Monday, November 12

Reading:   The Rise of the Han

The civil war that followed the Qin collapse offered China a clear alternative -- return as a unified state to the patrician structures of the past, or be led into the future by an upstart, coarse, peasant.  Surely, had this alternative been offered in 222 B.C., prior to the revolution of the Qin, the second alternative would have been out of the question.  But as your reading will show, during the period 208-202, China turned away from the first alternative, which was represented by the leader Xiang Yu, a scion of a patrician house of Chu who actually succeeded to control upon the Qin collapse, and instead turned to the latter.  The new dynasty of the Han was founded by a peasant's son, Liu Bang, whose early career had been that of a minor local functionary under the Qin.

On Monday, we'll review the contours of this story, but we'll also examine the way the storyteller, Sima Qian, author of the Shiji,  shapes those contours through his portrait of the chief antagonists, Xiang Yu and Liu Bang.