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  • Print publication year: 1986
  • Online publication date: March 2008

2 - The Former Han dynasty

The Han dynasty bequeathed to China an ideal and a concept of empire that survived basically intact for two thousand years. Modernist policies derived from the unification of China by Ch'in and the operation of imperial government under the principles of Shang Yang, Shen Pu-hai, and Han Fei. The first century of the Han empire witnessed the implementation, modification, or extension of these policies in a number of ways. The imperial institutions and intellectual framework of the Han empire were evolved and modified as a result of controversy, violence, or rebellion. Ch'en She and Wu Kuang are named as the two men who were the first to challenge the authority of the Ch'in empire. The major difference between the systems of government of Ch'in and Han lay in the organization of the provinces. During the last fifty years of the Former Han period, foreign policy was marked at times by a refusal to engage potential enemies.
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