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Institutions and Social Order of the Frontier Regions during the Qin-Han Periods (221 B.C. to A.D. 220): An Analysis on the Unearthed Documents from the Juyan 居延, Dunhuang 敦煌 and Liye 里耶 Regions

Principal Investigator

LAI Ming Chiu

Total Fund Awarded


Funding Source

RGC General Research Fund

Abstract of Project

        By means of the political and social institutions, Qin-Han Empires created an effective bondage to unify people under the imperial control. The investigator of this project aims to analyze important administrative and social institutions implemented by the imperial authority in the commanderies of Juyan, Dunhuang and the region of Liye. By studying the bamboo and wooden documents, which are the official dispatches and administrative archives excavated in Juyan, Dunhuang, and Liye regions, the author analyzes the infiltration of the Qin-Han Empires from the central to the frontier.

        Han’s bureaucratic machine has been a ruling paradigm in traditional China for two thousand years. This project will demonstrate that political institutions laid the foundation of a harmonious and stable society. The Han administrative institutions in the Juyan and Dunhuang regions guaranteed the implementation of imperial decrees, statutes and ordinances down to the bottom of the society. This project will also address concrete cases related to social order, such as Han statutes involving the system of social control, decrees on arrest of criminals, litigations on social disputes, crackdown of the robbery and banditry, etc. The investigator holds that Han China went through a long term process of cultural incorporation and institutional integration which had eventually empowered its authority and blended its regional diversities into a homogeneous nature.

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