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

7 - The structure and practice of government

The system of imperial government evolved during the Ch'in and Han periods was marked by the division of responsibilities, the duplication of some offices, and the organization of civil servants into hierarchies. The principal method of recruiting civil servants was by the recommendation of provincial officials or of senior ministers in the central government. The academy flourished in Later Han, admitting foreigners as well as Chinese. The importance of the secretariat was recognized as early as 46 BC in a telling remark made by the statesman Hsiao Wang-chih. The great majority of the inhabitants of the Ch'in and Han empires lived on the land in villages. Major decisions of state policy depended theoretically on the choice and authority of the emperor, or on that of the empress dowager The government of Ch'in and Han rested on principles enunciated by Shang Yang and Han Fei: that meritorious service must be encouraged by rewards, and infringement of the law must be punished.
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The Cambridge History of China
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