In this reading response thought-piece, the theoretical basis of the former Han Dynasty will be discussed in the first section of this paper and, the reasons that the Han Dynasty was more efficacious will be discussed in the latter part. Firstly, the theoretical basis of the Han. The Han Dynasty was founded by one of only two commoners, in Chinese history, to rise to power. This rise to power despite an economic barrier of the Han's first Emperor is perhaps testimony to the Han's staying power in Chinese history and, will hopefully be reflected in this thought-piece. Although there was some level of distress in the Empire after his death, the Emperor Wen is credited with forging a sense of "stability" in the empire. Emperor Wu, would also have a far-reaching effect in Chinese culture by implementing important changes in foreign/domestic policies.
Having discussed some of the more prominent figures from the Han Dynasty, we will now delve into the realm of the theoretical basis of the Han.
The Han political system was a bureaucratic system; that is, there were many high officials who were relatively powerful figures, but the power always lay with the emperor. The high ranking officials, for the most part, were formulated for administrative and not governance reasons. Although, exceptions to the rule as in most things, did exist. Although formally, the type of political system was emperor, with bureaucracy accompaniment, the emperor rarely delved into the lives of the commoners. This was done mostly by notables within the community who achieved their status as either wealthy landowners, merchants or individuals of elite status. As I mentioned earlier, these posts or ranks were given not for governance, but rather administrative reasons. Although this seems to be contradictory, it actually serves as a measure for checks and balances. While the central government affords them a small amount of power over the local power structure, they also have to protect the central government's interest to retain this luxury. To become a member of the government during the Han Dynasty, one usually had to come from a family of means. Not that these posts were exclusively for the wealthy. However, to become a learned member of society, it usually required formal training, and investment in books and materials; something that a family of lesser means could obviously not afford. And because the prior Emperor Wen, personally required capable men to have to take written examinations, which he personally gave himself. We come to see the emphasis that was placed on learning in the Han Dynasty.
Later, Emperor Wu would later provide patronage for the Confucian school of thought, and form an Imperial University by recommendation only. This forged a sense of community because government officials were not mindless officials but rather, learned individuals with a similar ideology, one of classical learning. As the book stated, this new found reliance weakened the absolute rule of the central government. However, the Han would continue to reign strong for some time. Their economic policy which was to tax landowners and form monopolies on scarce resources (salt & iron) was somewhat prudent. Being that this form of taxation was the governments largest source of income and afforded the emperor to expand the Dynasty. Later, the Han would expand their empire by gaining tribute from neighboring foreigners, making prudent allies and maintaining their respective conquests.
However, there was some discord between the peasants and the government, being that taxation increased as a result of military expansion and thus, led to revolt. So, in short, the theoretical basis of the Han Dynasty was a bureaucratic system, governed by an almighty emperor, who placed much credence in an educated populace and a mighty military.
As for the reason that the Han Dynasty was more effective than the Qin, in my opinion, is that the Qin Dynasty had unattainable expectations. By trying to consolidate all of China, they took on a task of such enormity that failure was unequivocal. The book states that the first emperor of China, divided China into 36 commanderies, which were in turn, subdivided into countries.
This process of division upon division is a logistical nightmare because of the precarious nature of new governments. As any Empire comes into it's own there is always a transition period in which positions or posts are created and power is delegated. But to immediately section out the empire, all the while having to remain conscious of the threat of feudalism, which the Empire fears, is a precarious situation. Now, to guard from the former condition, due to the partitioning of China, the Emperor had to control prominent families who might implement feudalism within the empire so he captures them and removes them from their strongholds. Clearly not the most efficacious policy for a new empire because you will usually want to have influential contacts in the providence so that a system of checks and balances exists. The isolation of prominent families and heavy taxation on the people may have been the antecedent necessary to prompt revolution.
Lastly, the fact that the Qin Dynasty operated under martial law, with excessive penalties for rather minor offenses, (execution) fostered a sense of peril and mistrust in those times and thus, led to the Dynasty's rather sudden demise.
Therefore, as I conclude this rather extended thought-piece on the theoretical basis of the Han Dynasty and attempt to answer why the Han Dynasty was more efficacious then the Qin Dynasty, I would have to say that the Han Dynasty had a greater sense of balance within their respective empire. Although they too had their times of strife and uncertainty, they handled their situations and problems with perspicacity. Never, until the Dynasty's end, did the Empire over reach themselves or their Empire's potential. They always had seemingly prudent economic as well as foreign policy, and they seemed to care for their people. They bettered their Dynasty by imbuing their people,, and this emphasis on education was perhaps a boon in more ways than one. Lastly, the penalties were not excessive and barbaric. The Qin seemed to enforce harsh punishment for even minor infractions, which most have been a scary time to live in because of the severity of punishment and, rampant corruption (most likely fueled by the lack of due process for citizens and officials, victims of dubious claims, resulting in execution).