Politics in Classical Civilizations: Part I—Written Documents



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WHAP DOCUMENT PACKET #2: Politics in Classical Civilizations



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Politics in Classical Civilizations: Part I—Written DocumentsDelete

States, empires, and their rulers are surely not the whole story of the human past, although historians have sometimes treated them as though they were. But they are important, because their actions shaped the lives of many millions of people. The city-states of ancient Greece, the Roman Empire, the emerging Chinese empire of the Qin dynasty, and the Indian Empire of the Mauryan dynasty—these were among the impressive political structures of the classical era in Eurasia. Rulers seeking to establish or maintain their authority mobilized a variety of ideas to give legitimacy to their regimes. Reflection on political authority was a central issue in the discourse of educated people all across classical Eurasia. In the documents that follow, four contemporary observers—two rulers and two scholars—describe some of the political institutions and ideas that operated within Mediterranean, Chinese, and Indian civilizations.

Document #1: Governing a Chinese Empire

As the Roman Empire was taking shape in the Mediterranean basin, a powerful Chinese empire emerged in East Asia. More than in the Roman world, the political ideas and practices of classical China drew on the past. The notion of China as a unified state ruled by a single sage/emperor who mediated between heaven and the human realm had an ancient pedigree. After a long period of political fragmentation, known as the era of warring states, such a unified Chinese state took shape once again during the short-lived Qin dynasty (221–206 b.c.e.), led by its formidable ruler Qin Shihuangdi. That state operated under a version of Legalism, a political philosophy that found expression in the writings of Han Fei (280–233 b.c.e.) and that in large measure guided the practices of Shihuangdi and the Qin dynasty. Han Fei’s Legalist thinking was discredited by the brutality and excesses of Shihuangdi’s reign, and the Han dynasty that followed was sharply critical of his ideas, favoring instead the “government by morality” approach of Confucianism. Nonetheless, Han Fei’s emphasis on the importance of laws and the need to enforce them influenced all succeeding Chinese dynasties.


Consider these questions as you read:

  1. Consider these questions as you read the document on the following page. When you are finished, click the Document Questions link at the end of the document to respond.

1. Why is Han Fei’s approach to governing China referred to as Legalism? According to him, what is required for effective government?

  1. What are the “two handles”?

  2. To whom does Han Fei believe his measures should apply?

  3. What view of human nature underpins Han Fei’s argument?

The Writings of Master Han Fei (3rd century B.C.E.)

No country is permanently strong. Nor is any country permanently weak. If conformers to law are strong, the country is strong; if conformers to law are weak, the country is weak….

Any ruler able to expel private crookedness and uphold public law, finds the people safe and the state in order; and any ruler able to expunge private action and act on public law, finds his army strong and his enemy weak. So, find out men following the discipline of laws and regulations, and place them above the body of officials. Then the sovereign cannot be deceived by anybody with fraud and falsehood….

Therefore, the intelligent sovereign makes the law select men and makes no arbitrary promotion himself. He makes the law measure merits and makes no arbitrary regulation himself. In consequence, able men cannot be obscured, bad characters cannot be disguised; falsely praised fellows cannot be advanced, wrongly defamed people cannot be degraded. To govern the state by law is to praise the right and blame the wrong.

The law does not fawn on the noble…. Whatever the law applies to, the wise cannot reject nor can the brave defy. Punishment for fault never skips ministers, reward for good never misses commoners. Therefore, to correct the faults of the high, to rebuke the vices of the low, to suppress disorders, to decide against mistakes, to subdue the arrogant, to straighten the crooked, and to unify the folkways of the masses, nothing could match the law. To warn the officials and overawe the people, to rebuke obscenity and danger, and to forbid falsehood and deceit, nothing could match penalty. If penalty is severe, the noble cannot discriminate against the humble. lf law is definite, the superiors are esteemed and not violated. If the superiors are not violated, the sovereign will become strong and able to maintain the proper course of government. Such was the reason why the early kings esteemed Legalism and handed it down to posterity. Should the lord of men discard law and practice selfishness, high and low would have no distinction.

