Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ancient Chinese Life

Chinese life and Culture.
In the uncertain times of the late Zhou period, Chinese philosophers laid the groundwork for the basic philosophical schools that would be influential in later Chinese history. One of their basic ideas was the dualism, or two-sidedness, of nature. They taught that everything in the world results from a balancing of complimentary forces, called yin and yang. Through the balancing of yin and yang, people could achieve harmony. Perhaps the most influential scholar to offer a practical guide to achieving this harmony was Kongzi, known in the West as Confucius. Confucius taught about the importance of family, respect for one’s elders, and reverence for the past. These three concepts formed the basis of Confucian philosophy.

Other philosophies and religious teachings offered other ideas about China’s problems. Daoism, for example, took its name from its central idea, the Dao, or Way of Nature. Daoists believed that people should withdraw and contemplate the natural harmony of the world in order to learn from it and allow it to govern human affairs. Daosim and Confucianism eventually came to complement one another.

Legalism, on the other hand, was a school of philosophy that taught that people were basically selfish and untrustworthy and had to be controlled with harsh measures. The Legalists believed in power, not virtue, and in the importance of having harsh laws. It was in part their adherence to Legalist views that made the Qin under Shi Huangdi so unpopular. The Han, on the other hand, followed a Confucian model in their approach to government.

The family, not the individual, was the most important unit of Chinese society. The father ruled the family and women were subordinate to men although Chinese society also taught great respect for mothers and mothers-in-law. Within the household, these women held considerable power. Until she had born a son, on the other hand, a new wife might be treated almost like a servant in her husband’s family. Respect for one’s aged parents, and especially for one’s father, was an important virtue.

As civilization prospered in China, the Chinese also developed skills in the arts and sciences. The most important works of Chinese literature were the Five Classics: the Book of History; the Book of Poetry; the Book of Divination; the Spring and Autumn Annals; and the Book of Rites. The Five Classics became the basis on which all Chinese scholars were educated. We do not know who wrote these works or when they were written. The Analects of Confucius were also essential reading for all properly brought up young men. Indeed, these works became the mainstay of the imperial civil service examinations and did much to maintain the unity of imperial culture throughout the various regions of China. Most of all, the use of these texts in Chinese education emphasized respect for tradition and knowledge of the past.

In science, Chinese astronomers early on computed the year to be 36514 days long. In 28 B.C., Chinese astronomers first observed sunspots and sometime before A.D. 100 they were building special instruments to observe the movement of planets. Another scientific invention was a primitive seismograph that could detect even the faintest earthquakes. The Chinese developed paper, as well as such things as the sundial, the water clock, and a process of printing.

While China developed in relative isolation in eastern Asia, far to the west new civilizations began to develop around the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. These civilizations were the beneficiaries of earlier developments in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Ancient Chinese Civilization Shang, Zhou, Qin & Han dynasties

Ancient Chinese Civilization
Unlike civilizations further west, Chinese civilization developed in relative isolation from outside influences. This was because China was cut off by its great distance from other centers of civilization, as well as by geographical barriers such as the Gobi desert and the towering mountains of Central Asia.

Their lack of contact with foreigners helped give the Chinese a strong sense of identity and superiority. They regarded their land as the only civilized land and called it Zhonggno, the “Middle Kingdom.” To the Chinese it represented the center of world.

Geographical and cultural influences. As elsewhere, the development of civilization in China was greatly affected by its geography. The heartland of China stretches from the coast up the valleys of the Huang He, Chang Jiang, and Xi Jiang rivers. The valley of the Huang He is particularly fertile due to the rich yellow soil known as loess. So much of this soil washes into the Huang He that it is sometimes called the Yellow River. The river is also prone to flooding, which in turn has led to another nickname, “China’s Sorrow.” In addition to being isolated by mountains and deserts, China itself is divided by the Qinling (CHIN•LING) Shandi, a range of mountains that separates north and south China. These mountains also mark the boundary between two different types of agriculture in the north, wheat was the principal crop, while in the south Chinese farmers primarily grew rice.

This heartland region, sometimes called China Proper, is surrounded by a number of outlying regions: Tibet, Xinjiang (SHIN»JYAHNG), Mongolia, Manchuria, and Korea. From these more forbidding areas, the heartland of China has sometimes been attacked by nomadic or semi-nomadic peoples. Historically, the Chinese have tried to control these areas, either to protect themselves from attack or to gain valuable trade routes. In the process of unifying or controlling all these areas, the Chinese developed a tradition of imperial rule.

