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HomeDatabasePH.D & MA thesis
Archaeological study on city sites of the Qin and Han Dynasties
From:Chinese Archaeology  Writer:Xu Longguo  Date:2005-04-28

 

By Xu Longguo  (PH.D)    Supervisor: Liu Qingzhu

Key words:  Qin and Han Dynasties  City sites   Archaeological Study

Abstract:
The Qin and Han dynasties witnessed the establishment of a city hierarchy system based on the centralization of state power, and the emergence of a nationwide city network. The dissertation collects 638 city sites discovered by archaeologists before 2003, and conducts a study on capital cities, prefecture county-level cities, biancheng (cities in the northern and western frontier areas), Koguryo and Western Region (Xiyu) cities. And we also classified them according to different levels and different areas.
In the research, we find that cities in the Qin and Han dynasties inherited the city structure, city institutions and city networks of the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, and these cities had been modified and developed according to the centralization of state power. The capital cities and provincial and county-level cities in Qin and Han dynasties inherited the layout of “Dual City Structure” of the pre-Qin period, and developed the Dual City System into a more standardized neicheng waiguo structure (inner-ring and outer-ring city structure).The establishment of the city system in the Qin and Han dynasties was closely related to the promotion of “prefectures and counties administrative system” (junxianzhi) and the creation of a centralized state power system. Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor in the Chinese history, had committed himself in establishing a new city system, and the system was almost established by mid Han Dynasty. The so-called “Destroy Famous Cities” movement launched by Qin Shi Huang might not be a large-scale city destroying movements as recorded in ancient texts. In fact, the ruin of famous cities of the Warring States Period mainly resulted from war damage and population emigration. The “Building Cities around the Country” policy adopted at the beginning of the Han Dynasty actually meant restoring old cities of the Warring States Period, newly established cities were quite few. By analyzing city sites, we also find that the F-shaped and E-shaped were two main forms of newly established cities in the Han Dynasty, which we call “Han style city”. The Qin Dynasty was the forming period of the Chinese city network, and the main symbol was the establishment of the system of prefectures and counties and the emergence of a transportation network. The creation and development of the city network, with the consolidation of the centralized state power system of the Qin and Han dynasties, and the expansion of the Empire’s territory, indicated the end of the political structure with consanguinity politics as the principal part as of Shang and Zhou Dynasty, and the establishment of the political structure with territorial politics as the principal part.
The functions of the cities in the central area of the Qin and Han dynasties changed significantly. That is, the functions of the cities were transformed from military facilities (“build inner-ring cities to protect the emperor, build outer-ring cities to protect the citizens”) to places where different levels of administrative government agencies affiliated to the central government located. The capital city was the political, economic and cultural center of the whole nation; prefecture  cities, county-level cities and leud-owned cities were local government authority centers. These centers were connected with a transportation network, and a hierarchical administrative system was formed. The density of cities was positively related to the strength of the sovereignty. The Qin and Han empires were both agricultural societies, and urban population was closely related to agriculture. Although handicraft industry and commerce existed in cities, and industry and commerce were highly developed in some cities, yet generally speaking, these cities belonged to political consumption cities.
Due to different geographical environments, national traditions and cultures, the institutions and types of the cities of the minority nationalities in the border areas of the Qin and Han dynasties were distinct with that of the middle areas. Different city types reflected the differences in respects of the influence of the political power of the middle areas, the distribution of the border area nationalities, and the cultural exchanges between different nationalities, etc. The inquiry into the city development history is an important component in understanding the formation of a unified country with multiple nationalities, and it is also an important part of the Chinese civilization history. It is of great realistic significance to the study of civilization origin issue.
According to previous studies, we classify the cities in pre-Qin and Han dynasties into four development stages: from Yangshao Culture to Longshan Era, birth stage; Xia, Shang and Zhou dynasties, establishment stage; the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, transition stage; the Qin and Han dynasties, inheritance and development stage. They are corresponding to wanbang wanguo, kingdoms, zhuhouguo, and empire period in the Chinese ancient history respectively. The Chinese civilization has been developed gradually with cities as the main line. 
In this article, we also undertake an experimental exploration to the water system development, city and geography, climate and environment of the cities of the Qin and Han dynasties. We think that climate and environment have a significant effect on cities. From the perspective of city development history, in the Chinese ancient history, there were three periods in which cities were developing very fast, namely, from Yangshao Culture to Longshan Era, from the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period to the end of West Han Dynasty, and the Sui and Tang dynasties, these three periods were corresponding to three warm periods in climate, respectively. This is not occasional coincidence, but there are intrinsic relations. In history development, we should admit that there is a climate-ecology-economy-society-city chain reaction or feedback mechanism that has a significant effect on the social and history development course.

 
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