You are on page 1of 6

The First Chinese Empire

China was eventually united under one of the regional kings, the first
emperor Qin Shi Huang, in 221 BC. During the Qin Dynasty he founded
only lasted for 12 years but the emperor wielded absolute power over all of
China. The emperor was despotic, ordering the burning of books to remove
all evidence of any earlier dynasties and burying many scholars alive by
ceiling them in a room. His tight control of China allowed him to conscript
massive labor forces, allowing him to construct ambitious projects like the
Great Wall of China. The workers died by the thousands in harsh
conditions, but the nomadic tribes they protected the population from where
skilled horse archers and ruthless invaders. These nomads also killed
thousands of Chinese soldiers in massive bloody battles, the Qin generals
using massed levies like pawns. The Qin Dynasty had gained control over
the mass of peasants by abolishing the landowning lords who they had
formerly served. The abolishing also agricultural output and allowed for
larger military forces. The Qin also standardized weights and measures,
and even standardized axel lengths for carts to ensure their roads were the
right width. This increased all had the effect of increasing trade.

Ancient Chinese Governments Continue: Dynasty after


Dynasty

The Han Dynasty that followed the Qin ruled over a golden age in Chinese
history. There aggressive policy towards the barbarian nomads greatly
expanded their frontiers in all directions. They had used the nomads
mounted strategies against them, pushing into central Asia and making
contact with the Persians. This connected the Roman, Persian and
Chinese trade routes, creating the great Silk Road. Chinas traders and
government prospered from the government held monopoly on silk. Secrets
of silk making were protected by law and breaching a law would mean
canning or death.

The following dynasties created a feudal system but continued to be


autocratic monarchies. Civil wars also fractured China into different
kingdoms periodically throughout the 2200 years of dynastic rule.
Eventually, the nomadic tribes got the upper hand in the endless struggle
between them and China and they created Dynasties of their own. These
new barbarian rulers, like the Wu Hu, Mongols and Manchu, began to
take up Chinese customs like wearing silk robes instead of their
horsemans pants. They modeled their rule after the Chinese and were
soon swallowed into Chinese culture becoming just another Chinese
dynastic government. Eventually, Chinese military fell behind in the
development of firearms and ruling dynasties lost much of its influence and
control. In 1911 the last dynasty was overthrown.

Thousands of years of dynastic government had ended, China would now


be known as the Democratic Republic of China, but heavy handed rule
persists throughout the modern Chinese state as in the ancient eras.

During the Stone Age, people in China lived in small villages and had big
men in charge, and then chieftains. But by the time of the Shang Dynasty,
about 1800 BC, China was united into an empire and there was an
emperor or empress who ruled over many smaller kings.
Under these kings were a bunch of less powerful lords, and these lords
ruled individual farmers. The lords collected taxes from the farmers, and
passed some along to the kings, who passed some along to the emperor.
Under the Ch'in dynasty, about 200 BC, the emperors managed to get a lot
more power and control of the government. Instead of letting local kings run
local government, Ch'in sent out governors and judges that he had chosen
himself, who were loyal to China and not to the local king. During the Han
Dynasty, the emperors began to use examinations to choose the smartest
men to be their governors and judges (they lost out on a lot of good
governors by refusing to pick smart women though).

By the time of the Sui Dynasty, about 600 AD, the emperors ordered
systematic census-keeping so that they would know how much taxes
everybody should pay, and it would be more fair. They used those taxes to
fight wars, and to dig big canals for transportation and irrigation. The T'ang
Dynasty emperors continued the examinations and the census, but they
also worked to promote trade as the Silk Road of Central Asia became
more important. They fought more wars, and made China much bigger than
before. Near the end of the T'ang Dynasty, the emperor Wuzong
persecuted Buddhists and Manichaeans for their religion.
Under the Song Dynasty the government examinations became more and
more important, but with the collapse of the Song Dynasty the
Mongols invaded China from the north and Kublai Khan set up his own
government. He put his own people - Arabs and Mongols and
Jews and Christians - into power instead of Chinese people. Kublai
Khan brought a lot of new ideas to China. He used tax policy and laws to
encourage Chinese farmers to grow cotton for clothing instead of hemp.
When the Mongol Empire collapsed in the 1300s because of the plague,
the Ming Dynasty brought back the old government examinations, but
many Muslims continued to work in the Ming government too.

