Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Han Dynasty and Gaozu, First Ruler of the Han

The Han Dynasty
Liu Bang, the founder of the Han dynasty came from a peasant background. Unlike the nobles of the time, Liu Bang wanted the kingdoms of China to be united under one government. As the first ruler of the Han dynasty he achieved this goal and more. The dynasty he founded lasted for more than 400 years, from 206 B.C. until A.D. 220.

Gaozu, First Ruler of the Han
After claiming control of China, Liu Bang took the name of Han Gaozu (GOW»ZOO), or "High Ancestor." He located his capital city at Chang'an (CHANG«AHN) in the valley of the Wei River, not far from the old Qin capital of Xianyang. Gaozu made sure that his government differed from that of Shi Huangdi. He feared that the Chinese people would turn against him if he set up a Legalist government. In place of Legalism, Gaozu turned to Confucianism.

Gaozu also hoped to win the support of the nobles of China. To do this, Gaozu did away with the provinces of the Qin and restored the kingdoms of the Zhou dynasty. He appointed nobles as rulers of these kingdoms. The later Han dynasty emperors took back the kingdoms Gaozu had given to the nobles and appointed government officials to rule them. The officials reported only to the emperor. In this way, the Han formed a bureaucracy like the Qin dynasty.

Han government began to use both Confucian and Legalist ideas. While Han leaders believed that a ruler should set an example for the people, they also saw a need for strong central government and an all-powerful leader.

The Han dynasty emperors came to be as feared and respected as Shi Huangdi had been. Yet they did not use the detailed laws of the Qin. Instead, they relied on the Confucian idea that people should obey their rulers in the same way that children obey their parents.

Who was the founder of the Han dynasty?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Civilization of Europe and The Avenger

The Civilization of Europe
Many civilizations developed in the Mediterranean region between 3000 B.C. and A.D. 500. Among these peoples were the ancient Greeks and Romans. The Greeks and the Romans borrowed ideas from other societies that existed during their time. The Romans, in fact, built much of their civilization on the learning of the Greeks. Both of these peoples developed new ways of thinking and new ideas about science, politics, literature, language, and the arts. Many of the achievements of the Greeks and Romans are still admired today.

The Avenger
Like many people living today, the people of the ancient Mediterranean civilizations enjoyed sports. They believed in "a sound mind in a sound body." The ancient Greeks, for example, included athletic contests in their religious festivals. The most famous contests in Greece were the Olympic Games.

The Greeks held the Olympic Games every four years to honor Zeus, who was believed to be the most powerful of the Greek gods. Cities and towns sent their finest young athletes to take part in the games. They came from such places as Athens, Sparta, Elis, and Delphi to run, throw, and wrestle. Like Olympic athletes today, they competed for the honor of their hometowns, their families, and themselves.
Read now about a 15-year-old athlete named Alexis, who competed in the Olympic Games in 492 B.C. for his hometown ofAsini in Greece. As you read, imagine the sights, sounds, and feelings you would have experienced while watching or taking part in the Olympic Games long ago.

1 n the first light the athletes came again to the Altis1 and gathered around the altar of Zeus at the center of the sacred olive grove. It towered high, filled with the ashes of sacrifices offered for more years than any living man could remember or even guess. A priest moved through the crowd, carrying a torch from the eternal fire that burned on the altar of Hestia, goddess of the hearth. He climbed the steps to the top of the altar of Zeus and set fire to the wood piled there. The smell of blazing poplar and of incense filled the grove.

Then the Olympic flame burst through the smoke and the crowd gave a sigh like the sound of a wave breaking on a long beach. Officials were coming with this year's sacrifices for the Games, baskets of meat cut from the thighs of a hundred cattle that had been brought to the slaughter with their horns gilded2 and with wreaths of flowers about their necks. At last the fire died down and was quenched with water from the Alpheus.3 When the ashes were cold, they would be hard and smooth, and the altar of Zeus would have mounted even closer to heaven; earth, air, fire, and water mingled4 to praise him who ruled all things. On the last night of the Games, after the gods were satisfied, the crowds would feast.

Alexis remembered what followed as if it had been a dream. Somehow he got to the stadium for the boys' race. The slopes were filling, many of last night's revelers5 having stretched out to sleep there. Alexis drew his lot. Luckily, he was to run in the first heat6 and would have time to rest while four other heats were run, supposing that he survived to run in the finals. There were fifteen boys in the first heat, but Lampis was not among them.

He remembered very little from the moment he toed the starting line and heard the trumpet until he reached the finish. He only knew that another runner had been ahead of him almost to the end. Then, with the blood beating in his ears and his lungs bursting, he had somehow closed the gap. But he did not know that he had won until he fell into the crowd at the finish line and felt himself being pounded on the back to shouts of "Asini! Asini has won the first heat! Alexis of Asini!"

His mouth was dry, his head throbbing.
Then his father and Dion were breaking a path for him through the crowd to a stone water basin where he took a long drink and sank down on the grass. He could not believe that he had won. His legs were numb. Could he run again? He needed time, and it would not take much time to run off four more heats.

Telamon was rubbing him down and gently kneading the muscles of his legs. "There will be time enough. The managers will be announcing the name and town of each contestant, you know, and the umpires usually argue about who has won, and there may be some false starts. It all takes time. You will be ready."

It was as Telamon had predicted. Twice the heats were delayed when runners made false starts and were punished by sharp blows from officials with long forked sticks. But Lampis won his heat easily, and all too soon they were announcing the final race for boys.

Aristes and Dion embraced Alexis. Above the noise of the crowd he could not hear what they were saying something about Lampis, something about Asini but he knew what they meant, and nodded as he went to the starting line.

"Eucles of Athens..." All over the stadium Athenians shouted encouragement to their runner. "Sotades of Elis ... Lampis of Sparta ... Alexis of Asini... Troilus of Delphi..." Each name was followed by cheers from some parts of the stadium and silence from others whose own champions had been beaten by one of the finalists or whose own city had been at war with one of these cities.

Alexis stared down the length of the stadium to the finish line. Lampis was the one to beat and he had to do it for Asini. But Lampis always went into the lead from the very start. If Alexis held himself back this time, tired as he was, he would never be able to close the gap at the end. He must start fast and stay even with Lampis all the way, then do even better in the last stretch. He drew a deep breath, let it out, and leaned forward, his toes gripping the starting stone. The trumpet blared and the runners shot forward.

Out of the corner of his eye Alexis saw to his left Lampis and the boy from Elis, running smoothly. On his right, no one. Athens and Delphi were somewhere behind. Another glance showed him that Lampis was going into the lead. Alexis felt his lungs and his legs laboring painfully. Then suddenly he heard, as if the words were spoken, "I belong to Zeus." He saw in his mind the beach at Asini, and he felt his breath coming easily and powerfully. His leg muscles were obeying his will and he was overtaking, passing Lampis. The crowd at the finish line loomed up and overwhelmed him.

It was over. Alexis had won. Sprays of flowers and olive branches flicked his shoulders. Arms pummeled him. And then, while faces were still a blur, he saw one familiar face that made him think he had gone mad.

It happened in a flash. Slender arms were around his neck and a girl's voice spoke into his ear. "You won and I saw you win!

Oh, you are excellent!"
It was Niki. Niki where no girl was allowed to be on pain of death, Niki with her hair cropped so like a boy's and wearing one of his old tunics that she must have brought from home, planning this trick all along. No one seemed to be giving her even a second glance, but his blood froze.

