Communication and Cooperation in Early Imperial China: Publicizing the Qin Dynasty (SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture)
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Challenges traditional views of the Qin dynasty as an oppressive regime by revealing cooperative aspects of its governance.
This revealing book challenges longstanding notions of the Qin dynasty, China’s first imperial dynasty (221–206 BCE). The received history of the Qin dynasty and its founder is one of cruel tyranny with rule through fear and coercion. Using a wealth of new information afforded by the expansion of Chinese archaeology in recent decades as well as traditional historical sources, Charles Sanft concentrates on cooperative aspects of early imperial government, especially on the communication necessary for government. Sanft suggests that the Qin authorities sought cooperation from the populace with a publicity campaign in a wide variety of media—from bronze and stone inscriptions to roads to the bureaucracy. The book integrates theory from anthropology and economics with early Chinese philosophy and argues that modern social science and ancient thought agree that cooperation is necessary for all human societies.
“…Charles Sanft proposes a sophisticated reinterpretation of Qin imperial history and political symbolism by looking beyond the immediate pragmatic effects of political measures in order to probe their wider communicative purposes … He doubtless succeeds admirably in his declared aim to undermine the traditional picture of senseless Qin barbarity by offering a way of viewing Qin activities that makes them intelligible instead … Sanft succeeds in an exemplary fashion at utilizing both new evidence and novel approaches. He deserves to be congratulated on both accounts.” — Chinet
image was not important. What these texts propose is the universal projection—creating common knowledge—of the ruler’s political self and, by extension, the united polity he ruled. The “Ritual’s Changes” (“Li yun” 禮運) chapter of Record of Ritual indicates how this would function when it says, “Governance is the means by which the lord hides himself” 政者, 君之所以藏身也. The second-century commentator Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127–200) clarifies, “ ‘Hiding’ means that while he shines brilliantly beyond the court,
blocked, indeed of everyone who was forced to detour around the walls. This would have changed the lives of local residents and most certainly would have gotten their attention. Raised ways were less disruptive, in that they permitted people to pass beneath them. Yet this sort of permanent change to the cityscape could not but have attracted the notice of those living there. And ritual experts like Shusun Tong cannot have been the only ones who interpreted the position of the skyways above as one
phrase fa duliang in this way particularly because of texts like the “Jin di ming” 金狄銘 (see later), which have fa and duliang in proximity but clearly separated (although the “Jin di ming” refers to falü). Cf. Chen Zhi, Shiji xinzheng 史記新證 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2006), 19–20 on a relevant passage, where du 度 and heng 衡 refer to length and weight relatively, though as Zhang Wenzhi, 29–30, says, these should be understood as metonymy for measures generally there as well. Wang Hui, 119–21, argues
Zhou li zhushu, 26.11a–12b, 36.3b–5b; see also Zheng Xuan’s commentary at Zhouli zhushu, 26.12a, and Sun Yirang, Zhou li zhengyi 周禮正義 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1987), 68.2848. 54. Yi Zhou shu, Sbby, 4.9b. 55. Cf. related regulations in Charles Sanft, “Edict of Monthly Ordinances for the Four Seasons in Fifty Articles from 5 C.E.: Introduction to the Wall Inscription Discovered at Xuanquanzhi, with Annotated Translation,” Early China 32 (2008–2009): 125–208. 56. This summarizes from Susan
47–71; Rowe, “Receiver Psychology and the Evolution of Multicomponent Signals”; Brashier, Ancestral Memory. 45. Sosis, “Religious Behaviors, Badges, and Bans.” 46. Pascal Boyer, “Functional Origins of Religious Concepts: Ontological and Strategic Selection in Evolved Minds,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.) 6 (2000): 195–214; Pascal Boyer and Charles Ramble, “Cognitive Templates for Religious Concepts: Cross-Cultural Evidence for Recall of Counter-Intuitive