The Shang dynasty. China’s first historic dynasty, the Shang, began along the Huang He sometime between 1750 B.C. and 1500 B.C. During the Shang period, many elements of later Chinese civilization began to develop, notably a writing system, and a religious tradition that combined animism a belief that spirits inhabit everything with ancestor worship. The Chinese worshiped gods of the wind, Sun, clouds, and moon. They also believed that the principal god, Shang Ti, was responsible for their destiny and controlled the forces of nature. Shang rulers tried to appeal to Shang Ti through their ancestors.

The Zhou, Qin, and Han dynasties. In 1122 B.C., the Shang were conquered by the Zhou (JOH), a powerful tribe from the northwest frontier. The Zhou claimed that their right to rule was divinely granted because Shang Ti had withdrawn his favor from the Shang dynasty. Instead, the Mandate of Heaven, as they began to call it, had passed to them. Future rulers of China would also argue that they ruled because they had this mandate, and if a dynasty lost the throne it was because they had lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Although they ruled China for about 900 years, the Zhou did not impose a centralized form of government. Instead they granted territories to members of the royal family and their allies to rule as they liked, so long as they provided the Zhou monarch with military service and tribute. Eventually, Zhou power declined and a number of warring states emerged to struggle for control of the country. One of these warring states, the Qin (CHIN), emerged victorious in 221 B.C. and founded a new dynasty.

Although the Qin dynasty only lasted a short time, until 206 B.C., it united China under a strong, central government for the first time in history. The first Qin ruler took the title Shi Huangdi, meaning “first emperor.” The Qin established the first real Chinese empire. They also standardized weights, measures, and coinage; established a uniform system of writing; and imposed a single system of taxation throughout the country. In order to maintain their rule, however, the Qin were harsh in their methods. Discontent soon grew, and in 202 B.C. Liu Bang, a commoner, raised a revolt that overthrew the Qin and established a new dynasty, the Han.

Like the Qin, the Han dynasty maintained a strong centralized government, but it ruled less harshly and more wisely. The Han improved the Qin bureaucracy and built a centralized civil service system, eventually based on an examination system tor prospective officials, to run the empire. They also increased trade, expanded and defended the frontiers, and generally tried to improve the economy of" China. Linder their rule, China prospered and many new tools and luxury goods became available including paper, a Chinese invention that later spread to the West. Eventually, however, the quality of emperors declined and in A.D. 220 the Han dynasty fell. For hundreds of years, nomadic tribes swept across northern China. Not until A.D. 589 did a Chinese general once again unify China and restore the imperial tradition.

Ancient Indian Lifestyle & Culture

Ancient Indian life and culture
The ancient Indian societes established the basic social and cultural pattems of Indian civilzation and left the world a rich legacy in art, literature, mathematics, and science. Under the Indo-Aryan influence, four distinct varna, or social classes, emerged in Indian society: the Brahmins, or priests; the Kshatriyas, or warriors; the Vaisya, which included farmers, traders, and merchants; and the Sudras, or peasants. A fifth group, known as Pariahs “untouchables,” stood at the bottom of society as virtual outcasts. As time passed, these four great varnas further subdivided into hereditary groups known as jati, each with its own fixed social position and rules about eating, marriage, labor, and worship. Westerners would later refer to this division of society as the caste system.

The social divisions of Indian society were reinforced by religious teachings. So too was the position of women, which was subordinate to that of men. Polygyny, the marriage of a man to more than one woman, for example, was accepted in Indo-Aryan society and became more widespread during the Gupta period. Another practice that became more common under Gupta rule, especially among the upper castes, was suttee, which required a widow to commit suicide by throwing herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Religion, in fact, was a central feature of Indian life. In addition to the Vedas, over the centuries other religious writings became important. Sometime after 700 b.c., for example, religious thinkers began to question the authority of the Brahmins. Wandering and teaching their message among the forests of the Ganges plain, these thinkers produced a new body of religious literature known as the Upanishads, complex explanations of the Vedic religion. Ordinary people, however, preferred the two great epics of Indian poetry, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, which taught the doctrines of Hinduism through historical and religious stories. The last part of the Mahabharata, known as the Baghavad Gita, or “Song of the Lord,” was especially popular. Its main teachings were devotion to God and that one should conduct oneself according to one’s dharma, or moral duty in life, so that the soul could progress toward deliverance from the cycle of reincarnation. Under the Guptas, Indians also enjoyed the Panchatantra, a series of fables that included the story of Sinbad the Sailor, which later found its way into the Persian tale of The Thousand and One Nights.