The means whereby the intelligent ruler controls his ministers are two handles only. The two handles are chastisement and commendation. What are meant by chastisement and commendation? To inflict death or torture upon culprits is called chastisement; to bestow encouragements or rewards on men of merit is called commendation.



Respond to the Document Questions. Ministers are afraid of censure and punishment but fond of encouragement and reward. Therefore, if the lord of men uses the handles of chastisement and commendation, all ministers will dread his severity and turn to his liberality. The villainous ministers of the age are different. To men they hate they would, by securing the handle of chastisement from the sovereign, ascribe crimes; on men they love they would, by securing the handle of commendation from the sovereign, bestow rewards. Now supposing the lord of men placed the authority of punishment and the profit of reward not in his hands but let the ministers administer the affairs of reward and punishment instead; then everybody in the country would fear the ministers and slight the ruler, and turn to the ministers and away from the ruler. This is the calamity of the ruler’s loss of the handles of chastisement and commendation.

Document #2: In Praise of Athenian Deomcracy

The Greeks of Athens generated political ideas that have long been celebrated in the West, although they were exceptional even in the small world of classical Greece. The most well-known expression of praise for Athenian democracy comes from Pericles, the most prominent Athenian leader during the fifth century b.c.e. Sometimes called the “first citizen of Athens,” Pericles initiated the grand building projects that still grace the Acropolis and led his city in its military struggles with archrival Sparta. To his critics, he was a populist, manipulating the masses to enhance his own power, and an Athenian imperialist whose aggressive policies ultimately ruined the city. His famous speech in praise of Athens was delivered around 431–430 b.c.e. at the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War against Sparta. The setting was a public funeral service for Athenian citizens who had died in that conflict. Pericles’ oration was recorded by the Greek historian Thucydides, who was probably present at that event.


Consider these questions as you read:

  1. Consider these questions as you read the document on the following page. When you are finished, click the Document Questions link at the end of the document to respond.

1. How does Pericles describe Athenian democracy?

  1. Does his argument for democracy derive from fundamental principles, such as human equality, or from the practical benefits that derive from such a system of government?

  2. What kind of citizens does he believe democracy produces? Keep in mind that not everyone shared this idealized view of Athenian democracy. How might critics have responded to Pericles’ arguments?

  3. Although Pericles praised Athenian military prowess, his city lost the Peloponnesian War. In what ways does this affect your assessment of his arguments?

Pericles: Funeral Oration (431–430 b.c.e.)

Our form of government does not enter into rivalry with the institutions of others. We do not copy our neighbors, but are an example to them. It is true that we are called a democracy, for the administration is in the hands of the many and not of the few. But while the law secures equal justice to all alike in their private disputes, the claim of excellence is also recognized; and when a citizen is in any way distinguished, he is preferred to the public service, not as a matter of privilege, but as the reward of merit. Neither is poverty a bar, but a man may benefit his country whatever be the obscurity of his condition. There is no exclusiveness in our public life, and in our private intercourse we are not suspicious of one another, nor angry with our neighbor if he does what he likes…. While we are thus unconstrained in our private intercourse, a spirit of reverence pervades our public acts; we are prevented from doing wrong by respect for the authorities and for the laws….

And we have not forgotten to provide for our weary spirits many relaxations from toil; we have regular games and sacrifices throughout the year; our homes are beautiful and elegant; and the delight which we daily feel in all these things helps to banish melancholy. Because of the greatness of our city the fruits of the whole earth flow in upon us; so that we enjoy the goods of other countries as freely as of our own.

Then, again, our military training is in many respects superior to that of our adversaries. Our city is thrown open to the world, and we never expel a foreigner or prevent him from seeing or learning anything of which the secret if revealed to an enemy might profit him. We rely not upon management or trickery, but upon our own hearts and hands. And in the matter of education, whereas they from early youth are always undergoing laborious exercises which are to make them brave, we live at ease, and yet are equally ready to face the perils which they face….