"You fool!" he said under his breath. "Quick! Leave, before it's too late. You know the penalty."

"I don't believe in the penalty." She gave him a flashing smile and slipped away into the crowd.

Telamon was wiping the sweat from Alexis's face, his father and brother lifted him shoulder-high, and his townsmen put a crown of flowers on his head. They tied a ribbon on his arm, another on his thigh, and so carried him to the stone seat of the judges to receive the palm branch that would serve as a token of victory until the final night when victors were crowned with wild olive. As Alexis looked down, dazed and smiling, from his high perch, he saw Lampis, his cheeks white and tear-stained, leaving the crowd, followed by his grim-faced trainer. Again, in the midst of his own triumph, Alexis felt pity. It was a weakness, one he must try to overcome. He did not allow himself to picture the arrival of Lampis in Sparta.

As you read more about the ancient people of the Mediterranean, you will discover why Alexis felt pity for Lampis, the runner from Sparta. You also will learn that the ancient Greeks are remembered today for more than the Olympic Games.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wu Diand Civil Service in Ancient China

Wu Diand Civil Service
In 140 B.C. Wu Di (WOO DEE) came to the Han throne. The name Wu Di, or "Warlike Emperor," was a good title for this leader. He created large armies, some with as many as 300,000 soldiers, to conquer new lands and expand the borders of the empire.

Wu Di's empire faced a tremendous threat from the north. A nomadic people called the Xiongnu (shee»UNG»noo) often made raids into China. Much later the Xiongnu, also known as the Huns, would attack Europe. To guard against attack by the Xiongnu, Wu Di extended the Great Wall. He also sent his armies north against the nomadic warriors. Wu Di's actions restored some peace to the distant regions of China.

A civil service is a part of a bureaucracy that oversees the day-to-day business of running a government.
As in the Qin government, many Han government jobs were given as a reward for loyalty. Some jobs, however, could be earned by performing well on tests. The tests measured a person's ability to do government work. Many of these tests were open to people of all classes.

How did Wu Di protect his empire and run it?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Ancient Greece and The Land of Greece

Ancient Greece

Geography of Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks were fascinated by geography. In fact, the word geography was first spoken by these people. The word comes from two Greek words gaia, meaning "the earth," and graph, meaning "a drawing or a picture." The Greeks wanted to find out all they could about the "earth picture," or geography, of their land.

The Land of Greece
Present-day Greece occupies a large peninsula on the southern edge of Europe. This peninsula the Balkan Peninsula curves south and east into the Mediterranean Sea toward a part of Asia called Asia Minor, or "Little Asia." Today the country of Turkey fills Asia Minor. Turkey and Greece are separated by an island-dotted arm of the Mediterranean called the Aegean (ih»JEE»uhn) Sea.

West of present-day Greece is the Ionian Sea. To the south is the Mediterranean. These seas cut deeply into Greece, nearly splitting it in two. The southern part, called the Peloponnesus (peh«luh»puh»NEE»suhs), is connected to the rest of the mainland by a small strip of land, or isthmus (lS»muhs). Surrounding Greece are as many as 2,000 islands. The largest of these islands is Crete, located southeast of the Greek mainland.

Ancient Greek settlement was not limited to the land we call Greece today. Instead, early settlement spread across the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean seas. Colonies thrived on several islands and on the coasts of northern Africa, Spain, Italy, and Asia Minor.

Where is Greece located?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Sea Around in Ancient Greece

The Sea Around
While the mountains separated people, the seas brought people together. Greece has many fine natural harbors, sheltered places with deep water close to shore. The ancient Greeks used these natural harbors to explore the seas.

The ancient Greeks first used the sea as a source of food. Later the Greeks traveled the seas to trade for resources they did not have at home. In time, the sea led Greek adventurers to new lands, where they started colonies. Across the sea, colonists found better farmland and new resources.

Through sea trade, the Greeks gained not only resources and products but also ideas. Phoenician traders probably introduced the Greeks to their alphabet, which became the basis for the Greek alphabet. Greek artists borrowed ideas from Egyptian sculpture. Many Greek ideas were also carried across the seas to distant lands.

Contact with people across the seas sometimes brought conflict. Over time, the ancient Greeks became skilled at fighting on the seas. In the late sixth century they began to make large fighting ships called triremes (TRY.reemz), borrowing the technology from peoples located near the eastern Mediterranean. Their skill at protecting themselves allowed their sea trade to grow.

The Han Dynasty and The Silk Road

The Silk Road
Even before the Han dynasty, Chinese traders imported, or brought in, goods for sale from other lands. They also exported, or sent out, their own goods for sale in other places. However, during the time of the Han dynasty, trade with the outside world grew dramatically.

In 139 B.C. Wu Di sent an ambassador, or government representative, to talk to enemies of the Xiongnu about becoming allies. The ambassador, Zhang Qian (JAHNG CHIH»yihn), did not succeed in this. However, he did learn about some of the civilizations to the west of China. Zhang Qian came back with tales of resources unknown to the people of China. The Chinese people were especially interested in stories of magnificent horses. The stories led Chinese traders to travel in search of these horses and other goods. Most of China's trade was done by land. The trade route used the most began near the Han capital of Chang'an. It continued through the deserts and high plains of central Asia. The route finally ended at the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.

The Chinese product most in demand was silk. In fact, it was silk that gave the trade route its nickname the Silk Road. Traders traveled west with products made from silk. They returned with lumber, horses, and other products that the Chinese people needed.

The journey on the Silk Road was sometimes dangerous. However, the profits, or money gained, more than made up for the risks. Camel caravans, or groups of traders, became common sights on the Silk Road.

Chinese traders easily found buyers for their silk. Those who bought silk directly from the Chinese traded it to others farther west. Chinese traders did not go all the way to Africa and Europe, but their goods did. What was the Silk Road?

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Han Dynasty and Han Contributions

Han Contributions
The Han people made many lasting contributions to Chinese society. A number of their innovations were related to technology In A.D. 132 a Han inventor created the world's first seismograph, an instrument that detects and measures earthquakes. Han scientists also made tools that allowed them to study the movement of the planets.

Of all their innovations, the Han are perhaps best known for developing the technology of papermaking. People living in the western regions of the Han Empire probably made the first paper about 100 B.C. It came to the attention of the imperial court about A.D. 100. A court official took credit for its invention.

The arts also developed during Han times. Advances were made in both landscape and portrait painting. Han dynasty authors wrote many essays and poems that are still studied in China's schools.

One Han writer, Sima Qian (SOOMUH CHIH»YIHN), wrote the first history of China. Much of what we know about the Shang, Zhou, and Qin dynasties comes from Sima Qian's work.

The Han are also remembered for philosophy. Confucianism became the official Han teaching. Han rulers also supported such teachings as Daoism (DOW»ih»zuhm). Daoism teaches that the key to happiness is accepting life as it is. Daoism developed into a religion, with its own rituals and houses of worship.

The Han dynasty ended in A.D. 220. However, Han ideas lived on and can still be seen today in the culture of the present- day Chinese people. It is no wonder that the Chinese people still call themselves the children of the Han.

