In general, emperors are designated by their posthumous titles. These conventional epithets were chosen to give an idealized image of a deceased sovereign. In one instance, that of the Keng-shih emperor, the form specifies the reign title that the sovereign adopted.


The editors have given great thought to the best way of rendering the titles of officials. Most English works on Han history use the terms that were evolved by H. H. Dubs in his pioneer translations from the Han shu and that have been conveniently listed together by Dr. de Crespigny. However, these terms are by no means ideal. They neither consistently show the internal hierarchies of the Han civil service, nor do they always indicate the chief duties of an office. Some of the terms are borrowed from European society and carry implications alien to Chinese institutions (for example, such terms as grandee or internuncio); others attempt literal translations of the Chinese titles and are either ungainly or misleading for a Western reader, and occasionally lapse into bathos.

In his recent monograph on Han bureaucracy, which for the first time gives a full account of the Han civil service, Professor Bielenstein retained this terminology as a basis and systematically supplemented the original list with a large number of additional terms. His fully documented monograph sets out in detail the history of the various offices, their relationship to one another, and the incumbents’ duties, and is an indispensable aid for the specialist.

This volume, however, is intended for the general reader rather than for the sinologist, and is designed to be self-contained. The prime need is to convey a realistic impression of the working of the imperial governments of the Ch’in and Han.

1 Rafe de Crespigny, Offcial titles of the Former Han dynasy(Canberra,1967).
2 Hans Bielenstein,Tbe bureaucray of Han times (Cambridge,198o).

The editors have come to the conclusion that many of the expressions used in earlier publications are not suitable for this purpose, and have adopted a different set of equivalents. In doing so, they are well aware that they are aiming at the impossible task of reconciling a number of different, and sometimes conflicting, aims. They have nevertheless felt it essential to attempt the task, in the belief that terms such as imperial counsellor and regional commissioner will be more meaningful to the Western reader than grandee secretary and shepherd. They have endeavored to retain accuracy of translation as far as possible, but also to use English renderings that are immediately meaningful without being unduly clumsy or having inappropriate associations for the reader.

In attempting to achieve consistency, the editors have sometimes been faced with a dilemma. The Chinese titles themselves are by no means systematic, and it is not always possible to retain the same English rendering for one and the same Chinese term while simultaneously indicating identity of grade or relationship. In addition, as the function of some offices changed between Former and Later Han without any alteration of their title, it has sometimes been preferable to employ different expressions for one and the same Chinese term when used in the Former and Later Han periods. On the other hand, in a few instances, an official’s title was changed without any alteration in its functions or position in the hierarchy. In such cases, the same English expression is used (both feng-ch’ang and t’ai-ch’ang, for example, are rendered superintendent of ceremonial; Ta-nung-ling and Ta-ssu-nung are both rendered superintendent of agriculture).

In particular contexts, such as the chapters on institutions, the romanized Chinese titles have been added in parentheses after the English equivalent; and in a few cases, where it has proved impossible to coin a suitable English rendering, a literal translation has been retained. These terms appear in the glossary-index and in an alphabetical list that includes both the renderings that are used here and those to be found in previous studies of Han history.

In view of the preferences expressed by some of the contributors, the editors have not insisted on complete consistency in the use of certain terms. Thus, some authors choose to render the term wu-xing as Five Elements, others as Five Phases. It has been thought right to leave those terms as they stand, so that each contributor may use an expression that he or she believes gives a more accurate idea of the original concept.

Dates are rendered conventionally, according to the corresponding date of the Western calendar,³ as if that had been introduced at the time. In some instances, it has been possible and desirable to give these precisely, in terms of the day; more usually, and particularly for Former Han, the primary sources simply record the month. As the calendar used in Ch’in and Han was luni-solar, there is no exact correspondence between the months of the Chinese year and those of a Western solar calendar. Nor do the Chinese and Western years exactly correspond. This is further complicated by changes that were introduced to mark the point when the Chinese year started. Thus, until 13 B.C., the tenth lunar month was taken as the beginning of the calendar year; thereafter (except from A.D. 9 to 23), the first month (cheng yue) was designated for this purpose. As a result, readers should be aware that, for the first century of Former Han, curious anomalies may appear at first sight; for example, events in the months numbered 1 to 9 of a given year actually follow those recorded for the months numbered 10 to 12.

In general, measurements are given in the metric equivalents for Chinese units, but these have been retained in contexts where they are meaningful (for example, in Chapter 10). For references to archaeological finds, measurements are given in the metric form in which they appear in the reports. A separate list of Han weights and measures and their metric equivalents appears on p. xxxviii.