For we are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness…. To avow poverty with us is no disgrace; the true disgrace is in doing nothing to avoid it. An Athenian citizen does not neglect the state because he takes care of his own household; and even those of us who are engaged in business have a very fair idea of politics. We alone regard a man who takes no interest in public affairs, not as a harmless; but as a useless character; and if few of us are originators, we are all sound judges of a policy. The great impediment to action is, in our opinion, not discussion, but the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussion preparatory to action. For we have a peculiar power of thinking before we act and of acting too, whereas other men are courageous from ignorance but hesitate upon reflection. And they are surely to be esteemed the bravest spirits who, having the clearest sense both of the pains and pleasures of life, do not on that account shrink from danger….

To sum up: I say that Athens is the school of Hellas, and that the individual Athenian in his own person seems to have the power of adapting himself to the most varied forms of action with the utmost versatility and grace….



Respond to the Document Questions.For we have compelled every land and every sea to open a path for our valor, and have everywhere planted eternal memorials of our friendship and of our enmity. Such is the city for whose sake these men nobly fought and died; they could not bear the thought that she might be taken from them; and every one of us who survive should gladly toil on her behalf.

Document # 3: In Praise of the Roman Empire

By the second century c.e. the Roman Empire, now encompassing the Mediterranean basin and beyond, was in its glory days. With conquest largely completed, the pax Romana (Roman peace) generally prevailed and commerce flourished, as did the arts and literature. The empire enjoyed a century (96–180 c.e.) of autocratic but generally benevolent rule. In 155 c.e. a well-known scholar and orator from the city of Smyrna on the west coast of Anatolia (present-day Turkey) arrived for a visit to the imperial capital of Rome. He was Aelius Aristides (ca. 117–181 c.e.), a widely traveled Greek-speaking member of a wealthy landowning family whose members had been granted Roman citizenship several decades earlier. While in Rome, Aristides delivered to the imperial court and in front of the emperor, Antonius, a formal speech of praise and gratitude, known as a panegyric, celebrating the virtues and achievements of the Roman Empire.


Consider these questions as you read:

  1. Consider these questions as you read the document on the following page. When you are finished, click the Document Questions link at the end of the document to respond.

  1. What did Aristides identify as the unique features of the Roman Empire? Which of these features in particular may have given the empire a measure of legitimacy in the eyes of its many subject peoples? What other factors, unmentioned by Aristides, may have contributed to the maintenance of Roman authority?

  2. What does Aristides mean by referring to the empire as a “common democracy of the world”?

  3. Why might Aristides, a Greek-speaking resident of a land well outside the Roman heartland, be so enamored of the empire?

  4. To what extent does Aristides’ oration provide evidence for the development of a composite Greco-Roman culture and sensibility within the Roman Empire?

AELIUS ARISTIDES: The Roman Oration (155 C.E.)

A certain prose writer said about Asia that one man “rules all as far as is the course of the sun,” untruly, since he excluded all Africa and Europe from the sun’s rising and setting. [This refers to the Persian Empire.] But now it has turned out to be true that the course of the sun and your possessions are equal…. [N]or do you rule within fixed boundaries, nor does another prescribe the limits of your power….

About the [Mediterranean] sea the continents [Africa, Asia, and Europe] lie…ever supplying you with products from those regions. Here is brought from every land and sea all the crops of the seasons and the produce of each land, river and lake, as well as the arts of the Greeks and barbarians…. So many merchant ships arrive here…that the city is like a factory common to the whole earth. It is possible to see so many cargoes from India and even from [southern] Arabia…. Your farmlands are Egypt, Sicily, and all of [North] Africa which is cultivated. The arrival and departure of ships never stops….

Although your empire is so large and so great, it is much greater in its good order than in its circumference…. [Nor] are local officials fighting against one another, as if they had no king; nor do some cities side with these and others with those…. But like the enclosure of a courtyard, cleansed of every disturbance, a circle encompasses your empire…. All everywhere are equally subjects….

You are the only ones ever to rule over free men…. [Y]ou govern throughout the whole inhabited world as if in a single city…. You appoint governors…for the protection and care of their subjects, not to be their masters…. And here there is a great and fair equality between weak and powerful, obscure and famous, poor and rich and noble…. To excel the barbarians in wealth and power, while surpassing the Greeks in knowledge and moderation, seems to me to be an important matter….