What are some of the lasting contributions the Han made to Chinese civilization?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Shi Huangdi & Tomb Facts and Secrets

Shi Huangdi's Tomb
Qin Shi Huangdi, China's first emperor, united China in 221 B.C. His rule became known as a time of great cruelty by later historians. It is known that Shi Huangdi forced peasant farmers to complete large construction projects such as the Great Wall, roads, canals, and several new palaces. Shi Huangdi also made many enemies during his rule. He was almost assassinated three times.

After Shi Huangdi survived the assassination attempts, he became determined to find a way to live forever. For example, he sent groups of men and women out to sea to look for a land where people did not die. Realizing that he might not live forever, Shi Huangdi ordered the building of an elaborate tomb. If he had to die, he wanted his afterlife to be comfortable. Read now to find out why his tomb, the ruins of which were discovered in 1974, has fascinated people around the world.

In March of 1974, Chinese peasants digging a well near Xi'an in the central province of Shaanxi found some unusual pottery fragments. Then, deeper down at eleven feet, they unearthed a head made of terra cotta (baked earth or clay). They notified the authorities and excavation of the site began immediately. To date, workers have dug up about eight thousand sculpted clay soldiers, and the site has proved to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time.

For over two thousand years, these clay warriors have been guarding the tomb of Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor of China. Tradition says that the First Emperor began building his tomb when he ascended to the throne at age thirteen, and that it was unfinished at his death, thirty-six years later. The Chinese historian Sima Qian wrote in the Shiji, "Historical Records," that the emperor forced 700,000    laborers to work on his elaborate tomb.

The warriors stand guard in three pits (a fourth was found to be empty) that cover five-and-a-half acres and are sixteen to twenty- four feet deep. The largest one contains six thousand terra-cotta soldiers marching in military formation in eleven trenches, each as long as a football field. At the western end of the formation is a vanguard of archers and bowmen. At the head of six of the trenches stand the remnants of chariots, each with four life-size horses and eighteen soldiers. The wooden chariots have largely disintegrated, unlike the well-preserved terra-cotta horses and men. Last come row upon row of soldiers.

Despite the enormous number of men, no two faces are alike. Their expressions display dignity, steadfastness, and intelligence. Each is tall, standing five-and-a-half to six feet high. Some people think the terra-cotta soldiers portray real-life men from the vast army  of the First Emperor.

The warriors' legs are solid JSI columns of clay, with squared-toed sandals on their feet. The hollow bodies are if coiled clay. The head and hands of each soldier were carefully molded and attached to the body in assembly-line fashion. Traces of pink, yellow, purple, blue, orange, green, brown, and black pigment show that the figures were once brightly painted. The horses were roan (reddish-brown, brown, or black) with pink mouths.

The warriors' hair styles and topknots, and the tassels trimming their garments, denote their military rank. Many do not wear helmets or carry shields, a mark of bravery in battle. Their armor was probably of lacquered leather; some pieces look like baseball catchers' pads. The soldiers' hands are positioned to hold weapons, but most of the weapons have disappeared. Very likely they were stolen when the pits were looted after the fall of the Qin dynasty (the dynasty founded by Shi Huangdi). Even so, bronze spears, halberds (a combination spear and battle-ax), swords, daggers, and about fourteen hundred arrowheads remain. Some of the blades are still very sharp.

A second pit, only partially excavated, contains about fourteen hundred more soldiers. While the first pit holds mostly infantry, the second has a more mobile attack force of horses and chariots. A third pit is thought to hold the high command of the army. The chariot of the Commander-in-Chief survives, with men surrounding it in protective formation.

Covered by a wooden roof and ten feet of earth, these figures were not intended to be seen. When the pits were looted and burned, the roof fell in and damaged most of the sculptures. Reconstruction is a slow, delicate task. Today, a visitor to the site can walk on long wooden platforms sixteen feet above the pits and gaze down with astonishment at the thousands of sculptured soldiers below.

Approximately a mile away from the pits is a gently sloping, rounded mountain covered with trees the burial mound of the First Emperor. The four-sided, rammed-earth mound covers three quarters of a square mile and is one hundred fifty-six feet high. It once stood at four hundred feet. Of the two great walls that enclosed the funerary park only rubble remains. The perimeter of the outer wall is almost four miles. Set into the strong thick walls were four gates and four corner towers. Inside the walls were gardens, pavilions, and a sacrificial palace, in addition to the burial mound. The burial chamber itself is still untouched, its contents as yet unknown.

Tradition based on the Shiji says that the emperor's body was buried in a suit of small jade pieces sewed together with gold thread and covered with a pearl and jade shroud. Also in the burial mound were bronze models of Shi Huangdi's palaces and government offices. The replicas featured such details as pearls to represent the sun and moon, and pools of mercury to recreate rivers and seas.

According to the ancient Chinese, the soul of the dead continued living and therefore required all of life's necessities within the tomb. Kings especially needed many luxuries and that is why their tombs are treasure houses of jewels, gold, silver, and bronze.

The Shiji states that in order to prevent people from robbing the tomb, "Craftsmen built internal devices that would set off arrows should anyone pass through the tunnels." Because Sima Qian wrote his history a century after the death of the First Emperor, the accuracy of his statements is questionable. In fact, grave robbers did enter and loot Shi Huangdi's tomb for thirty years after the fall of the Qin dynasty (four years after the Emperor's death). During this time, many precious relics most likely were stolen.

In 1980, additional smaller pits were discovered. One contains pottery coffins with bones of exotic birds and animals, probably from the royal zoo. Another has vessels inscribed with the words, "Belonging to the Officials in Charge of Food at Mount Li," and must be where food and sacrifices were offered to the dead emperor. Uncovered in the nearby Hall of Slumber were clothes and everyday objects for use by the soul of the Emperor.

As the excavations continue, each find serves to remind us of the tremendous energy and genius of Shi Huangdi and his people.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The End of the Qin

The End of the Qin
The Qin government was designed to place all power in the hands of the emperor. The emperor had to be strong, however, to maintain rule over China. Many people in China were unhappy with the Qin but were too afraid of Shi Huangdi to rebel.

Shi Huangdi, the First Emperor, died in 210 B.C. His favorite son became the Second Emperor, but he proved to be a weak ruler. Soon civil war broke out. In a civil war, different groups of people from the same place or country fight one another. By 206 B.C., the Qin had collapsed. After four more years of civil war, the king of the Han, Liu Bang, defeated all other rival powers in 202 B.C.

Most of what we know about Shi Huangdi, Li Si, and the Qin Empire comes from historians and scholars of the Han dynasty. The Han did not agree with the way the Qin had ruled. Because the Han government closely followed the teachings of Confucius, they disapproved of the Qin government for adopting Legalism.

There is no doubt that the Qin could be cruel as they created their Legalist society. Newly discovered Qin laws prove that the government treated people very harshly. However, many of the Han claims of Qin cruelty may be based more on the rivalry between the Qin and the Han than on historical facts.

Why did the Qin Empire collapse?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Program of Standardization in Ancient China

A Program of Standardization
Walls, canals, and roads helped unite China. So, too, did Shi Huangdi's program of standardization. Standardization means making all things of a certain type alike.
The use of standardized coins, weights, and writing helped make trade and communication easier throughout China. Use of the same standards also helped the many peoples of the empire think of themselves as one.

Writing was also standardized in China during the time of the Qin. There were two official kinds of Chinese writing. One kind of writing was used for stone carvings and official documents. Another kind was used for everyday writing.

