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

There Was No Commandery in Chu Kingdom during Early Western
Han Dynasty: Case Two on Commanderies and Counties of Early

Yi-fei You

Department of History, National Taiwan University

According to the Chu kingdom’s regional administrative history, we identified the Beidongshan and the Shizishan tomb owners as the first and second Chu kings during the early Western Han dynasty. More than two hundred official seals and thousands of lutes from central government and the county have been found in tombs, but no official seals and lutes of the commandery of the Chu Kingdom during the early Western Han dynasty. This is not a coincidence. After excluding other possibilities, most reasonable explanation is that there were no commanderies in the Chu kingdom at this time. Such evidence as there is came from historical records of the Han central government, which reflected only the beginning, but not the subsequent development of each kingdom. We must critically review the time and region of the sources, in order to get a more accurate understanding of whether there were in fact commanderies in kingdoms during this period. Scholars have believed that the Qin and Han central governments generally set up commanderies and counties in All-under-Heaven. Actually, the Han central government did not set up commanderies but only counties in All-under-Heaven. Compared to the feudal system, commanderies and counties are generally considered beneficial to centralization. However, the Han kings did not find that commanderies were beneficial to centralization, and so they abolished commanderies. That commanderies and counties are generally considered beneficial to centralization is simply post facto dogma. Although the kings’ abolition of commanderies was a localized and specific phenomenon, it helps us to rethink the nature of commanderies and counties not as a tool of centralization but precisely a potential tool of decentralization. This topic is small, but it may foster a new vision to reinterpret the nature of local government during Qin and Han dynasties.


Keywords: commanderies and counties, kingdom, seal and lute, Chu king’s tomb in Xuzhou, Beidongshan, Shizishan