You have divided into two parts all the men of your empire…and everywhere you have made citizens all those who are the more accomplished, noble, and powerful people, even if they retain their native affinities, while the remainder you have made subjects and the governed. And neither does the sea nor a great expanse of intervening land keep one from being a citizen, nor here are Asia and Europe distinguished. But all lies open to all men…. There has been established a common democracy of the world, under one man, the best ruler and director….

You have divided people into Romans [citizens] and non-Romans [subjects]…[M]any in each city are citizens of yours…and some of them have not even seen this city…. There is no need of garrisons…, but the most important and powerful people in each place guard their countries for you…. Yet no envy walks in your empire…. [T]here has arisen a single harmonious government which has embraced all men.

[Y]ou have established a form of government such as no one else of mankind has done…. Your government is like a mixture of all the constitutions [democracy, aristocracy, monarchy] without the inferior side of each…. Therefore whenever one considers the power of the people and how easily they attain all their wishes and requests, he will believe that it is a democracy…. But when he considers the Senate deliberating and holding office, he will believe there is no more perfect aristocracy than this. But when he has considered the overseer and president of all these [the emperor], he sees in this man the possessor of the most perfect monarchy, free of the evils of the tyrant and greater than the dignity of the king… Respond to the Document Questions.

And the whole inhabited world, as it were attending a national festival, has laid aside…the carrying of weapons and has turned…to adornments and all kinds of pleasures…. Everything is full of gymnasiums, fountains, gateways, temples, handicrafts, and schools…and a boundless number of games…. Now it possible for both Greek and barbarian…to travel easily wherever he wishes…. [I]t is enough for his safety that he is a Roman or rather one of those under you.

DOCUMENT #4: Governing an Indian Empire

Among the rulers of the classical era, Ashoka, of India’s Mauryan dynasty (reigned 268–232 b.c.e.), surely stands out, both for the personal transformation he experienced and for the benevolent philosophy of government that he subsequently articulated. Ashoka’s career as emperor began in a familiar fashion—ruthless consolidation of his own power and vigorous expansion of the state’s frontiers. A particularly bloody battle against the state of Kalinga marked a turning point in his reign. Apparently repulsed by the destruction, Ashoka converted to Buddhism and turned his attention to more peaceful and tolerant ways of governing his huge empire. His edicts and advice, inscribed on rocks and pillars throughout his realm, outlined this distinctive approach to imperial governance.

The following document provides samples of instructions from Ashoka, who is referred to as King Piyadasi, or the Beloved of the Gods. The term dhamma, used frequently in edicts of Ashoka, refers to the “way” or the “truth” that is embodied in religious teachings.

Although Ashoka’s reputation as an enlightened ruler has persisted to this day, his policies ultimately were not very successful. Shortly after Ashoka’s death, the Mauryan Empire broke apart into a more common Indian pattern of competing regional states that rose and fell with some regularity. Of course Shihuangdi’s much harsher Legalist policies were also unsuccessful, at least in maintaining his dynasty, which lasted a mere fifteen years.


Consider these questions as you read:

  1. Consider these questions as you read the document on the following page. When you are finished, click the Document Questions link at the end of the document to respond.

  1. How would you describe Ashoka’s philosophy of state?

  2. How might Han Fei have responded to Ashoka’s ideas?

  3. What specific changes did Ashoka make in state policies and practices?

  4. Can you think of practical reasons why he might have adopted these policies? Did he entirely abandon the use of harsher measures?

  5. How might this outcome affect your assessment of Ashoka?

  6. What does this suggest about the relationship between political philosophies and the success or longevity of political systems?

Ashoka—The Rock Edicts (268-232 B.C.E.)

Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, conquered the Kalingas eight years after his coronation. One hundred and fifty thousand were deported, one hundred thousand were killed, and many more died [from other causes]. After the Kalingas had been conquered, Beloved-of-the-Gods came to feel a strong inclination towards the Dhamma, a love for the Dhamma and for instruction in Dhamma. Now Beloved-of-the-Gods feels deep remorse for having conquered the Kalingas….

