Power in the Qin Dynasty: Legalism and External Influence over the Decisions and Legacy of the First Emperor of China

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Power in the Qin Dynasty: Legalism and External Influence over the Decisions and Legacy of the First Emperor of China

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Title: Power in the Qin Dynasty: Legalism and External Influence over the Decisions and Legacy of the First Emperor of China
Author: Ouellette, Patrick
Department: Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Dept. of East Asian Studies
Type: Thesis (B.A.)
Issue Date: 2010
Abstract: Li Si (c. 280 BC—208 BC) was one of the most influential people during the short reign of the Qin Dynasty (221 BC—207 BC). He was taught in a Confucian tradition, but upon leaving his native state of Han, adopted Legalist ideas. He used these ideas in his role as advisor to Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of China (r 246 BC—210 BC). Through the use of primary historical and philosophical works, Li Si's role in the shaping of the Qin Dynasty becomes clear. Most of the information concerning Li Si and the Qin Dynasty comes from the Shiji, a historical work written by the historian Sima Qian (c. 145 BC—86 BC) during the Han Dynasty (206 BC—220 AD). The Shiji contains various memorials written by Li Si and delivered to the First Emperor, chief among them a speech advocating the presence of foreigners in Qin and a request for the burning of books throughout the Qin Empire. One of the most important innovations to come out of the Qin Dynasty was the unification of the writing system throughout China, a process which Li Si was instrumental in. The effects of this change can be seen on various stones erected throughout China during the initial years of the Qin Dynasty, the remnants of which have passed into the present as the stele inscriptions of Qin Shi Huang. The last important historical source for information about this time period is the Qin Legal Code. Although they were only recently discovered in 1976, they provide insight into the previously unknown world of Qin law, which was, as reported by Han scholars, very harsh. By examining these primary sources, the role of Li Si and Legalism in the government becomes clear. Legalism emphasized control, so it follows that many of the policy decisions Li Si advocated restricted the rights of the citizens while at the same time putting more power into the hands of the sovereign. By being so influential to the First Emperor, however, Li Si can be remembered as the man behind scenes of the Qin Dynasty, creating innovations that would be remembered as hallmarks of the Qin Dynasty for millennia.
Subject: China -- History -- Qin dynasty, 221-207 B.C.
Subject: China -- Politics and government -- 221 B.C.-220 A.D.
Subject: Qin shi huang, Emperor of China, 259-210 B.C.
Subject: Li, Si, 280?-208 B.C.
Terms of Use: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/
Permanent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10066/5251

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Ouellette, Patrick. "Power in the Qin Dynasty: Legalism and External Influence over the Decisions and Legacy of the First Emperor of China". 2010. Available electronically from http://hdl.handle.net/10066/5251.

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http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/ Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/us/