Montesquieu

We see in the his­tory of China that she has had twenty-two dynas­ties which have suc­cee­ded one ano­ther, which is to say she has expe­rien­ced twenty-two gene­ral trans­for­ma­tions, not coun­ting innu­me­ra­ble local ones. The first three dynas­ties were of rather long dura­tion, because they were wisely gover­ned, and the empire was less exten­sive than it was to become. But we can say in gene­ral that all these dynas­ties began rather well. Virtue, atten­tion, and vigi­lance are man­da­tory in China : they were pre­sent at the begin­ning of the dynas­ties, and they were wan­ting at the end. Indeed it was natu­ral for empe­rors brought up in the fati­gues of war, who suc­cee­ded in brin­ging down from the throne a family awash in delights, should pre­serve the vir­tue they had shown to be so use­ful, and fear the sen­sua­lity they had obser­ved to be so fate­ful. But after those first three or four prin­ces, cor­rup­tion, luxury, idle­ness, and delights carry away the suc­ces­sors : they close them­sel­ves up in the palace, their mind wea­kens, their life shor­tens, the family decli­nes ; the gran­dees rise, the eunuchs acquire pres­tige, only chil­dren are pla­ced on the throne ; the palace beco­mes the enemy of the empire ; an idle popu­la­tion living there ruins the one that works ; the empe­ror is killed or des­troyed by a usur­per, who founds a family, whose third or fourth suc­ces­sor goes into the same palace to close him­self in once more.