China’s First Empire

Dynastic Cycle: Confucian Historians saw a pattern in 3 stages – “mandate of heaven”
– stage one: wars that eventually lead to unification
– proof that heaven has given the unifier the right to rule
– the ruler consolidate  his power, restores peace, & economic growth follows
– the peak of the cycle is marked by public works & military expansion
– the country (China) appears invincible
– stage two: cycle turns downward
– costs of expansion & and extravagance in court/government cause heavy taxes
– energy of ruler pales (slows)
– corruption & gossip in court/government
– stage three: public works are in disrepair, floods, disease, rebellions, collapse
– the last stage is also marked by a loss of morals in the court/government

Former Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 8 CE)
– rose after the rebellions of the Ch’in (stage one)
– (stage two) Wu Ti (emperor) brought new economic policies, built canals, established granaries for surplus grain, increased taxes on merchants, created government monopolies (salt, copper coins, iron & liquor)
– Debate on monopolies after Wu Ti’s death: “Salt & Iron Debate”
– Legalists said: state should enjoy profits from salt & iron
– Confucians said: leave resources in private hands for moral purity (government would be corrupted by dealings with merchants)
– Confucian ideas begin to influence the legalists (emperors see Confucian scholars as bookish)
– Confucian ideas shaped the moral of men w/o external restraints (punishment)
– Confucius taught a true gentlemen is in touch with his own basic nature / which is part of the cosmic order
– Education should uncover and cultivate the innate goodness
– Emperor is “Son of Heaven” – common people follow
– Eunuchs were brought in from the lower classes and castrated – servants to  the emperor’s harem – in contact with the emperor from the day he was born & became childhood confidants
– Third stage: decline – military expenses were more than treasury / large landowners avoided paying taxes / taxes fell to small landowners & peasants / weak emperors given to intrigue & nepotism / famine & Yellow River overflowed & changed its course destroying irrigation system = no longer the mandate of heaven
– Emperor was killed and eaten by the rebellious