Government of the Han Dynasty

Government of the Han Dynasty

The Han Dynasty lasted over 400 years, and its governmental system was highly complex. The Han Dynasty owed much of its success in following the earlier precedent of the Qin Dynasty, yet the characteristics of the Han administration was unique in itself.

Central government

The bureaucratic system of the Han Dynasty can be divided into two systems, the central and the local. As for the central officials, it was headed by the Imperial Chancellor (丞相) in the Former Han, and by the Three Excellencies (三公) in the Later Han. The government structure is formed mainly by a system called Three Lords and Nine Ministers (三公九卿).

The Excellencies

The names of the excellencies and ministers are also the name for their respective organization. Here is the table of the Three Excellencies and Nine Ministers, according to the Book of Han. The English translations here follow that of Rafe de Crespigny, in "A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220AD)".

Military ranks

Contrary to the civilian positions, the salary of military ranks of the Han Dynasty was not fixed. Furthermore, the many of the military ranks were temporary when needed, such as in the time of war. Once the conflict was over, the temporary military rank would be abolished and the officer who held the temporary rank would be returned to his original rank. In addition, military ranks were also frequently used as honorary titles to reward the civilian administrators. Similarly, commanders who held some military ranks were also allowed to perform civilian administrative duties. Many military ranks were themselves used to create additional or honorary ranks, usually be adding a title as the prefix. There could only be a single commander for each honorary military title, for example, there could only be one General of the Fast Cavalry, one General of the Fast Cavalry on the Left, one General of the Fast Cavalry on the Right, but ranks of all three were equal. The exceptions were the rank of general and ranks lower than (and equal to) deputy general, which might be held by many commanders. It must be noted that although the prefix “huge”(大, dà) were both used for civilian titles such as Grand Excellency over the Masses (大司徒) and military ranks such as Senior General (大将军), it actually meant differently in these cases: there could only be one Grand Excellency over the Masses, while there could be several different senior generals with different titles but equal ranks when honorary titles were created from the original rank. Therefore, the prefix “huge” actually meant “Grand” when used in as a prefix for civilian positions, while it meant “Senior” when used as a prefix for general, the military rank.

Local administration

The local official during the former Han Dynasty was different from that of the later Han Dynasty. As for the former Han, there were two administered levels, the commandery (郡) and the county (縣). In the former Han Dynasty the county was a subdivision of a commandery, while in the later era, commandery was the division with more than ten thousand people while county was the division with less than ten thousand people. The entire Han Empire was heavily dependent upon these commandery administrators (郡太守), as they could decide military policy, economic regulations, and legal matters in the county they presided over.

The Later Han introduced thirteen provinces (州), which supervises the commanderies. The provinces were headed by Governors (牧), ranked at two thousand "shi", and Inspectors (刺史), ranked at six hundred "shi". Parallel to these two civilian positions, there were two military positions: Viceroy (都督) at provincial level and Protector-Supervisor (都尉) at the commandery level. Both would also perform the jobs of civilian officials in the time of war, but during peace time, their job was to help their civilian counterparts to decide military policy.

Official ranks and salaries

The ranks of imperial official was decide by their annual salary, it divided into fourteen different rank. The "shi" (石) was a unit of weight which was about 66 kg. When it was used in salary means equalviant weight of grain. Their salary was paid in half grain and half cash.Here is the list of ranks. For example, all official will receive their salary monthly, the Six hundred Dan officer will receive 50 Dan of grain monthly but half of them were paid in cash as same as the grain market price.
* Ten thousand "shi" (萬石) - The level of the Three Excellencies.
* Full two thousand "shi" (中二千石) - The level of Nine Ministers.
* Two thousand "shi" (二千石) - Mainly for commandery administrators.
* Equivalent to two thousand "shi" (比二千石).
* One thousand "shi" - Mainly for the Deputy of Nine ministers.
* Eight hundred "shi"
* Six hundred "shi" (六百石) - The level for the Mayor of moderate size counties.
* Equivalent to six hundred "shi" (比六百石)
* Five hundred "shi".
* Four hundred "shi".
* Three hundred "shi".
* Two hundred "shi".
* One hundred "shi".
* Fifty "shi" (五十石).

Notes and references


See also

* Emperor of China

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