The administrative character of “Tianxia” system in ancient China

After experiencing the phantom of Xia Dynasty, Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty, the territorial countries of the Warring States Period were all established on the basis of the cultural region matrix since the Neolithic Age. It is the dynasty of “Tianxia” (Underheaven [Kingdom]). This “tianxia” is a collection of multiple cultural regions. However, in fact, the Xia Dynasty, Shang Dynasty, and Zhou Dynasty did really ruled.

Basically, the soil can only be regarded as a cultural regional city. Although there are cases in which the ruling area had been expanded to other cultural areas by means of a capital, basically a dynasty ruled a cultural area. Therefore, the territorial countries of the Warring States Period were established on the basis of the cultural field, which naturally led to the result that these territorial countries were all established on the basis of historically disputed areas.

The various central governments began to rule by officials under their respective central governments. Supporting this official rulership system is the clerical administrative system, and behind the clerical administrative system is the legal system as a legal basis (which has been continuously improved since then).

The first emperor of Qin put the Qin law into the world, and under the sole emperor, that is, the sole central government, he began the official reigning system. Not many people have noticed the relationship between Qin Shihuang’s unification measures and cultural regions. The neglect of this relationship has led to the emergence of tactics in the view of history.

In the scope of the Shang Dynasty or Zhou Dynasty ruled, under the great power of Shang and Zhou, there are many small affiliated countries. In the post-Warring States period, the state system was that the big powers changed the small countries that were merged into the spring into capitals and counties, and under the leadership of the central government, they sent officials to the local governments to rule. This is fundamentally different from the state system in the Shang and Zhou dynasties. And this is also a well-known fact.

However, how large is the coverage of the system of big countries ruling small countries? When scholars tried to clarify this same question, they found that it was largely restricted by the geographical scope of culture since the Neolithic Age.

This range is not as large as the unified world of Qin Shihuang.

The countries in the Warring States period are discussed as Xia, Shang dynasties and Zhou dynasties under this view of history. Regarding the 1 dynasty, the Shang dynasty, and the Zhou dynasty, the problem is that these three dynasties have ruled the cultural regions since the New Age.

Contrary to this point, the problem is that these three dynasties have ruled the cultural regions since the Neolithic Age. Regarding this point, if we look up the historical books written in the Warring States Period, we only need to confirm the contents of the historical books, and then we can immediately understand the “facts.” Although this “fact” is undeniable, it is rarely known.

In our traditional concept, the Xia Dynasty, Shang Dynasty, and Zhou Dynasty were all dynasties that ruled the world, and this “tianxia” was equivalent to the domain unified by Emperor Qin Shihuang in 221 BC. The reason that led to the formation of this concept was that the Han Dynasty inherited the Qin Dynasty’s world, and then the “Shi Ji” was written, and the records of the “Shi Ji” gave us a concept that the Xia Dynasty, the Shang Dynasty, and the Zhou Dynasty are the dynasties of the world.

This is also the “fact” recorded in “Historical Records”. However, this “fact” is obviously different from the “fact” shown in the history books of the Warring States Period. Surprisingly, this is rarely known.

“Tianxia” included several cultural regions since the Neolithic Age. Although the scope of each cultural region has expanded or contracted somewhat with the changes of the times, the basic scope is fixed and this cultural region is basically equivalent to the size of the current Japan in terms of area; and in terms of straight-line distance , It is enough to be able to include people in the space from Kanto to Kyushu.

Therefore, the history of China from the Neolithic Age to the Warring States Period is very similar to the development of Japanese history.


(1) An era in which there are multiple rural areas in the region.

(2) The formation of cities (small countries) with wall depictions, and the rural areas are attached to the era when these cities existed.

(3) The era in which small countries have to depend on large countries.

(4) The era when the central government of a big country annexed a small country, and began to send official history and implement clerical administration.

After experiencing the above four eras, Qin Shihuang annexed all regions and unified the world. The unification of the world means the unification of several regions about the same size as Japan’s land under one central government. Qin Shihuang’s world was as big as the current European Union.

The history of the unification can be seen in the works of historical sinology, but even in such an era, the cultural region since the Neolithic Age has also played a certain function as a monitoring zone. Qin Shihuang divided the world into thirty-six prefectures and set up many counties under the capital, and these counties are equivalent to those small countries in the past.

From the Warring States period, there were seven major countries in the world. The county was an administrative unit formed after the division of cultural regions since the Neolithic Age. The counties set up under the county were all descendants of the small city-states of the past. If you are looking for such descendants in Japan, there were large and small feudal vassals in the Edo period, or kingdoms and prefectures in the legal period. The area with a radius of about 20 kilometers was a problem.

Although Japan did not have a city with walls before, it had a small country with several settlements. Some people also think that the settlements surrounded by ditches were considered as the center of the country. Let’s take it as a comparison object for the time being.

The era from Shang to Zhou was also an era when Chinese characters were widely used in the central areas of the Shang or Zhou dynasties. At that time, the affairs of the local countries were not clear, and it seems difficult for us to conclude that Chinese characters have taken root in countries outside the Shang and Zhou Dynasties. In Japan, books written in the legal era will always have records of the past era. The same is true in China. The books written by various countries in the Warring States Period have records of the previous dynasties. The description of the attitudes and positions of the previous dynasty was restricted by the era when the books were written. Not only was the record restricted, but some imaginary content was even added to these books.

What was the history made up by later generations? And which facts were truthfully recorded? In this era, some simple histories that have been passed down orally could already be recorded in Chinese characters; and these written records contain content added by later generations.

How did the original simple facts become “full”? What is the fictional world that has never existed in the simple history as a prototype? When we mention Japanese history, Chinese history books can give us a lot of help. In contrast to Chinese history books, we can carefully study and identify the authenticity of the inherited contents of Japanese history books. However, when it comes to Chinese history, when we go back to the time when the authenticity of the inherited content was questioned, we have no way to find international history books that can be used as references.

When studying Chinese history, how should we practice this method? There is also a long tradition of critically studying history in China. However, for us to use this method for research, that is, the method of focusing on the cultural region since the Neolithic Age, at least no one has used it yet. Study the history before the Warring States period.

The focus here would be on the cultural region since the Neolithic Age, trying to analyze and study the history of China before Qin Shihuang.

Just as Japan had a time when several forces faced each other, in the era of (3) and (4), China also had several forces confronting each other in its cultural region. In addition, China also had several cultural regions like the Zhou dynasty in (3) surrendered to one.

The central cities of the great powers of the era under the rule of the dynasty were given a unique status in the domain of its rule. The domain that includes this special city is regarded as a guinea in its cultural region. If multiple big countries in the same cultural region face each other, then there were also multiple guineas in this cultural region.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *