Knowledge Production in China’s Early Empires How Qin and Han Officials Gathered Information

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Maxim Korolkov
Brian Lander



This paper examines how officials of the Qin (221–207 BCE) and Former Han (202 BCE–9 CE) empires gathered information on their far-flung domains. These empires were able to maintain control over large areas of the East Asian subcontinent because they had an effective system for obtaining information on the things that mattered most to them: people, land, resources, and transport. We have various sources on these information collection systems from both excavated and received texts. These can be considered to include not only maps, surveys, and population records, but also communication infrastructures such as roads, canals, and postal systems. The information-gathering systems of this period are important both because they worked relatively well and because they were recorded in the histories and became a model for later administrators.

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