Art and architecture also developed, particularly under the Guptas, as did mural paintings in caves. These paintings are a valuable source of information about the daily life of the Indian people at that time. Buddhist architecture developed its own distinctive style in the stupa the dome-shaped shrines that held artifacts and objects associated with the Buddha.

Perhaps the most significant developments came in the sciences. Indian mathematicians understood abstract numbers and negative numbers, as well as the concepts of zero and infinity. Indians probably invented the numbers we call “Arabic”: the digits 1 through 9. Indian astronomers also understood the rotation of Earth on its axis and could accurately predict eclipses of the Sun and moon. Indian physicians understood the importance of the spinal column and invented the technique of inoculation infecting a person with a mild form of a disease so that he or she will not fall ill with the more serious form. They also practiced bone-setting and plastic surgery, and some understood the importance of disinfecting wounds and practicing strict cleanliness to avoid infection. By the time of the Guptas, such knowledge was passed on through the great university at Nalanda, a Buddhist institution that offered a free education to as many as 10,000 students.

Indo-Aryan Migration

Indo-Aryan migrants. What is certain, however, is that sometime around 1750 B.C., new groups of Indo- European speaking peoples, whose original homeland was probably somewhere north of the Black and Caspian Seas, began to move south through the mountain passes into northern India. Although they called themselves Aryans, scholars today refer to them as Indo-Aryans, to distinguish them from those Aryan tribes who remained in what is now Iran. The nomadic Indo-Aryans herded sheep and cows. Skillful fighters, the Indo-Aryans eventually conquered the Indus Valley and then gradually moved eastward along the great Ganges River, until after several centuries they controlled the entire Gangetic plain of northern India.

Most of what we know about early Indo-Aryan society comes from the Vedas, the great literature ot the Indo-Aryan religion. Eventually, Indo-Aryan settlements joined to form small city-states, each ruled by a raja a prince or king. Differences between the Indo- Aryans and the earlier inhabitants of India led to the development over time of a complex social system, with warriors and later priests at the top, followed by merchants, traders, farmers, and servants at the bottom.

Less influenced by the influx of the Indo-Aryans, southern India at first developed somewhat differently from the north. Separated from the Indo- Gangetic plain in the north by the forest-covered mountains of the Vindhya Range, the people of the south were able to resist conquest by the Indo- Aryans for centuries. They remained linguistically, ethnically, and culturally distinct from the populations of the north. The southern part of India is quite hilly, and this too worked against political or cultural unification. As a result, southern India remained fragmented into many different groups. Some lived as farmers, others as hunter-gatherers. Those living along the coast often turned to trade and commerce for a living and, through coastal ports, southern Indians eventually made contact with other civilizations in southeast Asia.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ancient Indian Civilization & Harappan civilization

Ancient Indian Civilization
As far as scholars can tell, the first civilization in India developed about 4500 years ago, in the valley of the Indus River. This was several hundred years after Egypt and Sumer developed civilizations. Although our knowledge of this civilization is incomplete, the ruins of two cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, provide us with the best evidence. Scholars often refer to this civilization as the Harappan civilization because it was in Harappa that archaeologists first discovered its artifacts.

Harappan Civilization. Both Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro show evidence of extremely sophisticated city planning and design. Both cities, for example, had wide streets laid out on a grid pattern, as well as extensive public water works, including public baths and a covered brick sewer system for private homes. The early Indus Valley people also developed their own written language, though modem scholars have not yet learned to decipher it. Scholars disagree about why this civilization declined. Some have suggested that the course of the Indus River changed dramatically, with devastating consequences for agriculture in the valley and flooding in the cities. Others have suggested invasion by migrating tribes led to the conquest and downfall of the civilization. Still others have argued that the region was subject to major earthquakes. The real reasons remain a mystery.

The Phoenicians, Lydians, and Hebrews

The Phoenicians, Lydians, and Hebrews
The peoples who lived in the western end of the Fertile Crescent and in western Asia Minor did not create large empires, but they had great influence on the modern world.

Phoenicia consisted of a loose union of city-states, each governed by a different king. The Phoenicians turned to the sea and to commerce for their living and became the greatest traders in the ancient Mediterranean world. Perhaps most important, the Phoenicians developed the alphabet, on which our own alphabet is patterned.

