Monday, January 10, 2011

An Army On Parade For 2000 Years Part.IV

Reliable water supplies were vital, and early in his reign Shi Huang Di commissioned the building of a 150 km canal that would carry water from Jing River, North West of his capital, to the Luo River to the north east. The completed canal irrigated 26680 squares Km of land. A modified version of the watercourse is still in use today. Rice was the main crop grown in ancient China, along with millet.  Peasants also kept chickens, dogs and pigs, which provided them with eggs, meat for special occasions, and leather. Fish and wildfowl could be caught in the rivers and lakes and in the country side.

Under Shi Huang Di, life for peasants was mostly prosperous but a dark undercurrent ran beneath the strict policy of reform. The legal system, while impartial and efficient, was complex and bewildering to its subject peoples. Penalties for violation could be exceedingly harsh. Even minor offences attracted heavy fines or floggings – among these was the crime of dropping litter in the capital city. For more serious transgressions the punishments included the loss of a hand or foot, castration, force labor or execution.

Many of the public works on which the peasants toiled as conscript labors ensured China’s future prosperity, and built strong defenses against foreign invasion. But at the time, removing the peasants from their land imposed an intolerable burden. It restricted food supplies, gradually bringing the country to the brink of economic disaster.

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