The Dragon and the Eagle:

The rise and fall of the Chinese and Roman Empires




Cultural comparison

Silk Road









Title: The Dragon and the Eagle: The rise and fall of the Chinese and Roman Empires

Author: Sunny Y. Auyang

Foreword: Stanley Burstein

Publisher: Routledge

Publishing Date: May 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7656-4369-8  Hardcover  $59.95

ISBN: 978-0-7656-4370-4  Paperback  $29.95

Pages: 426

More information


The Eagle and the Dragon symbolize the Western and Eastern styles in exercising power and maintaining order, developed in ancient Rome and ancient China and increasingly important in today’s global stage where the United State as a New Rome faces the rise of New China.

The Dragon and the Eagle covers the formative stages of the two imperial styles in the rise-and-fall cycles of the early Chinese (771 BCE – 316 CE) and Roman (509 BCE – 476 CE) empires. From conditions as far apart as that between the East and West in the nineteenth century, the two ancient realms converged in four centuries to powerful empires. After long and glorious careers, the empires, each the superpower in its world, fell to measly enemies originated form beyond their respective northern frontier. Their ability to withstand external inflection was sapped by internal corruption.

Although the two great empires were strikingly similar, their disparate early experiences left indelible marks on their characters. By delving into ideological, political, military, socioeconomic, and ethno-demographic forces, the book uncovers the historical roots for the Eagle’s penchant for militarism and wealth domination, and the Dragon’s proclivity for bureaucracy and ideological indoctrination. In-depth comparison and mutual questioning, based on extensive English and Chinese language sources, forge a kind of dialogue between the two political cultures. The perspective from another culture challenges many received views in each history and suggests new possibilities for explaining historical puzzles such as why the Roman Empire or Qin Dynasty fell.

Written for general readers unfamiliar with either Chinese or Roman history, the book puts intelligibility first and provides ample explanations. Lively historical narratives that provide background information alternate with thematic analyses that reveal the relative strengths and weakness of the Dragon and the Eagle. Many of their characteristics formed in ancient times are still recognizable today. The Dragon and the Eagle offers not only a fresh perspective on ancient history but also a timely “mirror from the past” for deeper understanding of the twenty-first century rivalry between the East and the West.







Introduction: Mirrors from the Deep Past


I. The Roman Republic and Pre-imperial China


1      Nation Formation

        1.1. The Old World of Civilization

        1.2.  The Advantage of Openness to Diversity

        1.3.  The Mosaic of China

        1.4.  Zhou Cities Among Pastoralists

        1.5.  The Mosaic of Italy

        1.6.  Latin Colonies and Hill Peoples

        1.7.  War, Policy, and the Melting Pot


2      State Building

        2.1. Blood, Iron, Ideas, and State Building

        2.2. Technology and the Economy

        2.3. Tradition and Social Relations

        2.4. Conflict and Merger of the Orders in Rome

        2.5. Backlash of Closing Imperial Frontiers

        2.6. How Democratic Was the Roman Republic?

        2.7. Feudalistic Parceling of Sovereignty

        2.8. A New Elite in a Socioeconomic Revolution

        2.9. The Rule by Law and the Rule by Man

        2.10. From Aristocracy to Monarchy

        2.11. Slavery and Freedom


3      Empire Building

        3.1. The Advantage of the Periphery

        3.2. Qin in a System of States

        3.3. From Balance of Power to Unification

        3.4. The Punic Wars

        3.5. An Empire of Liberty

        3.6. Wars Just and Unjust

        3.7. The Warrior State and the Warring States

        3.8. Wars and War Conduct


4      Winning the Peace

        4.1. The Empire Strikes Back

        4.2. Decline of the Roman Republic

        4.3. Last Flight of the Free Eagle

        4.4. The Dawn of Imperial China

        4.5. Regret of the Overextended Dragon

        4.6. Rupture and Continuity


II. The Roman and Early Chinese Empires


5      Courses of Empire

        5.1. Pax Romana and Pax Sinica

        5.2. Augustus and His Dynasty

        5.3. Militarism in the Roman Peace

        5.4. Roman Anarchy and Revival

        5.5. United China Takes Root

        5.6. Confucianism Ascending

        5.7. The Han’s Descent into Anarchy

        5.8. Colored Glasses of Historiography


6      Arts of Government

        6.1. Imperial Characters

        6.2. The Ruler and the Ruled

        6.3. The Imperator and the Huangdì

        6.4. The Government and the Elite

        6.5. The Emperor and the Government

        6.6. State and Society

        6.7. The Myth of “Big Government”

        6.8. Taxation and the Economy

        6.9. Law and Order


7      Strategies of Superpower

        7.1. Eurasian Geopolitics

        7.2. China’s Loose Rein

        7.3. Isolationism Ascendant

        7.4. Rome’s Empire Without End

        7.5. Defense Resources Strained

        7.6. Imperial Grand Strategies

        7.7. Hegemonic Statecraft

        7.8. Frontier Defenses


8      Decline and Fall

        8.1. Glorious Sunset Clouds

        8.2. Barbarians and Nomads

        8.3. Social Coagulation

        8.4. Political Corruption

        8.5. Internal Discords and Civil Wars

        8.6. End of the Han Dynasty

        8.7. Revenge of the Xiongnu

        8.8. Coming of the Huns

        8.9. The Fall of Rome

        8.10. Tomorrow Never Dies


Appendix 1. Mutual Perceptions of Rome and Han China

Appendix 2. The Silk-Routes Commerce

Appendix 3. Long-Wall Building


Timeline 1: China and Rome in the World Context

Timeline 2: Events in China

Timeline 3: Events in Rome

Timeline 4: Emperors of the Qin, Han, and Jin

Timeline 5: Roman Emperors


Map 1: First-Century Empires

Map 2: Beginning of the Silk Roads

Map 3: The Terrain of Eastern China

Map 4: The Chinese Spring and Autumn Period

Map 5: The Terrain of Italy and Vicinity

Map 6: Roman Conquest of Italy

Map 7: The Chinese Warring-States Period

Map 8: The Punic Wars

Map 9: Conquests of the Roman Republic

Map 10: The Unification of China Under Qin

Map 11: The Roman Empire

Map 12: The Han Dynasty

Map 13: Eurasian Geopolitics

Map 14: Fall of the Roman Empire

Map 15: Fall of the Han Dynasty

Map 16: The Population of China: (a) 2 CE, (b) 280 CE

Map 17: Minority Kingdoms in Northern China

Map 18: Barbarian Kingdoms in the Western Mediterranean