The Lydians of Asia Minor are remembered as the first people in history to use coined money, beginning in about 600 B.C. Through trade, they passed on the idea of a money economy to the Greeks and Persians.

As in the eastern part of the Fertile Crescent, a series of peoples inhabited Canaan, which lay south of Phoenicia along the land bridge between Asia and Africa. The Semitic-speaking Hebrews, the ancestors of modern Jews, had a great influence on this region and on all of history.

The Hebrews worshiped one god, Yahweh. They thought of their god not as a glorified human being, but as the one true god, the creator of the universe. The Torah, part of the Hebrew scriptures, outlines the Hebrew code of laws. This code set a higher value on human life than had earlier law codes. Because of its emphasis on ethics, or right conduct, Judaism, the Hebrew form of monotheism is often called ethical monotheism. It ranks as the Hebrews’ most important contribution to Western civilization.

Empires of the Fertile Crescent

Empires of the Fertile Crescent
The lack of unity among the Sumerian city-states made them vulnerable to attack not only by rival cities, but also by surrounding nomadic peoples who were attracted by the relative wealth of the cities. As these nomadic peoples interacted with the settled communities of the cities, they soon began to learn the skills of civilization. Combining this new knowledge with their own warlike skills, some began to conquer the cities of the Tigris-Euphrates and to create the first empires.

Fertile Crescent and Akkadians
Some time around 2330 B.C., the Akkadians, a people who also lived in Mesopotamia, conquered the Sumerians. The most powerful ot the Akkadian kings, Sargon, who ruled from about 2350 to 2300 B.C., established a great empire that extended as far west as the Mediterranean Sea. Although it only lasted about a hundred years, the Akkadian Empire was the first of many to take control of the area.

Around 1792 B.C., a powerful ruler named Hammurabi (ham»uh*RAUB»ee) came to power in the city of Babylon and conquered most of the upper Tigris-Euphrates Valley. More than just an outstanding military leader, Hammurabi was an outstanding political leader as well. He is best known for the Code of Hammurabi, a collection of laws compiled under his direction. Like the Akkadians, the Babylonians copied many aspects ot Sumerian culture, including their religious beliefs.

Sometime in the 1600s B.C., yet another group of warlike peoples, an Indo-European speaking group known as the Hittites, invaded the Tigris-Euphrates Valley from Asia Minor. The Hittites were among the first to use iron weapons. They also introduced a new, more reasonable set of laws than the harsher ones laid down in Hammurabi’s code. Yet, while they conquered Babylon, the Hittites were unable to hold the region for long and eventually withdrew to their new home base in Asia Minor.

After a prolonged period of further invasions by migrating peoples, about 900 B.C. the Assyrians, a Semitic-speaking people, began to expand their rule throughout the Fertile Crescent. Eventually, they conquered a vast empire that stretched from Egypt to the Iranian Plateau.

The Assyrians excelled in warfare. They were the first to make extensive use of cavalry units of soldiers mounted on horses. They also waged war ferociously, frequently killing their war captives and sometimes massacring the inhabitants of cities they conquered to instill terror in others. They ruled their empire through an efficient system of imperial bureaucracy. Governors ruled conquered territories and made regular reports to the king. To ensure loyalty, secret inspectors checked up on the governors and reported on their activities to the king directly. Like other conquerors before them, the Assyrians were influenced by the earlier patterns of Sumerian civilization. In fact, it was while excavating the great library of the Assyrian capital of Nineveh that modern archaeologists found a copy of the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the oldest works of literature known.

The Assyrians’ tactics won them many enemies. Finally, in 612 B.C., an alliance of their foes, led by the Medes and the Chaldeans, captured and totally destroyed the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and put an end once and for all to Assyrian power.

Under the leadership of king Nebuchadnezzar (neb*uh«kuhd»NEZ»uhr), the Chaldeans conquered most of the Fertile Crescent. Babylon, their capital, once again became a large and rich city. After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, however, this brief revival of Babylonian power faltered and in 539 Babylon fell to yet another Indo-European speaking people from the Iranian Plateau, the Persians. Under their great rulers, Cyrus the Great and Darius I, the Persians created the largest empire yet seen, ruling the peoples of southwest Asia and Egypt with an efficient and generally tolerant imperial bureaucracy.


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