2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Polity of ‘T’ien-hsia’ in the Ch’in-Han Period:
The Chiao Ceremony

Huai-chen Kan

Department of History, National Taiwan University

The Emperorship was absolutely central to Chinese history. This essay explores one dimension of the imperial polity. The Chinese Emperorship defined itself as ‘t’ien-hsia’ (literally, “all under the Heaven”). This essay argues that t’ien-hsia is a type of polity and that we can interpret the characteristics of the Chinese Emperorship by analyzing the concepts that comprise t’ien-hsia. The key concept of t’ien-hsia is that the Son of the Heaven receives Heaven’s mandate to rule the t’ien-hsia, and thereby the min (people) can earn a meaningful and comfortable livelihood. In the transition from the pre-Ch’in feudal system to the new polity of t’ien-hsia, the Chinese Emperorship needed to create a new type of relationship between the Emperor and the people. This essay discusses how Confucian scholars and officials created a new theory of the Emperor-people relationship through interpretation of the Confucian canon. In the context of the Ch’in-Han period, the relationship between the Emperor and people should be understood in terms of its religious dimension, or as a higher fact reflecting the cosmological order. The function of the Chiao ceremony (state sacrifice in the suburb of the Capital) was precisely to create the Emperor-people relationship through its religious mechanism.


Keywords: All-under-Heaven, Chiao ceremony, Chinese Emperorship, lord-subordinate relationship, Emperor-people relationship, East Asian kingship