Law and Community in Early Imperial China: Historiographical Rhetoric and Social Practice
4: The Central Government and the Six Eastern States: A New Perspective from the Qin Qianling Slips
Saturday, March 26, 2022
6:00pm – 7:30pm EST
Location: Conv. Center, Room 316B
National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan
Although the topic of the unification and stabilization of China under the Qin has been the focus of innumerable scholarly enterprises, the political and cultural legacy of each of the defeated warring states within the new empire has only been partially explored. Fortunately, the gradual publication of the Liye Qin wooden slips allows us to shed light on the life of the county of Qianling, in the commandery of Dongting (modern Hunan) and in particular to concentrate on the relationship between its community of immigrants and the central administration. Since the Liye corpus contains several Qin administrative texts that mention the residents’ birthplaces, we are able to investigate the ethnic and social composition of Qianling: Were its inhabitants mainly natives or outsiders? From where and for what purpose did they settle there? And what roles did they play in their community?
This paper illustrates how the Qin government meticulously defined the rights of each member of the immigrant community of Qianling, which comprised non-native officials, soldiers, civilians and criminals. By enforcing the principle of “strong government, weak society,” the Qin administration relied on the junxian system in order to enforce its program of radical military and political centralization. The already tense relationship that characterized the relationship between the central government and local communities in the East seemed to worsen exponentially as the Qin endeavored to extend their capillary control over the remote South. This situation could offer a further explanation for the brevity of their empire.