Public Lecture on “Was the First Emperor of Qin a Totalitarian Despot and Emperor Gaozu of the Han an Enlightened Monarch?”

2017-10-31

A public lecture on “Was the First Emperor of Qin a Totalitarian Despot and Emperor Gaozu of the Han an Enlightened Monarch?” delivered by Prof. Robin D.S. Yates was held on 16 October 2017. Prof. Yates is the Visiting University Fellow of the Department of History in this semester. He is James McGill Professor, Department of History and East Asian Studies at McGill University as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Chan Ka Lai, Part-time Lecturer, introduced Prof. Yates to fellow students. Prof. Yates started with the traditional view of the Qin, then he briefly explained the reason of the Qin collapse and its technological expertise, followed by some new evidence found from textual sources and visual materials. By illustrating the position of women and the function of law, he addressed some misconceptions that people used to know.       

Prof. Yates concluded that the functions of the law in the Qin and early Han empires were remarkably comprehensive.The transmitted historical texts, such as Sima Qian’s Historical Records (Shi ji) and the History of the Han Dynasty (Han shu), recount a number of instances in which even the highest officials of the land were put in awe of the legal power of the scribes who administered the legal system and these high-ranking officials were forced to submit to the authority of the law. He gave some suggestions on how to tackle popular misconceptions from various dimensions.

Dr. Li Kin Sum, Sammy, Assistant Professor chaired the Q&A session. He thanked Prof. Yates for his inspiring lecture and invited questions from the floor.