Rise of Chinese dynasties
- The Zhou Dynasty gave way to the confusion of the Warring States Period, a chaos out of which some foundational Chinese philosophies were formed.
- The Warring States period also resulted in the creation of the first unified Chinese state: the brief and brutal Qin dynasty.
- The Qin dynasty was followed by the long and successful Han Dynasty, which expanded territory, centralized governmental authority, and created a bureaucracy that lasted for two millennia.
The Warring States Period
- Confucianism: Obeying your elders and social superiors is the utmost civic virtue; maintaining morality, respect, and activism is what keeps a society functioning.
- Daoism: Human beings must obey the unyielding will of the universe, literally the dao—the way. Rather than involve themselves in the complex workings of the state, Daoists urged detachment, self-sufficiency, and deliberate ignorance of worldly things.
- Legalism: The state's operations are more important than personal liberty, and adherence to the law is the most important thing. Apply and uphold the law by any means necessary.
The Qin Dynasty
[Historians] hold it a mark of fame to defy the ruler, regard it as lofty to take a dissenting stance, and they lead the lesser officials in fabricating slander. If behaviour such as this is not prohibited, then in upper circles the authority of the ruler will be compromised, and in lower ones cliques will form. Therefore it should be prohibited.I therefore request that all records of the historians other than those of the state of Qin be burned. With the exception of the academicians whose duty it is to possess them, if there are persons anywhere in the empire who have in their possession copies of the Odes, the Documents [Zhou-era texts], or the writings of the hundred schools of philosophy, they shall in all cases deliver them to the governor or his commandant [overseer] for burning. Anyone who ventures to discuss the Odes or Documents shall be executed in the marketplace. Anyone who uses antiquity to criticize the present shall be executed along with his family.from Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty, Vol. 3, 55.
Ordinary people also suffered harsh treatment. Reporting crimes was rewarded, and the lawbreakers, once convicted, were punished severely by execution, hard labour, or mutilation (ranging from cutting off the whiskers to the nose or the left foot). Even perfectly law-abiding people were subject to onerous labour service, and both conscripted and penal labour were used for the building of palaces, roads, canals, imperial tombs, and fortifications [like walls and fortresses]. Several hundred thousand subjects were conscripted to build a huge new palace complex in 212 BC. Even more were drafted to construct the Great Wall. (p. 63)