Education became another focus of standardization. Shi Huangdi wanted tight control of all the books used to teach. Li Si complained that too many books praised the Zhou and questioned the ideas of the Qin. In 213 B.C. Shi Huangdi ordered the burning of certain books. Many of the books destroyed were about Confucianism. Legends say that teachers who refused to give up their Confucian writings were taken prisoner and buried alive.

As part of his program of standardization, Shi Huangdi also did away with the fiefs created during the Zhou dynasty. The smaller ones became counties. The larger ones became provinces. Provinces are political regions of a country, similar to the states of the United States.

Shi Huangdi ordered the noble families who had owned the fiefs to move to Xianyang, the Qin Empire's capital. This forced move helped end any loyalty peasants had felt toward their nobles. In addition, Shi Huangdi made it illegal for people not in the army to carry weapons. Any weapons that did not belong to the army were collected and melted down.

Shi Huangdi then appointed government officials to run the counties and provinces. These officials reported directly to the central government in Xianyang. In this way, the Qin created a single bureaucracy for the entire empire. To support this bureaucracy, the people of China were required to pay heavy taxes.

What were some things that were standardized during the time of the Qin dynasty?

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Qin Dynasty and Rule of Qin Shi Huangdi

The Qin Dynasty
During the 300s B.C., large kingdoms in China began to conquer smaller ones. The last Zhou kingdom met its end in 256 B.C., bringing the Zhou dynasty to a close. Three independent kingdoms remained in China the Qi, Chu, and Qin (CHIN). These kingdoms fought each other for control of China. The Qin eventually won and united China under their rule.

Rule of Qin Shi Huangdi
The Qin king established the Qin Empire in 221 B.C. He named himself Qin Shi Huangdi (CHIN SHIR HWAHNG»DEE), or "First Emperor of the Qin." The uniting of China by the Qin dynasty is one of the most important events in all Chinese history The importance of the Qin dynasty is reflected in the fact that the name China comes from the word Qin.

Shi Huangdi was born about 259 B.C. He became the king of Qin in 246 B.C., when he was just 13 years old. At first, he depended on advisors, who told him to adopt the teachings of Confucius. When he reached the age of 20 in 239 B.C., the young king rejected this advice. He appointed new advisors who taught him other ideas about governing. These other ideas included the strict following of laws.

The most powerful of Shi Huangdi's new advisors was Li Si (LEE SUH). Shi Huangdi made Li Si his prime minister in 237 B.C. Some Chinese scholars believe that Li Si deserves much of the credit for uniting China.

Later Chinese historians often described the Qin government as cruel and uncaring. According to these historians, all those who were foolish enough to challenge Shi Huangdi were killed along with their families to warn others to obey. ru'im'i Why is the Qin dynasty remembered today?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Qin Dynasty and Legalism

Legalism
To help him rule his empire, Shi Huangdi put into place both written laws and a bureaucracy. The strict following of laws and use of bureaucracy is known as Legalism. Legalism taught that people obeyed their rulers out of fear, not out of respect. Under a system of Legalism, people who obey receive rewards. Those who do not obey are punished.

The most well-thought-out writings about Legalism were done by Master Han Fei (HAHN FAY). Han Fei's ideas were different from those of Confucius. Han Fei believed that a government based on virtues and respect would not work. Instead, he urged rulers to rely on laws and on the "two handles" of reward and punishment. Eventually, Han Fei introduced Shi Huangdi to his thoughts on Legalism.

What were the "two handles" Han Fei thought rulers should use?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Great Wall and The Great Wall in Ancient China

The Great Wall
To solve this problem, Shi Huangdi used prisoners as workers to build new roads and canals. These workers built more than 4,000 miles (6,437 km) of roads. This linked even the distant parts of the empire to the center of the Qin government at Xianyang (shee»AHN»yahng).

Shi Huangdi found that protecting his large empire was not easy. To the north of the empire lived large tribes of fierce warriors who rode horses. In earlier times, the people of the northern kingdoms of China had built walls of rammed earth to protect their borders from these people. But these walls did not keep the invaders away for long. Shi Huangdi ordered his workers to link together the existing walls. Using this forced labor, the Qin created a long, single wall a Great Wall.

The Great Wall stood 30 feet (9 m) high, with 40-foot (12-m) towers. The long wall twisted and turned through mountains, valleys, marshes, and deserts for more than 1,500 miles (2,414 km). Yet in spite of its size, the Great Wall was built in just seven years.

The Great Wall not only kept invaders out of China, it warned people when invasions were taking place. Soldiers on the Great Wall communicated with each other by using signals. Smoke was used as a signal during the day, while fire was used as a signal at night. Signals would travel from tower to tower along the Great Wall, until they reached the Qin capital.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Ideas of Confucius | Ancient China for Kids

The Ideas of Confucius
One of China's most important thinkers, Confucius, lived during the Warring Kingdoms Period. Confucius is often called China's first philosopher. A philosopher is a person who studies the meaning of life. Confucius spent much of his time thinking about ways to improve society and restore order in China.

Confucius is also remembered as China's first teacher. Many people sought Confucius so that they could study the ancient traditions with him. Often he used short sayings to teach his ideas. After Confucius died, his students grouped all his sayings into a huge collection. Many later followers argued that some of the sayings were not from Confucius. A book was then made containing the sayings most people agreed were really spoken by Confucius. This book is called Lunyu (LUN»YOO) in Chinese and the Analects in English. The Chinese word lunyu means "discussions."

The Analects tell much about the philosopher's ideas. He opposed the new forms of government that the Chu, Zheng, and other kingdoms were practicing. Confucius did not agree with the idea of bureaucracy. He also thought that the use of written laws and punishments was not the best way to bring back order. Instead, Confucius supported the old Zhou dynasty idea that I a ruler should set a good example for his people.

Many of Confucius' thoughts about government seem to be based on his views about families. In ancient China, children were expected to treat their parents with great honor and respect. The ancient Chinese called this kind treatment of parents xiao (SHOW), or filial piety (FlH«lee»uhl PY«uh»tee). Confucius told his followers that by studying filial piety they could learn how to become loyal subjects. Confucius also taught that rulers could gain loyalty only by treating their subjects with the same love that parents show to their children. He called such love ren, or kindness.

For the most part, the teachings of Confucius were ignored during his lifetime. In time, however, his ideas, which came to be called Confucianism, spread throughout eastern Asia.

Biography
Confucius (551-479 B.C.)
Confucius is believed to have been born in 551 B.C. The name Confucius is a Latin form of the philosopher's name Kong Fuzi (KOONG FOO.zuh), which means Master Kong. Confucius' father was a government official.

By the time Confucius was 25 years old, he also worked in the Lu government. Perhaps because he had offended powerful noble families, Confucius was exiled from Lu. According to legend, Confucius wandered for 25 years. During this time, he formed his ideas about government and society. Many of his ideas are still respected and used today.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Decline of the Zhou in Ancient China

The Decline of the Zhou
King Wu and the kings who followed him were all strong rulers. The Book of Documents says that the Zhou governed carefully because they feared losing the Mandate of Heaven. The power and good standing of the Zhou kings, however, eventually weakened. Soon, people to the north and to the west of the Zhou kingdom invaded the valley of the Wei River.

