The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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The Linxiang Prefecture and the Changsha Commandery in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD – 220 AD): The Governance of a Han Local Administration as Seen from the Archives Excavated in the Wuyi Square of Changsha, Hunan

Principal Investigator

LAI Ming Chiu

Total Fund Awarded


Funding Source

RGC General Research Fund

Abstract of Project

This project aims at a thorough understanding of the Han governance on the Linxiang Prefecture 臨湘縣, Changsha Commandery 長沙郡. Through a microhistorical approach, I shall explore the newly unearthed bamboo slips and wooden documents, excavated in the Wuyi Square, Changsha, Hunan Province, which recorded the enforcement of Han laws and concrete judicial issues, such as criminal and civil lawsuits on juridical and taxation, debt disputes among individual, local officers and public affairs, dated back to the Mid-Eastern Han Dynasty. Significantly, the analysis of concrete cases from these archives will shed new light on the microhistory of the Linxiang society as well the governance of Han local administrative mechanism, especially the function and the role of the bureaus (cao 曹) in the Linxiang Prefecture.

The implement of Han laws to the local society was the prominent indicator for the evaluations of the government efficiency in the Linxiang Prefecture. Truthfulness and honesty of the law enforcement officials was the key to achieve successful governance. Obviously, a high frequency of the violation of imperial laws and dereliction of duty by local officials would definitely an alarm to Han governance in prefecture level. This project also evaluate how corruption affected the Han ruling machine, why the officers violated imperial laws and failed to perform their missions as Confucian literati.

In brief, the objectives of this project are as follows:
i) To reconstruct the various of bureaus in the Linxiang Prefecture of Eastern Han China;
ii) To evaluate how the bureaus operated and their governance in reference to the enforcement of Han laws and imperial decrees;
iii) To evaluate imperial penetration to the local society: how various bureaus involved and associate with the daily life of the bianhu qimin 編戶齊民.

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