Why did the Chinese emperors lived in seclusion? How did the government function without the physical presence of the emperor?

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ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The Chinese emperor was once considered the supreme ruler in the country and in the society.  The emperor was considered to be a Son of Heaven and controlled the communication between the Spiritual and Human worlds.   The Emperor decided what the laws were to be and what the punishments and rewards were to be. 

The power of the Emperor was all encompassing and this could be a good thing and a bad thing.   The fact that things might go wrong could be interpreted to mean that the emperor was guilty of misrule and that he was losing the “Mandate of Heaven.”   They all lived in seclusion, surrounded by a royal retinue that included wives, family, servants, courtiers, and officials. They had their food tested for poison and did not eat until the food was eaten by a tester.  They were closely watched and protected. 

The government was able to continue to function because it was run by several chief officials and specialized ministers who answered directly to the Emperor.  “Local officials collected taxes, drafted men for corvée labor and military service, and settled local disputes. Most people had no contact with the central government. This system worked well because of the discipline and commitment the Chinese people had toward their government, superiors, and the respect they showed for each other.

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