In 771 B.C. the people of the Zhou capital city of Hao (HOW) got ready for an attack by the invaders. A legend tells that the Zhou leader, King You (YOO), ordered fires lighted on hills around the capital when an attack seemed likely. However, several times he lit the fires when there was no invasion. He just wanted to see if the nobles would come. Finally, there really was an attack. King You ordered the fires to be lit, in hopes of bringing the nobles' armies. The nobles thought this was another false alarm and did not send their armies to help the king.

King You died in the attack, and the invaders captured the Wei River Valley.
As a result, the next Zhou king was forced to move his capital city east to the North China Plain. After the move, the power of the Zhou kings weakened. At the same time, the power of the nobles increased. Many nobles made their fiefs independent. Some even began to call themselves king.

The collapse of the Zhou brought China into a time of warfare. For this reason the last few centuries of the Zhou dynasty are sometimes called the Warring States Period, or the Warring Kingdoms Period. During this time people in China were often at war with one another. Yet this time of war also brought the development of new forms of government to bring back law and order.

As early as the 600s B.C., the kingdom of Chu (JOO) had invented a new way of dividing and governing land. The Chu kings did not give out land to noble families.

Instead they created counties and picked people to govern them. The people who governed these counties were chosen because of their abilities. The Chu system of governing counties is one of the earliest examples in world history of a bureaucracy. In the Chu bureaucracy a network of appointed government officials did specific jobs. The idea of bureaucracy spread rapidly throughout ancient China.

In 535 B.C. the king of Zheng (ZHENG), a small kingdom in the North China Plain, wrote down a set of laws. These were the earliest written laws in China. The Zheng ruler no longer believed that having virtues was enough to keep order in society He believed that specific laws were needed. The laws were meant to explain clearly what was right and what was wrong. The ruler of Zheng inscribed his new laws on the outside of a giant bronze vessel so that everyone could see the laws.

How was the kingdom of Chu governed?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Zhou Dynasty and Winning the Mandate of Heaven

The Zhou Dynasty
The Classical Age in China began with the conquest of the Huang He Valley in 1050 B.C. by the Zhou (JOH) dynasty. Under the Zhou and the dynasties that followed, China became powerful. These dynasties left a heritage that has lasted for thousands of years. A heritage is a set of ideas that have been passed down from one generation to another.

Winning the Mandate of Heaven
The beginnings of the Zhou people are not entirely clear. Even experts in Chinese history are not sure how different the Zhou were from the Shang. One difference is clear, however. The Zhou worshipped a god they called Tian (TYEN), or "Heaven." This god seems to have been unknown to the Shang.

The ancestors of the Zhou dynasty may have lived in the Wei River Valley as herders. In time, they learned to farm and settled in villages. According to legend, the founder of the Zhou, Hou Ji (HO GEE) discovered agriculture when he was a child.

Gradually, the Zhou began to move farther east in the Wei River Valley. As they moved, they came into contact with the Shang. Around the year 1150 B.C., the Zhou attacked the Shang. In about 1050 B.C. the Zhou ruler, King Wu, claimed victory over the Shang.

According to the Zhou, Heaven ordered King Wu to conquer the Shang and begin a new dynasty. The early Zhou kings believed that the god Heaven disapproved of the Shang king. They thought that the Shang did not have the virtues, or good qualities, needed to lead the people.

The Book of Documents, an early Chinese text, calls Heaven's order to claim rule over China the Mandate of Heaven. The Zhou kings believed that they would be able to keep the mandate as long as they continued to show virtues. The Zhou kings believed that virtues kept order in their society.

What was the Mandate of Heaven?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Zhou Dynasty and Division of Classes

Division of Classes
The family was the basic unit of Zhou society. During Zhou times, society was divided into three classes of families the king and his family, noble families, and peasant families. Families of each class were expected to show virtues by performing services for other classes.

The king showed that he had virtues by giving land to the noble families. Land given to a noble by the king is called a fief. Fiefs remained the property of the noble families and were passed down from generation to generation. In return for this land, the noble families showed loyalty to the king by paying him tribute. Tribute was paid in the form of valuable gifts or by supplying an army to help the king fight battles.

Peasants lived on the fiefs owned by the nobles. Nobles allowed the peasants to farm part of their fiefs. In return, the peasants had to serve in the nobles' armies and pay taxes by sending the nobles some of their crops.

The lives of peasants were filled with hardships. Some landlords were greedy and demanded that the peasants pay more taxes than they could afford. However, the peasant farmers were not slaves and could leave. A peasant complains about his landlord in one of the earliest books of Chinese poetry, the Book of Songs:


Big rat! Big rat!
Don't eat our millet!
For three years we've spoiled you, you haven't paid us back.
It's got to the point where we'll leave you and go to that happy land. Happy land! Happy land!
There we'll find a place.

What were the three classes of Zhou society?

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bronze Vessels and Oracle Bones in Ancient China

Bronze Vessels and Oracle Bones
Most people during the Shang dynasty lived in small farming villages. The farmers grew grain, kept chickens and pigs, and raised silkworms for silk cloth. Craftworkers made bronze tools, weapons, and beautiful vessels used for rituals. A ritual is a set way of conducting a ceremony.

The Shang people used bronze ritual vessels in ceremonies to honor their ancestors who had died. Ancestors are relatives further back than grandparents. Because of the importance of the rituals, the Shang devoted much skill, energy, and time to making bronze ritual vessels. Sometimes the maker of a bronze vessel would carve an inscription into it that told who made it and which ancestor it honored. Such inscriptions are among the earliest examples of Chinese writing.

The ancient Chinese worshipped their ancestors and several gods. Ancestors were worshipped because they were thought to be very wise and able to guide the lives of the living. Most of the gods Shang people worshipped were nature gods. The Shang prayed to the gods of wind, rain, and fire, as well as to the gods of directions—north, south, east, and west. The chief god of the Shang was called Shang Di, which means "God-on-High." This god's name suggests that the people believed he lived in the sky and oversaw everything they did.

The ancient Shang thought that their ancestors could communicate with the
gods. Ancestors were asked to encourage the powerful gods of nature to be kind to humankind. The Shang feared that angry gods might bring disasters, diseases, or enemy attacks.

Shang kings would often ask their ancestors for advice on a wide variety of subjects. To learn the answers to his questions, the king needed the help of a diviner. A diviner was a person who, it was believed, could communicate with the spirits of the dead.
The diviner would lay out animal bones or turtle shells. Then, the diviner would touch the bones or shells with hot metal sticks. The heat caused cracks to form on the bones and shells. The diviner then gave the bones and shells to the king. The Shang king "read" the cracks to find out the answers to his questions.

BIOGRAPHY
Lady Hao (About 1250 B.C.)
Much of the information we have about the Shang people comes from their tombs. Unfortunately, most Shang tombs were robbed before they were discovered by archaeologists. The only royal Shang tomb not robbed before its discovery is Lady Hao’s tomb. It contained over 460 bronze objects and several sculptures in jade and ivory.

Little is known about Lady Hao. Some researchers believe she is mentioned in oracle bone inscriptions of the time as a wife of the king Wu Ding. According to these inscriptions, Lady Hao handled certain rituals and managed an estate outside the capital. She also led military campaigns once with more than 13,000 soldiers.

