14. Building Chinese infrastructure required forced labor
The emperors of China’s long dynastic period built a large and self-sustaining infrastructure to help strengthen and unify their empire, including dams and canals, roads and bridges, fortifications which included the Great Wall (which was completed by connecting several smaller walls built by feudal leaders), irrigation systems, and fortified cities. They also built imperial palaces for their residences in multiple cities and temples to various gods, parks and gardens, and other places of resort for the moneyed classes of the civil servants and their own families. All of the construction was performed by forced labor, some by captive slaves and prisoners of war.
The rest were conscripted from the lower classes, though they were compensated for their work. Peasants, being the largest class of Chinese society, were the most frequently conscripted for forced labor, and were paid in either coin or food rations. Labor on all projects was long and hard, and often dangerous for the workers. The emperors of the Qin Dynasty (the first great Chinese empire, though it lasted only about 15 years) used forced labor under the supervision of prelates and warriors to complete various government projects, and harsh punishments awaited laborers who did not complete their allotted work on schedule. Working on what were essentially government projects was often a death sentence, as poor food, dangerous working conditions, and the abuse of workers through beatings and other motivational tools took their toll.