The maps for this volume (with the exception of maps 10 and 11 published previously by Professor Bielenstein) have been prepared on the basis of the historical reconstructions in the most up-to-date historical atlas of China, the Zhongguo lishi dituji, Vol.ⅡI(Shanghai,1975). These maps reconstruct the coastline and drainage networks of Ch’in and Han times and show the administrative centers listed in the geographical monographs of Han shu and Hou-Han shu, giving the provincial administration as it existed in A.D. 2 and A.D. 140, respectively. The administrative boundaries shown in these maps are approximations, but it is unlikely that it will ever be possible to reconstruct them more accurately. The atlas, however, shows external boundaries for Han territory that are certainly exaggerated, and we adopt what seem to be more realistic limits. It should, however, be remembered that there were no external frontiers in the modern sense, and the boundaries shown are merely an approximation of the limits of Han territorial authority. We also follow the lines of the Great Wall in Ch’in and Former Han as shown in the same atlas, although there have been a number of alternative reconstructions. An accurate reconstruction awaits detailed archaeological investigations that have yet to be undertaken.

Ch’in and Han period place names are given in Wade-Giles romanization, with hyphens between syllables (example, Ho-nan). Modern place names are given without hyphens, and employ the generally accepted Post Office spelling for certain provinces and well-known cities (such as Henan, Sichuan, Beijing).

The notes to this volume are intended to ensure that, where appropriate, a reader’s attention is directed to a primary source; and wherever possible, references to Western translations of that source are appended. In addition, the notes cite the principal secondary studies of the topic under discussion. The notes also refer readers to other parts of this volume that are of relevance to the subject under discussion.

In citing the primary sources, the editors have been guided by the following principle. While they have not included a reference for every fact or event that is mentioned, they have endeavored to do so for the more important developments with sufficient frequency to enable readers to follow the accounts of an event in the Standard Histories.

For the first century of Former Han, the two Standard Histories frequently include text that is identical, or nearly identical. While references are not given throughout to both the Shih-chi and the Han shu, sufficient information is provided to enable readers to refer to each of these works. If a translation of a particular chapter has been published, the editors have chosen to cite from the source that is available in this form (for example, references are in general given to Han shu chapter 24, and Swann’s translation, rather than to Shih-chi chapter 30). In addition, preference has sometimes been given to the Han shu for two reasons. First, the arrangement and finish of the chapter of the Han shu is sometimes more complete and clear than that of its parallel in the Shih-chi (for example, Han shu chapters 61 and 96 compare favorably with Shih-chi chapter 123). Second, as the account of the Shih-chi closes shortly after 100 B.C., it has seemed desirable to concentrate on the Han shu, so that a subject which extends over the whole of Former Han may be studied from one and the same source (such as the genealogical tables in Han shu chapters 13 to 19).

References to the Standard Histories are to the punctuated editions recently published by the Chung-hua shu-chü, Peking. While the editors are well aware that more fully annotated editions are often to be preferred, in view of the extra information that these provide, they believe that it is of greater service to readers to refer to these punctuated editions, as it is comparatively easy for those who wish to do so to proceed therefrom to such critical editions as those of Takigawa Kametarō or Wang Xianqian. Chapter numbers of the Hou-Han shu are those of both the punctuated edition and of Wang Xianqian’s Hou-Han shu jizhu. The chapter numbers of the treatises of Xihan ji are distinguished by the inclusion of the note “(tr.).”

In addition to the monographic studies of certain aspects of Ch’in and Han history, there are a great number of scholarly articles dealing with various aspects of Ch’in and Han history. Because a full-scale bibliography setting out all such works would be excessively cumbersome, the list of books and articles in the bibliography to this volume is confined to items cited in the notes to the chapters.

The editors are glad to take this opportunity to thank contributors for their close and careful collaboration and for their patience in awaiting the final outcome of their work. They are particularly grateful for their critical comments and remarks. They also wish to acknowledge the kind assistance of Professor Wang Yuquan of the Academy of Social Sciences, Peking, who read the first half of this volume in draft with meticulous care, and made many suggestions for improvements that have been incorporated in the text. The editors also wish to express their warmest thanks to those assistants without whose help the book would not have been completed; to Steve Jones, for compiling the glossary-index; and to Keith Hazelton and Scott Pearce, for the final editing and preparation of the computerized copy for printing.
They also wish to acknowledge the generosity of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the PepsiCo Foundation, and Mr. Robert Bolling, Jr., whose research grants and gifts, coupled with the very generous support provided by Princeton University, have made the production of this volume possible. The editors are grateful to George Allen and Unwin Hyman for permission to quote from Chinese Ideas of Life and Death by Michael Loewe (pages 64-65, 44-47, 86, and Iso).

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