HISTORY
The Legend of Silk
Silk has long been used in China to weave beautiful clothing, fine ribbons, and colorful decorations. A legend tells that the Chinese discovered silk in 2700 B.C., when Xilingshi (SEE»LING»SHIR), a ruler's wife, noticed worms eating a prized mulberry tree. She took a cocoon spun by a worm, dropped it into hot water and watched the thread unwind. Xilingshi then used the thread to weave a beautiful piece of cloth. No one knows whether this story is true or false, but silk has been produced throughout the Huang He Valley since the time of the Shang and probably earlier.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ancient Chinese Writing

Chinese Writing
The Shang dynasty contributed many inventions to early Chinese civilization. Bronze ritual vessels, bronze weapons, chariots, and walled cities were just a few of their innovations. Of all the Shang advances, the most important was the development of Chinese writing.

Legend says that people of the Shang period wrote in books made of bamboo and wood. Yet none of these have ever been found. Books made of such materials would not have lasted through the centuries.

The only evidence of Shang writing can be found on oracle bones and bronze ritual vessels. These artifacts make it clear that the Shang were the earliest people east of the Indus Valley to read and write. Writing would have allowed the Shang government to keep records and to work better.

The writing system created by the Shang was adopted by later Chinese dynasties. It forms the base of all later Chinese writing. Shang writing is different from the writing of many other peoples in one important way. The characters, or symbols, used in Shang writing represent whole words. They are not like the letters of the English alphabet, which represent parts of words. Shang characters are more like Egyptian hieroglyphs, which also stand for whole words. Like hieroglyphs, many Shang characters began as drawings of the things they name.

Oracle bones and bronze vessels show that the Shang people used a very large number of characters. Only about 1,000 of these have been figured out.

Chinese writing has changed over the years. Chinese civilization developed many new ideas and came into closer contact with other peoples and traditions. Because of these changes, some old characters have changed in meaning and new ones have been added. However, present-day Chinese writing has strong roots in Shang characters.

How is Shang writing different from other types of writing?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Early Chinese Civilization

Early Chinese Civilization
Chinese civilization has a long and complex history. Over the years, historians have kept an almost complete record of rulers, cultures, and events. Today the chain of Chinese history directly links present-day China with China's earliest civilizations. Two of the most important early civilizations were located in river valleys. One was in the valley of the Huang He. The other was in the valley of the Chang Jiang.

Legends and Facts About China's Origins
Like many other people, the Chinese have often used legends, or stories handed down from earlier times, to explain the distant past. One Chinese legend tells that the goddess Nugua (NEW»GWAY) made the first humans out of clay Another story tells that her husband, Fuxi (FOOSHEE), invented writing by studying the scratches of birds and other animals.

The story of Yu the Great and the Great Flood may be the most famous Chinese legend of all. This legend tells of a time when floods covered much of China. To save China, Yu the Great dug deep rivers to hold the extra water. Yu worked for 13 years to remove flood waters from the land. When his work was done, the farmers could once again plant their crops. Even today Chinese students say, "If it were not for Yu the Great, we would all be fishes."

Historians may never know if Yu the Great helped farmers control floods. There is no proof that he even existed. Still, the ancient legend tells us a lot about the early Chinese. It helps show the importance that they placed on agriculture.

As early as 5000 B.C., farmers were growing crops in both northern and southern China. There is also evidence that dogs and pigs were domesticated at this time. In northern China early farmers grew grains such as millet, as well as fruits and green vegetables. At the same time, farmers in southern China were growing rice. By 3000 B.C. cattle were being raised in northern and southern China.

In both parts of China, the settled farmers began to make pottery. Bowls, jugs, and other pieces of pottery were used to store and transport rice and other grains. Some pottery was decorated with simple designs and placed in graves during burials. Beautiful objects made of jade a very hard, usually green stone have also been found in graves of this period.

Why is the story of Yu the Great important?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ancient China: The Xia and Shang Dynasties

The Xia and Shang Dynasties
By about 2000 B.C. there were hundreds of settlements near the Chang Jiang and the Huang He. As in other civilizations, some of these settlements grew into towns. Later these towns developed into powerful kingdoms that competed for resources. This competition often led to fights between kingdoms.

According to early legends, Yu the Great ruled a number of kingdoms after he found a way to control the floods. The stories say that when he died, his son took over as ruler. In this way Yu and his family created the first Chinese dynasty the Xia (SYAH). Because no archaeological evidence from the Xia has been found, we do not know if they really existed.

Experts do know that many different families ruled China through the centuries. Dynasties continued to rule China for almost 4,000 years.

Early legends tell us that the Xia dynasty ruled for many years. However, by about 1600 B.C., another kingdom had gained power. Its king, Tang the Successful, supposedly conquered the Xia and began a new ruling dynasty. This dynasty is remembered as the Shang. The Shang used war chariots and weapons made of bronze a metal made by combining copper, lead, and tin. This technology may have helped them take control of China.

Over the years the Shang added land to their kingdom. As the size of the Shang kingdom grew, its rulers moved the Shang capital farther north. The Shang may have had as many as five different capitals during their rule. At one of the capitals, Zhengzhou, workers built enormous walls around the city They made the walls by pounding thin layers of earth together inside a movable frame. After this was done several times, the frame was removed.

Using this method, the Shang created walls as hard as cement. The walls were 60 feet (18.3 m) wide, 30 feet (9.1 m) tall, and 2,385 feet (727 m) long. The last Shang capital was near the present-day city of Anyang (AHN.YAHNG), not very far from the Huang He.

What was the first Chinese dynasty?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Ancient China & Land Regions

China's Land Regions
Rivers and mountains divide China into different areas. The Qinling Mountains divide China into two main parts northern China and southern China.

Both northern and southern China can be divided into smaller regions.
Among the major regions of northern China are the North China Plain, the Shandong Peninsula, and the Huang He Valley. Some of the major land regions of southern China are the Szechwan Basin, the Southeast Mountains, and the Chang Jiang Basin. A basin is a bowl-shaped area of land surrounded by higher land.

To the west of the Qinling Mountains lies the Plateau of Tibet. This plateau in southwestern China occupies about one-fourth of the whole country. The plateau's elevation ranges from about 13,000 feet (3,962 m) to 26,000 feet (7,925 m). North of the Qinling Mountains is the enormous Gobi desert. This 500,000-square-foot (46,450-sq-m) area is dry and has very few plants.

Each of China's regions has a different geography and climate. Many also have their own local culture. Each region has its own dialect, or way of speaking, the Chinese language. The dialect of one region often cannot be understood in another.

China's mountains and rivers are one reason for the great differences between regions. For centuries these mountains and rivers have separated groups of people. Without much contact from outsiders, the people of each region developed their own way of life.

How are China's regions different from each other?

GEOGRAPHY
Loess
The enriched sandy soil of the Huang He Valley is called loess. Loess is different from other soils because it never stops collecting and then shifting in the howling winds. Loess can build up in the Huang He, causing the river to flood. Mounds of loess in the river can even cause the river to change course, drowning people and destroying homes. Since the earliest days, people have had good reason to call the Huang He "The River of Sorrows.” However, the same destructive floods also deposit loess along the riverbanks of the Huang He. This has enriched the soil there, making it perfect for growing crops. In this way, "The River of Sorrows" makes agriculture possible in the area.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Persian Empire & Cyrus, the Empire Builder

The Persian Empire
Some of the Aryans migrated to lands west of India and settled in what is now the country of Iran around 900 B.C. The name Iran may have come from the word Aryan. The Aryan people of Iran came to be known as Persians.

