308
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