The Decision-making Process in Local Government during the Qin-Han Period
31 , 2015-06
In the administrative system of ancient China, the decisions were made about various administrative matters and were communicated by means of typical official documents. There are, however, many points that remain unclear about the process whereby decisions were made and the documents that were used during this process. I accordingly examined the administrative decision-making process in local government during the Qin-Han period and the documents that were used during this process.First, I examined administrative matters that required their own decision-making at the county level during the Qin, and as a result I show that the greater part of such matters concerned judicial judgements. It is known that during the process leading up to the county head’s making a decision when judicial and other decisions were made, discussions were held in which several officials would exchange views orally, that is, their views were solicited in a meeting format. But because it is thought that such meetings would have been held by assembling the officials concerned who were under the jurisdiction of the county head, frequent meetings would have interfered with their administrative duties. Accordingly documents were used in lieu of the direct oral expression of views, and in such cases documents with the characteristics of correspondence were used instead of typical official documents. It is to be surmised not only that the “unofficial” nature of correspondence would have been preferred because such documents were used during the process before a final decision was made, but also that another quality of correspondence—as a substitute for direct conversation—would have been favoured as a substitute for meetings and discussions in which views were expressed orally directly to the county head and other officials.In view of the above points, it is to be surmised that during the Qin-Han period a method in which decisions were made after the officials concerned had expressed their views orally was considered desirable in administrative decision-making. This could be described as a remnant of the system in earlier times in which men with the right to speak on political matters gathered to discuss state affairs (jiyi 集議). It has also become clear that documents with the characteristics of correspondence that were used in an administrative context could be regarded as a vestige of the conduct of administration through the medium of the spoken word.