Imperial Rule in China

Government power in imperial China was given to the emperor, who was considered the "Son of Heaven," chosen by God to rule China. For the Chinese, the emperor ruled the world and had the power over "everything under the sun." The emperor was in charge of both religious and political affairs.

The emperor could not rule China by himself. It was too large. The emperor appointed people to help him. They became very important people in China. The Chinese government was a hierarchy of of authority. The emperor was at the top of the hierarchy. To manage the vast territory effectively, the emperor appointed inspectors, tax collectors, and other people to travel through the country to carry out his rule.

A government in which power is in the hands of family relationships is called nepotistic. Many of the Chinese emperors were nepotistic. They appointed family members to important posts. This might not seem fair, but who was going to tell the "Son of Heaven" that he could not appoint his brother to a high government post. This type of system did have problems. Appointing only relatives did not necessarily mean the best people were doing the work. Some relatives were not very smart, and some were cheats. A system of nepotism can often get very messy.

Another type of government is called an aristocracy. That is when power is given to a small, wealthy class. This wealthy class owned most of the land in China. Only the wealthy could afford to own land of their own. Only the wealthy people had anything to say about how the government ran and what happened to the country. The wealthy people liked this system. The poor people did not. Since the wealthy had all the money, there was very little the poor could do to change things.

China also had a meritocracy. In a meritocracy, talented people are chosen to help rule. The talented are determined by taking examinations or tests. The smartest and most educated of the Chinese liked this system, especially the scholars, since they were the best educated people in China. It was more fair than nepotism and aristocracy, but poor people still did not have much chance to be a part of the government. The examinations cost money. The poor could not afford to take the test.

It is up to you (the Emperor) to decide what type of government you should have. Below are the qualifications of the people you can hire to help you run the government.

Wealthy Person

I am a member of an important, wealthy family that owns a large amount of land. You want me to be a member of the government because of the following points:

1. The wealthy have traditionally held positions as government officials, so we understand how to rule. My family members for many years have held positions in the government. I have learned a great deal from them.

2. I went to the best schools to receive the training and education I need to work in the government.

3. I own a lot of land and have a lot of money. The emperor can count on my financial support if he names me to a government post.

Emperor's Relative

1. I am related to the Emperor as are all of my family members. We are very loyal to the emperor and would do anything to protect him. If the emperor is removed from power, we will lose everything as well. Therefore, I will work the hardest for the emperor.

2. I as a relative understands the needs of the Emperor because I am closer to him than anyone else.

3. To keep power in the family, relatives are trained and educated to serve as government officials. I have this training and I am ready to step right into a government job.


I am a scholar who has studied history, religions, government, mathematics, and science for many years. In addition to the facts above, here are more reasons why you should hire me:

1. I am very smart and will make the best decisions for the good of the country.

2. The best way to identify who should serve in the government is by a test. I scored the highest grade on that test. If tests are used to hire government officials, only the smartest and best educated people will become government officials. The smartest and best educated people will know how to make the best decisions for the country.

3. I am also a historian. I will remember the Emperor in a positive way in the history books if he allows me to serve in the government. If scholars are appointed to the government, the Emperor assures himself of great respect and honor throughout history.

Write an essay describing how you would make your decision as the emperor on who will help you run the empire. Support your decision with facts from above. It is your decision. Who helps you run the empire will determine how successful you are as an emperor.