The Qin dynasty created the first unified Chinese empire. They did this by utilizing a legalistic approach to government. The Qin believed that the nature of mankind is inherently evil and only through a strict code of laws with severe punishment could the government achieve reliability and stability. Because the emperor feared the people and the inherent rights and privileges established with the teachings of Confucus, he ordered all books on Confucianism burned and beheaded everyone opposed to the government including their families.
All weapons owned by private citizens were confiscated; the metal from these weapons were used to cast the gigantic metal statutes and bells that adorned the imperial palace. The severe punishment for committing minor offenses, distrust and oppression of the people contributed to the ultimate down fall of the dynasty. Executing an individual for being late to a military formation is an example of the unfairness of the governmental control of the Qin. During this time many roads were built linking the empire with coastal regions.
This included construction of a complex system of locks that connected two rivers separated by the high southern mountains. Another group of several hundred thousand constructed Shihuangdi’s tomb containing precious stones and carvings. All the workers were either executed or buried inside the tomb when it was finished to keep them from revealing the secrets of the tomb. Economy was encouraged and successful businessmen were honored with a position on the imperial court.
Wealthy families were ordered to move to the capital so that the imperial court could keep them under control. Many peasants achieved great success as businessmen and merchants. The standardization of currency and writing, construction of highways, and regulated axle-widths and measurements contributed greatly to the Qin’s centralized economy. After fifteen years of rule this dynasty was overthrown by the Han dynasty. Legalism without the balance of humanism creates fear, low self worth, tension and a displaced value system.
Although the Qin government was condemned for its Totalitarian rule, the Han and later dynasties adopted many of the government institutions established by the Qin. The Imperial authority served as a bureaucracy, an administration of provinces and counties supervised by imperial inspectors and the separation of civil and military branches of the government. The Han dynasty rule represented the high point of Chinese culture in the east. The intellectual and cultural foundations were a powerful influence on Korea, Vietnam and Japan.
In restoring Confucianism to China, the Han government put their faith in the good of humanity. Under this system moral living by the people was paramount in the health of the government. The people were punished fairly (punishment fit the crime) for wrong doing but were encouraged to treat each other fairly, honor your parents, teachers, bosses, and governmental leaders. As an upper class, commoner or slave you were all important to the success of the government.
Strength of the people and increased knowledge were stressed to create a more stable viable society. Each class of people had their place in the government and should not aspire to reach any higher than their current status. The agriculture was important during this time, wheat and millet were grown in northern China and rice was grown wherever farmers could get enough water to do so. Chinese farmers drained swamps, dammed streams and built irrigation canals.
During the reign of the Han dynasty some of the natural and political barriers that separated China from the rest of the world were overcome. Greater commerce and territorial expansion brought the Chinese into contact with new states and people. Merchants passed from China through central Asia to the Parthian kingdom in Persia and the Greek cities on the shores of the Black Sea. Chinese goods, chiefly silks and furs, reached the cities of the Mediterranean via the Silk Road.
In return, The Han received horses from central Asia, glass, ivory, precious stones and fine woolens. The Han created many of the institutions that made China distinctive. They expanded the boundaries of the state, Confucianism was elevated to the official state philosophical-religious system, Buddhism became an important religion, literature and arts flourished and agriculture expanded and with it the size of the population. The harsh laws under the Qin period were rescinded, taxes reduced and almost all the Han territory was placed under imperial rule.
The Chinese and the Greco-Roman Traditions were similar in their dedication to a centralized structured government, development of irrigation systems and their dedication for education. Rome developed into the social, economic and cultural capital of the Mediterranean world. Like China, Rome expanded her borders and the empire included the entire Italian Peninsula and the Mediterranean basin. The Greco -Roman Culture influenced the Western Culture in political system, agriculture, architecture, military training and education as China had done for the eastern Asian Culture.