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In ancient times, China was ruled by several dynasties, at times a single one, but often several competing ones.
During the stone age, the Chinese government consisted of chieftains and other prominent men who would take charge of small villages. During 1800 BC, the Shang dynasty had taken control, and China was united into an empire.
China is the largest economy in the world and is well known for several of its monumental structures and places like the silk road. What do you think the ancient China economy looked like? Did it have different rules and regulations? How was the socio-political situation of China? You will discover all this and more as you read through this article.
If you enjoy this article on ancient China government facts, try reading some of our similar articles on ancient Greece facts and ancient Indian facts too.
Today's China was a completely different place many years back, which is no different from other countries. As time passed, culture and governments both saw development in their own ways. Previously China was controlled by ancient China dynasties, sometimes under one dynasty for a very long time. China had been large even then, and its resources and large populations were equally extensive, demanding a stable and strong government to rule it. From the many dynasties that ruled China, a prominent king would be chosen to become the emperor. You could say the ancient China government was primarily despotic and autocratic, and ruthless in enforcing many rules on the common public. Did you know that China had massive armies ready to combat any potential threat even back then, which is why there are very few foreign invasion stories about China? The Chinese successfully avoided any threat of internal or external rivals, rebellions, and barbarian invasion. Let's dive into some more depths about ancient China's government history to know more!
Confucianism, a popular philosophy, was developed in ancient China that stressed good governance, virtue, and active encouragement to government officials in the form of promotion based on their merit. It also emphasized emperors and the officials to have a moral nature that could put forward a good example in front of others. Still, most of this was only theory and had little practical impact on the governance of any dynasty. These ancient Chinese dynasties were mainly inclined towards a strict and bureaucratic rule.
The ancient Chinese government had an established monarchy type of government where the emperor or king was the supreme power of authority and had an absolute and unchallenged position in the country. An autocratic and despotic monarchy ruled China was several years where several dynasties who were sovereigns of Imperial China formed the government. All these emperors were termed as rulers of all under heaven by their subjects.
The political system of the ancient Chinese government was categorized into provincial administration, state administrative body, and a system for official selection. Three significant aspects of Chinese politics were recorded in Chinese history: the standardization of official designation, the convergence of unity, and the capital priority of monarchy. These systems were incorporated into ancient China's government laws and early supervisory systems from other political systems and local factions of China.
The dynastic rule in China was the culture for about 2000 years where members from the same family ruled and held power for generations. Dynasties from different regions competed to have control over China's vast resources and areas. Often the king of the dominant dynasty was ruthless and implemented various laws to form large military forces. This was, however, also in the best interest of China as it managed to drive away from major barbarian invasions and keep internal conflicts to a minimum. China's first emperor was Qin Shi Huang, but how were political leaders chosen in ancient China civilization? Let's have a look.
There were various systems to elect or select political officials. The Eclectical system was focused on the selective appointment of leaders affiliated within the circle of noble families. This was in archaic societies, which reflected the early times of public participation.
The next was the regular hereditary system where people from good and noble families continued the same profession.
The patriarchal system originated from the Zhou dynasty, wherein the inheritance of power was determined by marital status and blood system. The patriarchal clan system was a privilege system that greatly impacted Chinese culture and generations to come.
Lastly, the Gentry system was formulated by landowning lords who belonged to several prestigious classes of society. This system was popular in the presence of the Jin and Wei dynasties. According to this system, the officials in the privy council were selected according to their family backgrounds. So you can guess the involvement of corruption was pretty much evident here.
Civil service was an essential aspect of different countries in the world, including China. Thousands of civil servants were known to report to the emperor, and the top-ranked ones were ministers reporting directly in the palace. They were pretty wealthy, so a civil servant job was considered a good job that would bring good luck and prosperity to anyone's family.
It was said that to work in the Chinese civil service, a highly qualified education was required to pass the test, and back then, only men were allowed to apply for the position and sit for examinations. Civil services were one of the most decent Chinese jobs at that time, so the competition was very high. You wouldn't believe it, but the chances of passing and landing a job were as low as 1 in 3000!
The emperors from the Han dynasty started the civil service as they realized that running an empire by themselves was not a feasible option. They recognized the need for military, government administrators, and educated ministers to put forward a united front in ruling the Chinese land. Thus the launch of civil services commenced as had been running in the Chinese government for over 2000 years now!