Cyrus, the Empire Builder
The Persians of long ago lived on the Plateau of Iran, a large area stretching from India to the Zagros Mountains. From the plateau the Persians spread out in all directions. They conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C. and the Egyptians in 525 B.C. Over the years, they formed the largest empire the world had seen.

The Persian army was huge. Its size and advanced war technology overwhelmed its enemies. Persian footsoldiers were well protected by bronze helmets and shields. This protection often made them the winners in hand-to-hand combat. The Persians also fought well at sea.

The Persians used cavalry, soldiers who rode horses and camels, to make swift attacks. Horses were also used to pull Persian war chariots, which had sharp knives attached to the wheels. In less than 20 years, the Persian army conquered lands from northern India to North Africa.

The leader who built the Persian Empire was Cyrus the Great. Cyrus was born between 590 B.C. and 580 B.C. The only battle he ever lost was his last. In that battle he led his army to fight people who lived near the Caspian Sea. Their ruler was Queen Tomyris (tuh»MY»ruhs). She led her smaller army against Cyrus's fighting force. One historian, Herodotus (hih»RAH»duh»tuhs) of Greece, later described the battle this way:

First the two armies stood apart and shot their arrows at each other. Then, when their quivers were empty, they closed and fought hand-to-hand with lances and daggers. And thus they continued fighting for a length of time, neither choosing to give ground.
In the end most of the Persians were killed, including Cyrus the Great. Persia's time of great growth had ended.

Who created the Persian Empire?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Darius, the Organizer

Darius, the Organizer
Darius (duh«RY»uhs), the Persian emperor from 522 B.C. to 486 B.C., faced the task of organizing the large empire. Darius was a successful organizer. He let the different peoples in the empire keep their own customs and also chose local leaders to rule. Darius also completed many projects to improve trade and travel. One of these projects was a canal in Egypt that linked the Red Sea and the Nile River.

The people conquered by the Persians were expected to send tribute, or yearly payments, to the emperor. At Persepolis (per»SEH»puh»luhs), the capital built by Darius, artists left a record in stone of people paying tribute. Babylonians are shown bringing livestock, and Assyrians are shown bringing hides of tanned leather. Indians carry containers of gold dust. Other people offer fine cloth, pottery, horses, and camels.

Darius faced a great problem in ruling his empire. How could he communicate with people a thousand miles from his capital?

To solve this problem, Darius started a pony-express system for delivering messages. Riders called couriers galloped across the Persian Empire, changing horses at stations along the way.

With couriers, information could travel 1,677 miles (2,699 km) in seven days. "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers," wrote the Greek historian Herodotus about 440 B.C. "Nothing stops these couriers from covering their allotted stage in the quickest possible time neither snow, rain, heat, nor darkness." Words like these are used today by the United States Postal Service to describe its mail carriers.

How did Darius communicate with the different parts of his empire?

Monday, July 8, 2013

Zarathustra, the Prophet Facts

Zarathustra, the Prophet
The earliest Persians worshipped many gods. But a prophet named Zarathustra (zar•uh•THOOS•trah) changed that. A prophet is a person who others believe speaks or writes with a divine message. Zarathustra began a religion called Zoroastrianism (zohr • uh • WASS • tree • uh • nih • zuhm), which taught a belief in two gods.

One god was the good and kind Ahura Mazda, or "Wise Lord." Ahura Mazda stood for truth. The other god, Ahriman, was his enemy. Zoroastrians believed that good and evil fought each other but that one day good would win. "The Earth is a battleground, a struggle between forces of light and forces of darkness," said Zarathustra. People who followed Zoroastrianism believed that they would live in a paradise after they died.

Persian religion, customs, and culture spread as the Persian Empire grew. When the empire began to decline, Persians had to fight their conquerors to hold on to their heritage. The fighting continued until the Arabs conquered the region in about A.D. 750. They brought their culture and the religion of Islam to the region.

What is Zoroastrianism?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

China and Geography of Ancient China

China

Geography of Ancient China
In ancient times the geography of China separated it and its people from the rest of the world. Mountains, deserts, and large bodies of water made travel to and from China difficult. This led the people of China to develop a unique respect for the land around them. China's geography helped shape the civilization, culture, and beliefs of the people who lived there.

The Land of China
China is located at the far-eastern end of the continent of Asia. Present-day China covers more than 3,696,100 square miles (9,572,160 sq km) and is the third-largest country in the world. It stretches about 3,100 miles (4,989 km) from east to west and about 3,400 miles (5,472 km) from north to south. The entire United States mainland could fit inside China's borders.

China has many long and wide rivers that flow across the country The largest of these rivers are the Huang He (HWAHNG HUH), or "Yellow River," in the north and the Chang Jiang (CHAHNG JYAHNG), or "Long River," in the south

The Huang He twists and turns about 2,900 miles (4,667 km) from its source in the high plateaus of western China to its mouth at the Yellow Sea. It picks up loess (LOH»uhs), a yellow silt, as it flows through China's northern deserts. This yellow silt colors the water and gives the Huang He, or "Yellow River," its name.
The largest tributary of the Huang He is the Wei River. The Wei River begins in central China and travels to the east until it empties into the Huang He.

The Chang Jiang, also called the Yangtze (YAHNG.SEH), is the third-longest river in the world. Only the Nile River in Africa and the Amazon River in South America are longer. The Chang Jiang flows about 3,430 miles (5,520 km) from the highlands of Tibet to the Pacific Ocean. It winds through mountains and plunges through deep gorges before it reaches the ocean.

China is known not only for its mighty rivers but also for its rugged mountains. Most of China's many mountain ranges are high, rocky, and hard to cross. One such mountain range the Taihang Mountains runs north and south through the center of northern China. Another range, the Qinling (CHIN.LIN) Mountains, runs east and west.

What are some of China's most important waterways and mountains?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Farming in Ancient China

Farming in China
The North China Plain and the Huang He Valley have had large populations for thousands of years. These regions have also long been among China's most important food- producing regions. Growing food in northern China has always been a challenge. The climate is cold and dry, and the growing season is short. However, the land alongside the Huang He has been made rich by the river's deposits of silt. This fertile soil has allowed northern farmers to grow wheat, other grains, and a variety of vegetables.

Southern China has warmer climates and longer growing seasons. Farmers in the Chang Jiang Basin produce about three-fourths of all the rice eaten in China. Wheat, corn, and beans are just a few of the other crops that grow well in the Chang Jiang Basin.

What are some of the crops that grow in China?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Aryans bring changes to India & Aryan Immigrants

Aryans bring changes to India
Around 1500 B.C. large numbers of people began to migrate into India. These migrations lasted for more than 3,000 years. They were important because they introduced to the region people with different customs and ideas. The earliest immigrants are known as Aryans (AIR.ee.uhnz). The word Aryan means "noble." The Aryans were warriors and herders from eastern Europe and western Asia. Many came from areas near the Black and Caspian seas. Their arrival on the Indian subcontinent caused many changes to the way of life of the people of India.

Aryan Immigrants
The earliest Aryan migrations took place over hundreds of years. They were part of a larger southward movement of people called Indo-Europeans. Why the Aryans and others left their original home is not known. Overpopulation in their homeland may have forced the Aryans to migrate.

