Establishing the Standard
For all practical purposes, when Shi-huang-di died the Qin dynasty vanished; but his achievement of imperial unification was not to be undone. Within a decade there emerged a new dynasty, which endured for more than 400 years. The Han, divided halfway between the B.C. and A.D. eras and with a population roughly estimated to be close to sixty million at the height of its prosperity, is often compared to Rome in the West, as it controlled a territory equally as vast and remained in being until the decline of the Roman Empire. The Chinese empire, however, maintained an internal cohesion that was unknown to the West.
The new dynasty is idealized by Chinese writers as marking the first time that commoners took up imperial roles. The dynastic founder, Liu Bang, was a minor police officer under the Qin. Both chancellors, Xiao He and Cao Cen, had been county clerks. A general, Chen Ping, had at one time worked as a butcher. Another, Han Xin, begged for food in his youth. Qing Bu and Peng Yue had risen from the ranks of brigands. The plebeian composition of the new imperial court, however, only reflected that the territorial lordship had been so thoroughly uprooted that for the national reconstruction it was neither necessary nor even possible to rally behind the old aristocracy. It was by no means a sign