The first time a proper Chinese empire was set up was at the start of 221 BCE, and do you know who started it? The Qin dynasty was officially China's first empire. It lasted from 221 BCE to 207 BCE, but it had lasting effects on various aspects of Chinese governance, starting from military to policies. Let's discover more facts on one of China's most significant dynasties.
It is safe to say that the Qin dynasty was the pioneer in establishing several standardizations in national boundaries and the fundamental administrative practices that subsequent Chinese dynasties followed for almost two millennia. They even documented many regional scripts into one national language. Did you know that China derives its name from this dynasty as Qin is pronounced as Chin?
The feudal system was followed in China, and the Qins originated from one of the feudal states. The Qins existed in a strategic location of Wei river valley somewhere in the northwestern area of the state. Around the end of the second century and middle of the third century, the rules of this dynasty began dividing the state and centralizing power to create a stable and rigid system of law and order. These rules started being applied throughout the country, and their laws divided the state into many prefectures and commanderies, which officials from the central government individually operated. With these changes coming to light, the Qins conquered most of China, turning it into a colossal empire.
In 240 BCE, emperor Ying Zheng ascended the throne. In 221 BCE, Ying Zheng and his minister Li Si concluded the Qin conquests and commemorated the Qin empire. Ying Zheng was called the Qin Shihuangdi (The first sovereign emperor of Qin). The Qins had a very authoritarian and rigid type of government, but they undertook several valuable reforms simultaneously. They standardized the length, width, and weight of highways, abolished feudal privileges, standardized the writing system. What more? Well, they constructed the great wall, too, in 213! The great wall of China was used to connect multiple sections of short walls. Another massive architectural structure was the palace for the first emperor. It had a hall of the state, which was around 1,500 ft (450 m) square. Several medical reforms were introduced by the Qins too.
Qins were responsible for several artistic and technical modifications and standardization in China.
For long Chinese people were ruled by several dynasties such as the Zhou dynasty, Ming dynasty, Han dynasty, Song dynasty, and Qin dynasty. Each dynasty had a famous king who held his own power. Let's see a couple of these emperors, who was the last one and their contribution.
Qin Shi Huang was China's first emperor who founded the Qin dynasty as well. The Quin dynasty was famous as it united China under a single rule in 221 BC. Did you know that the great wall of China was built under the guidance of Qin Shi Huang? The wall, one of the seven wonders, was a humble contribution by the Qin dynasty and other political and economic reforms in China.
Emperor Gaozu of Han was the king responsible for overthrowing the Qin dynasty and starting the Han dynasty. King Gaozu had a humble beginning as a peasant but later led the revolt against the Qin dynasty. He reduced taxes for ordinary citizens and even incorporated Confucianism into his government policies.
Emperor Wu of Han held power as China's king for 57 years, wherein he helped expand China's borders. He held several military campaigns, formulated a stable central government, and encouraged music and poetry in the country.
The Western Han dynasty's Emperor Wudi was another popular ruler known for his supervision in the history department of China.
Emperor Taizong from the Tang dynasty helped his father to start the Tang dynasty. Several written records of history regarded him as one of the best emperors in Chinese history and was an inspiration for many future kings. Taizong executed several economic changes that brought China into the golden era of peace and prosperity.
If you thought the ancient Chinese government was ruled just by men, then you are wrong! Because Empress Wu Zetian was the only woman ruler in China who ruled from 690 AD to 705 AD. In her reign, China flourished in the economic area with various reforms and changes. She was known to encourage and promote officials based on merit and talent. The dynastic rule was lessened in her era.
Kublai Khan was a Mongolian ruler who conquered China and formed the Yuan dynasty in 1271. Kublai ramped up China's infrastructure and developed ties with outside countries for trade. He even bought other cultures and people into China.
Hongwu Emperor founded the Ming dynasty and was known for China's then powerful military. He formulated new laws and even distributed land to peasants. In fact, did you know that the Hongwu Emperor was the one to force the Mongols out of China?
The longest-ruling emperor of China from 1661 AD to 1722 AD was the Kangxi emperor, approximately 61 years. China during his time also flourished and prospered as he expanded the Chinese border too. He even had a dictionary of Chinese characters compiled, which was famous by its name as the Kangxi dictionary.
At last, the ancient Chinese empire was ruled by emperor Puyi of the Qing dynasty and was then overthrown by the Republic of China in 1912. Puyi was also known by the names Henry Ouyi and Xuantong. The Qing dynasty thus ruled last in China.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for ancient China government facts, then why not take a look at ancient Japan facts or ancient Africa facts?
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