Some Aryans moved west, into Europe. Others pushed south, through the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush, a part of the Himalayas. These Aryans moved to the Punjab, which is now part of Pakistan. Aryans eventually occupied much of northern India as well.

Each wave of migration brought more Aryans to the subcontinent. Soon the Aryans competed with the native people of India for land. The Aryans were stronger fighters because they had horses. Until the Aryans arrived, there were no horses in India. The Aryans also introduced the chariot to India.

Before coming to India the Aryans had lived as herders. They raised cattle, goats, and sheep. From these animals, the Aryans got meat, milk products, and wool for their clothing. Over time, the Aryans shifted from herding to farming. Crops such as barley and possibly wheat were first grown in India by the Aryans.

The Aryans lived in small villages in the countryside. In the following centuries life and work in India came to center on the villages. Present-day India has huge cities. Many Indian people, however, still live in small villages. In fact, India is often called "a nation of villages."
What may have caused the Aryans to leave their homeland?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Guptas Come to Power

The Guptas Come to Power
Only 50 years after Ashoka's death, the Maurya Empire broke up into quarreling city-states. About 500 years passed before another great empire, the Gupta Empire, united India once again.

In A.D. 320 Chandragupta I became ruler of a small kingdom in the Ganges Valley. Chandragupta I soon controlled much of the valley. His son Samudra (suh»MUH»druh) Gupta and grandson Chandragupta II enlarged the empire, but it never grew as large as the Maurya Empire had been. Gupta rule ended centuries of fighting between the many city-states throughout India. For 200 years India enjoyed peace and economic growth.

Much of what we know about Gupta society comes from the writings of Faxian (FAH.SHYUHN), a Chinese Buddhist monk who went to India about A.D. 400. Faxian stayed in India for 10 years, collecting Buddhist writings to take back to China. Faxian also wrote about his travels. His writings are collected in the book Fo Kuo Chi, known in English as the Record of Buddhist Kingdoms.

The people, he observed, "are very well off." They had such freedom that "if they desire to go, they go; if they like to stop, they stop." Faxian marveled at the well-kept roads and the beautiful temples, monuments, and palaces. He also wrote of the free hospitals to which people went for treatment.

India during the Gupta Empire, Faxian concluded, seemed to be a safe and happy place.

Faxian also traveled to what is now Sri Lanka to learn more about Buddhism. He returned to China and translated the important Buddhist texts he collected. His journey to India strengthened Buddhism in China and may have helped improve India-China relations.

What was life like during Gupta times?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

United Rule in India and India's First Empire

United Rule in India
During the time of Buddha, India was a divided land. Princes called rajahs ruled over large city-states rich in foods, jewels, and metals. This wealth brought invaders first the Persians from Asia and then the Greeks from Europe. For more than 200 years after the death of Buddha, parts of the Indian subcontinent were held by outsiders. Finally, a young Indian leader drove the invaders out of India and conquered all the rajahs.

India's First Empire
About 320 B.C. a ruler named Chandragupta Maurya (chuhn*druh«GUP*tuh MOW»ree»uh) united India and formed the Maurya Empire. Chandragupta Maurya ruled the new empire harshly. He made peasants work as slaves to chop down forests, drain swamps, and farm the newly cleared land. He then taxed the crops that were grown. Chandragupta's cruelty made him many enemies in the empire. He feared for his own safety. Because of this he appeared in public only during a few important festivals. He also had servants taste all his food before he ate it. To protect himself from assassination, Chandragupta slept in a different room every night. Assassination (uh • sa • suh • NAY • shun) is murder for a political reason. No attack came, however. In 297 B.C. Chandragupta quietly gave up the throne to his son.

Both Chandragupta and his son governed the empire according to a book called the Arthashastra (ar• thu h • SHAH • stru h). The Arthashastra said that rulers should govern with a firm hand. "Government is the science of Punishment, " it stated. It also said that war was an acceptable way for rulers to reach their goals. Ruling by the Arthashastra, both Chandragupta and his son expanded the Maurya Empire to include what is today western Pakistan and southern India.

What kind of ruler was Chandragupta?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Reign of Ashoka in Ancient India

The Reign of Ashoka
Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka (uh.SHOH.kuh), became Maurya emperor about 273 B.C. The new emperor ruled as firmly as his father and grandfather had. "Any power superior in might to another should launch into war," Ashoka believed.

About 265 B.C. Ashoka's army marched into the kingdom of Kalinga on the empire's southern border. There the Maurya forces defeated the Kalingans. Ashoka recorded that "150,000 people were deported,100,000 were killed, and many times that number died."

The invasion of Kalinga was a turning point in Ashoka's life. A turning point is a time of important change. The bloody invasion of Kalinga turned Ashoka against violence. He began to follow the teachings of Buddha. He refused to eat meat or to hunt and kill animals. His change led many of his people to adopt peaceful ways, too.

To spread the message of Buddhism, Ashoka issued a number of edicts, or commands. He had these edicts carved on rocks and stone pillars along main roads. Many of these pillars can still be read. One of Ashoka's edicts called on people to show "obedience to mother and father." Ashoka also sent missionaries, or people who teach about their religion, to spread Buddhism to other parts of Asia.

Ashoka used his power to make the lives of his people better. During his rule, people began to place less importance on the caste system.

So fair was Ashoka that he is known in history as "the greatest and noblest ruler India has known." Not long after his death in 232 B.C., India again became a land of several smaller kingdoms.

Today the people of India still honor Ashoka. The lion and the wheel, two designs Ashoka used to decorate his edicts, are symbols of present-day India.

What principles guided Ashoka's government after the invasion of Kalinga?

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Golden Age of India

The Golden Age of India
Faxian visited India during the rule of Chandragupta II. Historians call this period India's Golden Age. It was a time of peace, growth, and great advances in art and science.

Chandragupta II supported many artists and writers. Perhaps the most famous of these was Kalidasa (kah.lih.DAH.suh), an author known for his poems and plays.

During this time writers collected a series of folktales called the Panchatantra (pahn.chah.TAHN.truh). Over the centuries these popular tales traveled through the world. You may know some of the stories, such as "Sinbad the Sailor" and "Jack the Giant-Killer."

Artists carved beautiful sculptures in stone and made fantastic objects from
metal during the Golden Age. One such object is a pillar of pure iron, made for Chandragupta II about A.D. 400. The pillar stands 23 feet (7 m) tall near the town of Delhi, and shows hardly any signs of rust to this day.

Many important advances were also made in Indian mathematics and medicine. As early as A.D. 595, Indian mathematicians developed the base-ten number system:
1    through 9 and the zero. Now known as Arabic numerals, these numerals were used in India long before they were borrowed by Arab traders.

During the Golden Age, Indian doctors discovered ways to set broken bones and to help women give birth. Like surgeons today, they used skin from other parts of the body to mend ears and noses. Understanding the need for cleanliness in surgery, they sterilized their cutting tools. Indian doctors also used inoculation, giving a person a mild form of a disease so that he or she would not get sick with a more serious form. European and American doctors did not use inoculation until the 1700s.

Many of the ideas of India were carried to other lands by traders. Arab merchants took Indian spices, cloth, carpets, and jewelry west to the Mediterranean. They carried Indian books and ideas to distant places such as Europe and Africa. News of India's innovations reached many parts of the world.

What important advances in learning took place during the time of Gupta rule?

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