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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Program of Standardization in Ancient China

A Program of Standardization
Walls, canals, and roads helped unite China. So, too, did Shi Huangdi's program of standardization. Standardization means making all things of a certain type alike.
The use of standardized coins, weights, and writing helped make trade and communication easier throughout China. Use of the same standards also helped the many peoples of the empire think of themselves as one.

Writing was also standardized in China during the time of the Qin. There were two official kinds of Chinese writing. One kind of writing was used for stone carvings and official documents. Another kind was used for everyday writing.

Education became another focus of standardization. Shi Huangdi wanted tight control of all the books used to teach. Li Si complained that too many books praised the Zhou and questioned the ideas of the Qin. In 213 B.C. Shi Huangdi ordered the burning of certain books. Many of the books destroyed were about Confucianism. Legends say that teachers who refused to give up their Confucian writings were taken prisoner and buried alive.

As part of his program of standardization, Shi Huangdi also did away with the fiefs created during the Zhou dynasty. The smaller ones became counties. The larger ones became provinces. Provinces are political regions of a country, similar to the states of the United States.

Shi Huangdi ordered the noble families who had owned the fiefs to move to Xianyang, the Qin Empire's capital. This forced move helped end any loyalty peasants had felt toward their nobles. In addition, Shi Huangdi made it illegal for people not in the army to carry weapons. Any weapons that did not belong to the army were collected and melted down.

Shi Huangdi then appointed government officials to run the counties and provinces. These officials reported directly to the central government in Xianyang. In this way, the Qin created a single bureaucracy for the entire empire. To support this bureaucracy, the people of China were required to pay heavy taxes.

What were some things that were standardized during the time of the Qin dynasty?


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