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Chinese History - Qin Period Literature, Thought and Philosophy

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Apart from his great achievements that were actually the base for the foundation also of the Han empire 漢, the First Emperor was blamed to have burned the books (fen 焚 "burning" might be a writing error for the character jin 禁 "prohibiting") and buried alive the (Confucian) scholars. The only books that were not forbidden, are writings about medicine, herbs, divining and agriculture. Inspite of later slanderings by Han time scholars which made him not only a murderer but also a bastard of a merchant, arts and thinking were still going on under the First Emperor and prepared the great flourishing of literature and philosophy under the Han Dynasty. Although the practical polity of the Qin rulers was legist and thus severe, bureaucratic and austere, the inscriptions in the steles the First Emperor had erected, also show that Confucian thinking like filial piety, humanity and righteousness of the ruler was still going on. The emperor himself was very interested in Daoist practices to prolong his life or to gain immortality. He sent out an expedition to search for the islands of immortality called Penglai 蓬萊. Generations of scholars tried to find out what country was meant with "Penglai" , some say, Japan, some even argue Penglai was America. After the proclamation as the First Emperor, he changed the official colors to black according to the theory of the Five Elements (wuxing 五行) and their cosmic influence. Metors, flood and drought was a heavenly hint to him as well as it has been to the former Zhou kings. A comprehensive anthology of philosophical thinking around 250 BC is the "Spring and Autumn collection of Master Lü" Lüshi Chunqiu 呂氏春秋, compiled by the chancellor Lü Buwei 呂不韋.


October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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