Chapter 2- Classical Civilization: China

Ancient & Classical China
•Four dynastic cycles:
•Zhou (Choe)
•Qin (Chin)
•Han (Hon)
The 4 Old-World
River Valley Cultures
•Sedentary agriculture; metal tools replaced stone
•Domesticated animals, food surpluses, rising
population, specialization of occupation (division of
Shang Dynasty: 1523-1028 BCE
•Located in Northern China
•Isolated from other ancient civilizations
• furthest East; Himalayan mountains separating
from India
•Ideographic symbols lead to development of an
elaborate written language
The Evolution of Chinese
Writing during the Shang
Written Language
Oracle Bones:
China’s oldest written language
Oracle Bones Calendar
Shang Dynasty
• Political Power:
• The king’s power
was based on:
– Land Ownership.
Land and peasants
were given to the
nobility as payment
for military service.
Shang Dynasty
• Religious Power:
– It was believed that rulers received their
authority from the gods. It was called “The
Mandate of Heaven.” As dynasties
weakened and new leaders arose, the
Chinese believed that the gods were
removing their mandate from one dynasty and
giving it to another.
Shang Economy
• Built irrigation canals for crops
• Long distance trade for copper, tin, lead,
and salt
• Farming was based on peasant/serf labor
Shang Society
• Women were subservient to men in
Chinese culture
– Patriarchal society
• Common people had very few rights, and
did all the work
Shang Dynasty
• Oracle Bones – oldest Chinese written language
• Shamanism - Religion was based on ideas of
ancestor worship, as well as a belief in nature gods,
demons and magic.
– Ancestor Worship - belief that your dead relatives control
and guide your destiny. Thus respect and honor for them
is necessary.
• Bronze ware – sophisticated methods of smelting
• Sericulture – practice of harvesting & cultivating silk
• Irrigation systems
•Replaced Shang dynasty
•Ruled through regional alliances
•Promoted standard Mandarin Language.
• Mandarin Chinese – largest group of people
speaking the same language.
•Extended territory south to the Yangtze River and
promoted standard Mandarin Chinese language.
•Life of Confucius (551 – 478 B.C.E.)
-wanted to restore the “Mandate of Heaven”
•Confucius: ca. 551-478 BCE; China’s
most influential philosopher; taught
that harmony resulted when people
accepted their place in society;
became the core of China’s cultural
and political thinking for centuries.
•Confucianism – Stressed the values
of: loyalty to superiors and respect for
inferiors; honesty, hard work, and
concern for ethics; moderation in
behavior; reverence for tradition and
ancestor worship.
•Analects – book written by followers
of Confucius; a collection of his
teachings and sayings
Classical China
Kingdom” –
China’s core, rich land
between the Huang He &
Yangtze rivers – wheat &
rice growing
•Warring States Era –
402-201 B.C.E. – period
when the Zhou system of
regional alliances
The Yellow River or Huang
He River, received its name
“River of Sorrow” because it
often flooded unpredictably
and destroyed crops.
The Mandate of Heaven
1.The leader must lead by ability and virtue.
2.The dynasty's leadership must be justified by succeeding
3.The mandate could be revoked by negligence and abuse;
the will of the people was important.
4.The Chinese later expanded this idea to explain the
dynastic cycle, when ruler became weak or corrupt,
Heaven withdrew its “Mandate” and gave it to another
•Qin “dynasty”
(221-202 BCE)
•Qin Shi Huangdi – First
emperor – characterized
by centralizations of state
rule, elimination of local
and regional competitors;
a cruel dictator
Yangzi River Valley
•Expanded boundaries of China to include Hong Kong
•The Great Wall of China began to be built in this era
•Legalism – Philosophy that was dominant during the Qin
dynasty; the belief that laws should replace morality and a ruler
must provide discipline to maintain order.
Terra Cotta
Warriors – During
Qin Dynasty
Terra-Cotta Army
•The Han dynasty: (202 BCE – 220 CE) – Followed the Qin
dynasty (Chinese considered themselves - “People of the Han”)
•Era generally characterized by stability, prosperity, and peace.
Contemporary - often compared to the Roman Empire.
•Han Rulers strengthened China’s government, expanded
China’s borders and influenced and opened up the Silk Road, a
major trade route that would link China to the west for centuries.
•Wu Ti – greatest Han
emperor - Civil
Service tests
•Chinese bureaucracy
lasted from the Han
period until the 20th
•Encouraged the
worship of Confucius
as a god.
*(Confucius was not a
religious leader)
Zhou, Qin and Han Chinese Classical
Han Dynasty
1. Silk Roads
2. Public Schools
3. Paper
4. Pulley and Lever
“The Great Wall”
– started during
the Qin dynasty
•The Han period was one of the golden ages of Chinese
civilization with tremendous advances in the sciences, astronomy,
technology, medicine and the arts.
•Paper was invented
•Ox-drawn plows and new collar
•Pulleys and winding gear
Religion and Culture
• Role of education – achieve social ends
• Confucianism – ethical system based on
relationships and personal virtue, predominant
• Legalism – countered Confucianism – authoritarian
state and harsh rule
• Daoism – religious philosophy; harmony w/ nature &
a humble living. Laozi was Daoism founder
• Art – decorative, carved jade and ivory, silk screens,
Economy and Society
• Economy focused on
• Sharp class division existed:
a. landowning aristocracy
and educated bureaucrats
b. Laboring masses,
c. “Mean People” –
unskilled labor
• Extensive internal trade
• Social China – tight family
structure was valued
– Patriarchal society
Chinese Civilization Fits Together
• Politics and culture meshed around Confucian
bureaucracy & principles
• Little outside contact – Large island of
civilization (China), surrounded by barbarians
with nothing to offer
• Divergence in philosophies of Confucianism,
Daoism and eventually Buddhism.
•Silk Road – The most famous of the trading routes established
by nomads connecting the Chinese, Indian, Persian, and
Mediterranean civilizations; transmitted goods and ideas among
China & Global
•Source of the world’s
largest trade network, the
Silk Road.
•Silk Road networks
provided the framework
for later global trading
Cultural Diffusion

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