Philosophies in East Asia

CONFUCIANISM

Confucianism emerged in China during in time of chaos brought about


particularly in the Spring and Autumn Period. The Chinese government
failed to address this problem that lasted for 200 years. During this time of
chaos and uncertainty, the Chinese found in the teachings of Confucianism
the answer to their pursuit for peace.

Confucius, also known as Kung-fu-tzu (Kongfuzi), meaning Master


Kung, founded Confucianism. He was born in 551 B.C.E. in the state of
Lu, currently part of the province of Shandong. Despite coming from a poor
family, Confucius strived to finish his studies. He became a good teacher,
but he aspired to serve the government. He was given an opportunity to
serve the government of Lu. However, Confucius did not like the way the
administration was ran. He left government service and continued teaching.
Many people admired and followed his philosophy. He went to different
places to spread his teachings, foremost of which was to improve the
relationship between people in society. Confucius died in 479 B.C.E. in the
state of Lu.

The philosophy of Confucius became renowned and his teachings


served as one of the foundations of Chinese society.
For 2,000 years, Confucianism had greatly influenced the way of
living of the Chinese people. It influenced different aspects of the Chinese
society such as education, governance, behavior, and social relations.
Confucianism was focused on right conduct and morals, and good
governance. Confucius also emphasized the importance of education.
According to him, an ideal man was someone who was a shi or a scholar.
Perhaps one of the most important contributions of Confucianism on
Asians is the civil service examination. The civil service examination was
instituted because Confucius believed that designating positions in the
government should be based on intelligence and skill instead of having the
result of special or inherited privileges. An important part of the examination
evaluates the scholars knowledge on the Confucian Classics.
CONFUCIANISM
FIVE CLASSICS FIVE CARDINAL
This book contains the teachings of RELATIONSHIP IN SOCIETY
Confucius. These are the following: Filial piety or xiao, is considered as the
greatest virtue in Confucian society.
Book of Changes - originally used for
This virtue denotes the obedience and
divination to foresee future events respect of a child (son) to his parents.
Book of History contains series of This was extended to include the
speeches and discussions relationship among the people in the
society analogized in the Five Cardinal
Classic of Poetry contains series of Relationship. According to Confucius,
folk songs and ceremonial poems there are Five Cardinal relationships in a
society. In every relationship, one is
Book of Rites includes discussion of superior over the other. It is the duty of
guidelines for right conduct, and for the inferior to obey the one who is
public and private ceremonies. superior. These relationships are as
follows:
Spring and Autumn Annals historical
report or poem on the state of Lu. 1. emperor to his subjects;
2. father to son;
Five Constants
3. husband to wife;
The Confucian ethics is characterized
4. older brother to younger brother;
by the promotion of virtue and being
and
humanitarian. According to the Five
5. between friends
Constants or Virtues, everyone must
Among these relationships, only the
possess:
relationship between friends displays
Ren humaneness Zhi - knowledge
equal treatment.
Yi righteousness Xio - integrity
Li good manners

In Confucianism, man is seen as capable to develop his knowledge and become


a good citizen through rigorous studying. A man who is educated will possess ren, li,
and xiao. If a man already possesses these, he will be fit to serve and lead in the
government.
According to Mengzi (Mencius), a student of Confucius, a society is divided into
two classes: the educated and the uneducated. The educated earn a living by using
their intellect and are the ones who lead the government. Thos who are not educated
use their physical strength to serve society.
Confucianism is focused on the male members of society. This philosophy has a
low regard for women. According to Confucianism, women have no place in the
government, and do not need good education. Their only duty is to serve their husbands
and their families.