Chapter 2: Ancient China-- Origins to Empire, Prehistory to 220 CE


6500 BCE Neolithic societies developed in China independently of the Near East. They domesticated the pig and millet, produced silk, lived in walled towns to protect themselves from nomadic invaders. Later ruled by Hsia (she ahh) dynasty.

2000 BCE Bronze Age, Shang (shaung) dynasty, developed writing
“Over the 600 years of Shang rule, China developed even more complex systems of government, cities, writing, class and occupational stratification, religious ritual as the basis of the state, and sophisticated metallurgy” (p. 42.) palaces, tombs, walled cities, Chinese writing foundation for other written languages in East Asia, like Korean and Japanese. Ancestor worship, human sacrifice (e.g. of 7000 slaves) to prevent or ensure certain fates, royalty buried with servants and slaves, yin and yang

1000 BC Feudal Age, Zhou (jo) Dynasty, feudal (vassals gave loyalty to kings, peasants tied to land of vassals), iron technology, irrigation, copper coinage (indicates serious trade, developed economy), chopsticks, philisophic schools

Philosophic Schools (founders lived around 500 BCE, during Chou (jo) dynasty) addressed nature of humanity, problems of society, STILL impact contemporary Chinese society

-CONFUCIANISM Confucius (contemporary of Buddha) stressed virtue, mutual obligations, duties of man, commoner and ruler, father and son, to improve society, maintain order, respect hierarchy. "'The noble man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what is profitable'" Confucious (p. 49.) Around 300 BCE Mencius made Confucianism a political philosophy (Mandate of Heaven: rationale given by Zhou (jo) leader to overthrow Shang leader, Zhou leader reasoned that Shang leader had ruled unfairly therefore lost the mandate to rule, and thus could rightfully be overthrown. Mencious expanded this mandate idea to the state (he secularized the Mandate of Heaven) saying people have right to overthrow state if the ruler is bad))).

-TAOISM Lao-tzu stressed Tao (dow) = “The Way” = course of nature, universe, crucial to live according to nature, harmony, unlike Confucianism Taoism anti social conformity. Instinct over reason, inaction over action, nature over society, harmony over dominance. "I do not know whether I was a man dreaming that I was a butterfly, or whether now I am a butterfly dreaming that I am a man." Zhuagzi

-LEGALISM (no particular founder) harsh, inflexible laws key to order and prosperity

CHINA’S FIRST EMPIRE (10 times as many subjects as Egypt, lasted 1000 years longer than Rome)

221 -207 BCE the Qin (jeng or CHIN) Dynasty unified China for the first time in history (setting in motion an imperial Chinese state that started 221 BCE and lasted until 1912) The Qin (aka Chin from whom the word China dersives) unified the first Chinese state with legalism: harsh laws and military might (legalism). Confucianists say moral king is key to power, Legalists say might is key, so they replace landed nobles with military nobles and start a draft to create a huge peasant army with iron weapons. They destroyed feudalism by giving peasants ownership of land. Qin most powerful warring state. Used forced labor to create public works, suppressed free thought (especially Confucianism), burned books. The First Emperor (as he was officially known) built a huge tomb with over 6000 life sized terracotta figures of his imperial guard (each one different, with distinctive appearance, see picture in textbook) using a half a million laborers. He was buried with his concubines and the people who built the tomb. May not have started construction of the GREAT WALL. The First Emperor was the founding father of China, and a very autocratic and authoritarian one.

"By 221 BCE the ruler of the Qin (CHIN), the most successful of the seven largest states still existing in 300 BCE, had conquered all of his rivals and established a unified empire over which he was he the absolute ruler" (p. 45.) "All construction was by forced labor, and under the First Emperor, 4000 miles of roads and thousands of canals...were completed. This surpassed the system of the Roman Empire" (p.54.)

200 BCE - 200 CE the Han Dynasty consolidated the Chinse empire. The Han dynasty lasted for four centuries and to this day, the Han dynasty is considered crucial to the foundation of Chinese culture. Han rule was the same time as and very strong like the (early) Roman Empire-- the Roman Empire and China under the Han dynasty were the two superpowers on the planet around the time of Jesus, yet the Han empire had more people than Rome in 200 CE. The Romans and the Chinese traded goods with one another along the Silk Road (the oldest long-distance trade route in the world-- see map of world economy on page 61). The Han were Confucian (except founder Liu, see National Geographic Feburary 2004). During the Han dynasty scholarship flourished (university established, Confucianism was made official philosophy of state, a comprehensive history of China since the Hsia dynasty written down, the world’s first dictionary was written). Art: realistic, notable horse sculptures. Inventions: PAPER, WHEEL BARROW, SEISMOGRAPH, HORSE COLLAR, WATER POWER etc. The Han had the most sophisticated technology in world at this time. See pages 57-58.

In the late Han period many discontented peasants turned to Taoism—the popular version of this philosophy became a religion based on spirits and magic that sought long life and immortality. In 65 BCE missionaries brought Buddhism, but it did not catch on widely at first.

"Daoist intuition complemented Confucian rationalism in the search for the true way, and during the centuries to come, Chinese often attempted to follow Confucianist precepts in their social relations, while at the same time maintaining Daoists beliefs" (p. 52.)

Chinese today identify themselves ethnically as Han.