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The Everlasting EmpireThe Political Culture of Ancient China and Its Imperial Legacy$
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Yuri Pines

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691134956

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691134956.001.0001

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The Literati

The Literati

Chapter:
(p.76) Chapter 3 The Literati
Source:
The Everlasting Empire
Author(s):

Yuri Pines

Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691134956.003.0004

This chapter focuses on the intellectuals' voluntary attachment to the ruler's service as their single most significant choice. It elucidates both the advantages of this choice and its price. Having opted for a political career, leading intellectuals had to accept their position as the emperor's servitors, which was at odds with their self-proclaimed moral superiority over the throne; and the resultant tension between their roles as the leaders and the led generated persistent frustration and manifold tragedies. Yet bitterness aside, the voluntary attachment of the intellectuals to the throne had also greatly empowered the educated elite as a whole. For two-odd millennia, members of this stratum navigated the empire through many storms and challenges, contributing decisively toward the preservation of the imperial political structure, and of its cultural foundations, against all odds.

Keywords:   Chinese intellectuals, voluntary attachment, educated elite, imperial political structure, cultural foundations, shi, scholar-officials

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