Now Beloved-of-the-Gods thinks that even those who do wrong should be forgiven where forgiveness is possible.

Even the forest people, who live in Beloved-of-the-Gods’ domain, are entreated and reasoned with to act properly. They are told that despite his remorse Beloved-of-the-Gods has the power to punish them if necessary, so that they should be ashamed of their wrong and not be killed. Truly, Beloved-of-the-Gods desires non-injury, restraint, and impartiality to all beings, even where wrong has been done.

Now it is conquest by Dhamma that Beloved-of-the-Gods considers to be the best conquest….

I have had this Dhamma edict written so that my sons and great-grandsons may not consider making new conquests, or that if military conquests are made, that they be done with forbearance and light punishment, or better still, that they consider making conquest by Dhamma only, for that bears fruit in this world and the next. May all their intense devotion be given to this which has a result in this world and the next.

1. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice…. Formerly, in the kitchen of Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day to make curry. But now with the writing of this Dhamma edict only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer are killed, and the deer not always. And in time, not even these three creatures will be killed.

2…. [E]verywhere has Beloved-of-the-Gods…made provision for two types of medical treatment: medical treatment for humans and medical treatment for animals. Wherever medical herbs suitable for humans or animals are not available, I have had them imported and grown…. Along roads I have had wells dug and trees planted for the benefit of humans and animals.

3. Everywhere in my domain the [royal officers] shall go on inspection tours every five years for the purpose of Dhamma instruction and also to conduct other business. Respect for mother and father is good, generosity to friends, acquaintances, relatives, Brahmans and ascetics is good, not killing living beings is good, moderation in spending and moderation in saving is good.

4. In the past, for many hundreds of years, killing or harming living beings and improper behavior toward relatives, and improper behavior toward Brahmans and ascetics has increased. But now due to Beloved-of-the-Gods’ Dhamma practice, the sound of the drum [for announcing the punishment of criminals] has been replaced by the sound of the Dhamma. The sighting of heavenly cars, auspicious elephants, bodies of fire, and other divine sightings has not happened for many hundreds of years. But now because Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, promotes restraint in the killing and harming of living beings, proper behavior towards relatives, Brahmans and ascetics, and respect for mother, father and elders, such sightings have increased.

5. In the past there were no [officers of the Dhamma] but such officers were appointed by me thirteen years after my coronation. Now they work among all religions for the establishment of Dhamma…. They work among soldiers, chiefs, Brahmans, householders, the poor, the aged and those devoted to Dhamma—for their welfare and happiness—so that they may be free from harassment. They…work for the proper treatment of prisoners, towards their unfettering…. They are occupied everywhere….

7. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, desires that all religions should reside everywhere, for all of them desire self-control and purity of heart.

8. In the past kings used to go out on pleasure tours during which there was hunting and other entertainment. But ten years after Beloved-of-the-Gods had been coronated, he went on a tour to Sambodhi (the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment) and thus instituted Dhamma tours. During these tours, the following things took place: visits and gifts to Brahmans and ascetics, visits and gifts of gold to the aged, visits to people in the countryside, instructing them in Dhamma….

http://ebooks.bfwpub.com/strayer1e/pics/check_icon.gifRespond to the Document Questions.

12. Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, honors both ascetics and the householders of all religions, and he honors them with gifts and honors of various kinds…. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought “Let me glorify my own religion,” only harms his own religion. Therefore contact [between religions] is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others.



ANALYSIS: Comparing China, India & the Mediterranean Using Documents 1-4

http://ebooks.bfwpub.com/strayer1e/pics/check_icon.gifRespond to the Questions.

  1. Making comparisons: How would you describe the range of political thinking and practice expressed in these documents? What, if any, common elements do these writings share? Another approach to such a comparison is to take the ideas of one writer and ask how they might be viewed by several of the others. For example, how might Pericles, Aristides, and Han Fei have responded to Ashoka?

