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And because every unit leader had personal connections to Genghis Khan himself, the Mongol leader had the army under tight control. Mongol tacticians demonstrated superiority in warfare. As skilled horsemen, the Mongols could quickly move into regions difficult to reach for foot soldiers or chariots. Additionally, Genghis Khan had perfected some key military tricks. The Mongols were famous for withdrawing from a battle scene during the heaviest fighting, signaling their own defeat. Pursued by their enemies, the Mongols would lead them to a trap in which a cavalry of armored soldiers would descend to devastate the enemy army.

Han leaders also sent a yearly tribute of gifts—silk and grains—items the Xiongnu could not obtain except through trade or pillaging. Lastly, the Han emperor acknowledged the worth of both peoples by recognizing a new border delineating Xiongnu territory and Chinese territory. While this policy worked for a time, later Han rulers tried again to resolve the Xiongnu problem with military might. From 133 to 119 BCE the Han emperor sent between one hundred thousand and three hundred thousand soldiers to fight the Xiongnu under two powerful generals.

Wrongdoings by one person could result in punishment of the group, and the group was responsible for keeping individual behavior in line. Another of Shang’s changes had to do with taxation. In most states peasants labored on behalf of nobles; in Qin, peasants labored for, and paid taxes directly to the king. The population was registered and counted in a census, and taxes were levied for each person. Together, these changes had the effect of taking power away from the nobility and putting power, wealth, and loyalty firmly in the hands of a centralized government.

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Ancient Chinese Dynasties by Cindy Jenson-Elliott


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