The conventional view of China is that of a country alternating between periods of political unity and disunity. China was divided for long periods of its history, with different regions being ruled over by different groups. At times like these, there was no dynasty ruling a unified China and the recorded history is rarely as neat as it is portrayed. Indeed it was rare for one dynasty to end calmly giving way to the next. It was not uncommon for dynasties to be well established prior to the overthrow of an existing regime. Conversely, some dynasties continued on for periods of time following their defeat.
This article examines the political and cultural influences that shaped Chinese civilisations during the periods from the Qin through to the Qing dynasties. It is worthy to note that along with governmental re-organisation came the development of regions known as "Prefectures", meaning the district under the government of an appointed civil servant or " Prefect".
During the Qin Dynasty this "Prefect" or chief official was known as "Junshou" while in the Han Dynasty, he was known as "Taishou" or "Prefecture Governor" after Emperor Jing Di. Each Prefecture was sub-divided into Counties that were governed by County Magistrates known as "Xianling".
The organisation of the Sui Dynasty was composed of a third distinct area, created by sub-divisions of the County known as "Regions". These governors were known as "Zhoumu" in the Yongzhou Region and, Fuli, in the remaining regions.
The early period of Tang Dynasty saw the removal of Prefectures and the structure became simply that of Counties with Regions that were now run by chief officials called "Cili" or "Regional Inspectors". These divisions were purely geographical in nature and had no administrative responsibilities attached.
The socio-political structure of the Song Dynasty remained essentially the same as that of the Tang, with two structural levels of, Region and County. The rule of Emperor Tai Zong during this period, resulted in the whole country being divided into "Circuits", which were similar in principal to that of the "Regions" in the Tang Dynasty and the "Provinces" of the Yuan Dynasty.
The introduction of "Circuits" meant that administration was conducted locally at three levels, i.e. Circuit, Prefecture, and County. The chief official or County Magistrate was known as "Xianling".
When the Ming Dynasty began, the structures of Prefecture and Circuit were maintained, however, administrative commissions were assigned to the chief official, now known as the Administrative Commissioner. He was the official at the highest level of power in a province and in charge of all the provincial affairs.
During the Qing Dynasty, the highest position in military affairs was Governor of a province. However, he also held the position of Vice Minister of Board of War and Counsellor of Censorate provincially. Therefore, he held both power of administration and military affairs, and supervision of the whole province. The Governor was also known as Fu Jun or Fu Tai.
The system of Prefecture was now composed of Counties with a County Magistrate known as "Zhifu" and other civil servants such as County Counsellors and County Secretariat. Departments at the same level with Prefecture were Direct-administration with civil servants titled Tongzhi and Tongpan. Santing, which was at the same level as County, had the setting of Direct-administration Division.