Ancient China Maria Holsberger

Eastern China boasts two grand rivers. In the southern region lies the Yangzi which was deep, broad and rarely flooded. A favorable climate brought about abundant crops of fruits, vegetables and grains. In the northern is the Yellow River which flowed through low plains that often flooded. Their climate was colder bringing the constant fear of frost and drought. The Yellow River did deposit rich silt which helped sustain growth. As communities grew, dikes and irrigation methods allowed for more control of the currents and flood waters.

The Shang kings became corrupt and oppressive provoking rebellion. Defeated by King Wu, the Zhou Dynasty began lasting more than 800 year. As metallurgy spread into China, the creation of weapons and plows produces added economic benefits to the area.

King Wu, ruler of the Zhou Dynasty defeated the Shang, starting a new dynasty that endured for over 800 years. In 1116 BCE, after his death, the Duke of Zhou solidified his rule. The culture of this society grew strong due to filial piety which was the act of worshiping dead ancestors. This kept the population base strong as generations remained in the same communities. Characters, serving as Chinese writing, also contributed to their cohesive culture. The universal method of communication allowed for the north and south to share ideas without the barriers of language or dialect.

Mandate of Heaven

The significance of the Chinese Dynasty was forged through the introduction of a philosophy called the "Mandate of Heaven". This mandate would allow the ruler to serve his lands as the "son of heaven". The virtue of this role states that ruler must govern justly and humanely. If the ruler grew corrupt or if the people suffered, the mandate would be withdrawn to the heavens and a new leader would bestow the honor of ruling the lands.

Kongfuzi, a Chinese philosopher. Main virtues of his philosophy included the ren: showing compassion and benevolence to humanity, li: the etiquette and respect people would treat others with and xiao: devotion shown from son to father, youth to elders and citizens to their leaders.

Known as Confucious, Kongfuzi was an influential philosopher. Prevailing as a teacher and a leader he created an ethical social philosophy that set order to society. Confucianism promoted a hierarchical society where every one knew their place.

Introduced in 500 BCE Daoism promoted harmony and balance. The Ying and Yang symbol reflected the concept of blending ideals. The yin represented man, light and life; as the yang stood for woman, darkness and death.

Another main philosophy prevalent in China's culture was Daoism. Laozi, an old Sage, spoke of an unchanging cosmic force referred to as Dao (the way). Daoism idealized harmony with nature. Encouraged was contemplation, quiet meditation and acceptance. Although Daoism contrasted Confucianism, both philosophies were practiced. The balancing of these two concepts were depicted by the Ying and the Yang. The ying and the yang illustrated a harmony or balance between opposed forces; averting conflict it supported the blending of thoughts.

Legalism, as depicted in the illustration above, was a philosophy that promoted regulation and order through fear and discipline. Law and order was thought to create order and prosperity for the land.

Xunzi, living from 300 to 200 BCE, a scholar who studied Confucianism evolved a new approach to harmony through Legalism. His approach was based on the logic that humans by nature were selfish and brutal. His philosophy of Legalism promoted strict enforcement through authoritative figures. This belief presumed that a society in fear would create unity.

Following the Legalist ideals, Li Si influenced and assisted Qin overthrow the empire. Penalties under this regime included branding, burning and various brutal forms of torture.

From 231 to 221 BCE, Northern and Southern China were united under one ruler. With the assistance of Li Si, the first Emperor Shihuangdi birthed the Qin Dynasty. To create unity, he standardized the written language, laws, coins, weights and measurements. Education was discouraged therefore books were burned and scholars were killed. Qin did not want to risk an uprising. He enlisted a massive army to increase defenses, along with the creation of the Great Wall of China. His death led to chaos in China followed by several revolts.

As the Dynasty's infrastructure grew, roads and rivers connected the capital of Qin with surrounding areas. The emperor had a palace built that would hold 10,000 people. After his death, hundreds of Terracotta soldiers were discovered in Shihuangdi's tomb.
Major contributions of the Qin Dynasty include the The Great Wall of China which was built as defense to Nomads who would pillage and steal. Irrigation systems and canals were developed to increase water supplies, to maintain favorable conditions for agriculture.
From 200 BCE to 200 CE, the Han Dynasty expanded into the Korean peninsula, Western Asia and parts of Vietnam. Liu Bang ruled one of the largest and wealthiest territories.

Liu Bang, known as Emperor Gaozu succeeded in creating the Han Dynasty. During his reign taxes were reduced, punishments were reduced and the idealism of Confucianism was accepted. Key features of this government included a Confucian civil service that included educated scholars. These individuals handled the bureaucratic roles of government while other officials were trained in military combat. This created a balance between benevolence and battle. The expansion of this Dynasty led to their demise. The cost of the expansion led to a lack of resources.

The Silk Road extended from Southern Europe through Arabia, Egypt, Persia, India until it reached China. This boosted commerce creating a network of trade routes. The idealism adopted through Confucius supported the patriarchal character of society; thus women were expected to take subordinate roles in society.

Han cities became central to commerce, exchange and creativity. Scholars would share ideas, discovering innovations in the medicine, astronomy, craftsmanship and farming. Carts and wagons were used to carry goods back and forth between cities across China. As the Silk Road developed, trade expanded through Europe and eventually allowing for trade by Sea. The Western world cherished the products of the Eastern culture. Silk, cotton, pottery, tea and spices were among the industry that supported and sustained society.

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