Lewis, Mark E.
This dissertation examines in the continental context the building and maintenance of the Han state, which existed in the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers regions roughly from the second century B.C.E. to the second century C.E. It surveys the trajectory that transformed the Han state from a regional polity confined to the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers regions to a trans-regional superpower, exerting its influence across East Eurasia. I focus specifically on the interstate interaction between the Yellow River region (the Han), on the steppe (the Xiongnu), and in the Tarim Basin (multiple oasis-states) from the beginning of the second century B.C.E. to the early first century C.E. as my case study.
Making use of both transmitted and excavated Han texts, I demonstrate that two major mechanisms facilitated the transformative process of the Han state in the political landscape of East Eurasia. One was horizontal kin ties between the Han emperor and peer rulers. The other was the vertically-structured imperial bureaucracy that organized communities in the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers regions for imperial power-building.
In particular, the imperial bureaucracy evolved into the nodal mechanism to sustain imperial initiatives. On the one hand, it vertically incorporated into its writing-based system individuals of diverse social, cultural, and geographic backgrounds in the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers regions as the support base of the Han emperor. On the other hand, it horizontally facilitated the emperor's kinship-based alliance network across East Eurasia. This bureaucratic mechanism became the backbone that continued to weave together complex communities in the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers regions regardless of the rise and fall of ruling houses.