  2. Considering variation within civilizations: You will notice that none of these civilizations practiced a single philosophy of government. Athens was governed very differently from Sparta, the practices of the Roman Empire differed substantially from those of the Republic, Legalism and Confucianism represented alternative approaches to Chinese political life, and Ashoka’s ideas broke sharply with prevailing practice of Indian rulers. How can you account for these internal differences? How might you imagine an internal dialogue between each of these writers and their likely domestic critics?

  3. Comparing ancient and modern politics: What enduring issues of political life do these documents raise? What elements of political thinking and practice during the classical era differ most sharply from those of the modern world of the last century or two? What are the points of similarity?

  4. Distinguishing “power” and “authority”: Some scholars have made a distinction between “power,” the ability of rulers to coerce their subjects into some required behavior, and “authority,” the ability of those rulers to persuade their subjects to obey voluntarily by convincing them that it is proper, right, or natural to do so. What appeals to “power” and “authority” can you find in these documents? How does the balance between them differ among these documents?

  5. Noticing point of view: From what position and with what motivation did these writers compose their documents? How did this affect what they had to say?


Politics in Classical Civilizations: Part II—Visual DocumentsDelete

DOCUMENT #5: Qin Shihuangdi and China’s Eternal Empire

In the vast saga of empire building in world history, few rulers have surpassed China’s so-called First Emperor, Qin Shihuangdi (reigned 221–210 b.c.e.), in terms of imperial ambition. During his life, Shihuangdi forcefully and violently brought unity to the warring states of China with policies that were as brutal as they were effective. That achievement gained him the respect of many Chinese in the centuries that followed. No less a figure than Mao Zedong, the twentieth-century communist revolutionary, proudly compared himself to the First Emperor. But Shihuangdi was widely hated in his own time and subject to numerous attempts at assassination, while Confucian scholars in the centuries that followed his death were also highly critical of his brutal methods of governing China.

No artistic images of Shihuangdi survive from the time of his reign, but he was the subject of many paintings in later centuries. Document 5, dating from the eighteenth century, depicts a famous scene from his reign, when he allegedly ordered the burning of books critical of his policies and the execution of respected Confucian scholars by burying hundreds of them alive.

However his reign may have been evaluated, Shihuangdi’s conception of the empire he created was grand indeed. It was to be a universal or cosmic empire. In tours throughout his vast realm, he offered sacrifices to the various spirits, bringing them, as well as the rival kingdoms of China, into a state of unity and harmony. One of the inscriptions he left behind suggested the scope of his reign: “He universally promulgated the shining laws, gave warp and woof to all under heaven.”16 Shihuangdi saw himself in the line of ancient sage kings, who had originally given order to the world.


Consider these questions as you look at the image below:

  1. Look at the image below.















































































































































































click here to respond to the questions.

  1. What signs of imperial authority are apparent in the painting?

  2. What impression of the First Emperor does this painting convey? Do you think the artist sought to celebrate or criticize Shihuangdi?

  3. What accusations against Shihuangdi might arise from the action depicted?

visual source 4.1
Document #6: Qin’s Terra Cotta Army

In Shihuangdi’s thinking, that empire was not only universal, encompassing the entire world known to him, but also eternal. The emperor vigorously pursued personal immortality, seeking out pills, herbs, and potions believed to convey eternal life and sending expeditions to the mythical Isles of the Immortals, thought to lie off the east coast of China. But the most spectacular expression of the eternal character of his empire lay in a vast tomb complex constructed during his lifetime near the modern city of Xian.

In early 1974, some Chinese peasants digging a well stumbled across a small corner of that complex, leading to what has become perhaps the most celebrated archeological discovery of the twentieth century. In subsequent and continuing excavations, archeologists have uncovered thousands of life-size ceramic statues of soldiers of various ranks, arrayed for battle and equipped with real weapons. Other statues portrayed officials, acrobats, musicians, wrestlers, horses, bronze chariots, birds, and more—all designed to accompany Shihuangdi into the afterlife.

