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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 Ideal of “Great Unity”

The Ideal of “Great Unity”

(p.11) Chapter 1 The Ideal of “Great Unity”
The Everlasting Empire

Yuri Pines

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers how China has maintained the sustainability of a unified empire, and more importantly, its regeneration after periods of division. It proposes that the answer should be sought primarily in the realm of ideology. The idea that “All-under-Heaven” (tianxia) should be unified under the aegis of the single monarch predated the imperial unification of 221 BCE and directly contributed to it. As this chapter demonstrates, it became the true cornerstone of traditional Chinese political culture, and decisively shaped political dynamics during ages of unity and fragmentation alike. Although in the course of imperial history the quest for unity had to be qualified to accommodate domestic and foreign political realities, it was never essentially compromised. Indeed, it may be argued that this belief remains the single most important legacy of the traditional political culture well into present day.

Keywords:   unified empire, All-under-Heaven, tianxia, imperial unification, Chinese political culture, unity, fragmentation, imperial history

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