Chinese state and society underwent a profound change in the Former Han period. During the early years of the Former Han the exact nature of state and society was by no means clear, but by the end of this period, the broad outlines of the imperial system had been established for all subsequent Chinese history. The Ch'in Dynasty had indicated one direction, but its collapse had revived many of those elements present at the end of the third century B.C. which could logically have developed into a limited open society.

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