This amazing discovery, however, was only a very small part of an immense tomb complex covering some fifty-six square kilometers and centered on the still-unexcavated burial mound of Shihuangdi. Begun in 246 b.c.e. and still incomplete when Shihuangdi died in 210 b.c.e., the construction of this gigantic complex was described by the great Chinese historian Sima Qian about a century later:

As soon as the First Emperor became king of Qin, excavations and building had been started at Mount Li, while after he won the empire, more than 700,000 conscripts from all parts of the country worked there. They dug through three subterranean streams and poured molten copper for the outer coffin, and the tomb was filled with…palaces, pavilions, and offices as well as fine vessels, precious stones, and rarities. Artisans were ordered to fix up crossbows so that any thief breaking in would be shot. All the country’s streams, the Yellow River and the Yangtze were reproduced in quicksilver [mercury] and by some mechanical means made to flow into a miniature ocean. The heavenly constellations were above and the regions of the earth below. The candles were made of whale oil to insure the burning for the longest possible time. Buried with Shihuangdi were many of the workers who had died or were killed during construction as well as sacrificed aristocrats and concubines.

This massive project was no mere monument to a deceased ruler. In a culture that believed the living and the dead formed a single community, Shihuangdi’s tomb complex was a parallel society, complete with walls, palaces, cemeteries, demons, spirits, soldiers, administrators, entertainers, calendars, texts, divination records, and the luxurious objects appropriate to royalty. The tomb mound itself was like a mountain, a geographic feature that in Chinese thinking was home to gods, spirits, and immortals. From this mound, Shihuangdi would rule forever over his vast domain, although invisible to the living.

The visual sources that follow provide a small sample of the terra-cotta army that protected that underground world, as it has emerged from the excavations of the past several decades. The largest pit is now covered with a canopy and conveys something of the massive size of this undertaking. Located about a mile east of Shihuangdi’s burial mound, this ceramic army, replete with horses and chariots, faced the pass in the mountains from which enemies might be expected. Some six thousand terra-cotta figures have been uncovered and painstakingly pieced together in this pit alone.
Consider these questions as you look at the images:


  1. Look at the image below. T



click here to respond to the questions.

  1. How do you suppose Shihuangdi thought about the function of this “army” in the larger context of his tomb complex?

  2. What kind of organizational effort would be required to produce such a ceramic army?

visual source 4.2

visual source 4.3

visual source 4.4

Visual Source 4.4

Terra-Cotta Archer (Museum of the Terra Cotta Army, Xian/Visual Connection Archive)








ANALYSIS: Evaluating China’s “First Emperor”

http://ebooks.bfwpub.com/strayer1e/pics/check_icon.gifRespond to the Questions.

  1. Describing Shihuangdi: Based on these visual sources and what you have learned about Shihuangdi’s tomb complex, how would you characterize him as a ruler and as a man? In what ways did his reign reflect the views of Han Fei?

  2. Evaluating Shihuangdi: What aspects of Shihuangdi’s reign might have provoked praise or criticism both during his life and later?

  3. Making comparisons: In what ways were Shihuangdi’s reign similar to or different from other early rulers? Consider him in relationship to Egyptian pharaohs, Persian rulers, Alexander the Great, Augustus, or Ashoka.

Directory: cms -> lib -> PA09000087 -> Centricity -> Domain -> 162
162 -> Handouts: Ch 5—The Classical Period in a Nutshell (600 B. C. E to 600 C. E) Name Date Period
162 -> Chapter 19 & 20 questions for re view evaluate the following statement: Spanish and Portuguese colonies were extensions of the global network of the West
162 -> The Expansion of Civilization What does is mean to be ‘classic’? A look back…
162 -> Whap handout: ch 4—The Persians & the Greeks Dr. Daughton
162 -> Rise of Agriculture & Origins of Civilization highlights
162 -> Latin america in the late 20th century chapter 32 pg. 762-781
162 -> Making an Arab Empire
162 -> Whap: ch 28/wwi supplemental Reading The Collapse & Recovery of Europe (1914-1970s)
162 -> Whap ch 13 supplemental reading: Coping with China: Comparing Korea, Vietnam, and Japan
162 -> Whap exam review test #6: Post-Modern Period


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