Xia Dynasty (Sha)
- From these small villages and farming communities grew centralized
government; the first of which was the prehistoric Xia Dynasty (c. 2070-1600
- The Xia Dynasty was considered, for many years, more myth than fact until
excavations in the 1960’s and 1970’s CE uncovered sites which argued strongly
for its existence.
- The dynasty was founded by Yu the Great who worked relentlessly for
thirteen years to control the flooding of the Yellow River which routinely
destroyed the farmer’s crops.
-SHANG DYNASTY THE FIRST RECORDED
CHINESE DYNASTY FOR WHICH THERE IS
BOTH DOCUMENTARY AND
-THOUSANDS OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS
IN THE HUANG HE, HENAN VALLEY --THE
APPARENT CRADLE OF CHINESE
CIVILIZATION--PROVIDE EVIDENCE ABOUT
THE SHANG DYNASTY, WHICH ENDURED
ROUGHLY FROM 1700 TO 1027 B.C.
- THE SHANG DYNASTY IS BELIEVED TO
HAVE BEEN FOUNDED BY A REBEL LEADER
WHO OVERTHREW THE LAST XIA RULER. ITS
CIVILIZATION WAS BASED ON
AGRICULTURE, AUGMENTED BY HUNTING
AND ANIMAL HUSBANDRY.
- Two important events of the period were:
1. the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions
found on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (commonly called oracle bones or ),
2. and the use of bronze metal in weapon and tool making.
- The oracle bone inscriptions and the bronze inscriptions mark the beginning of written
- The king or professional diviners hired by the king used oracle bones to make
predictions about the future or to answer questions such as, “Will the king have a son?”, “
Will it rain
- ACCORDING TO LEGEND, THE SHANG
DYNASTY WAS FOUNDED SOMETIME
AROUND 1600 BCE BY A VIRTUOUS MAN
NAMED CHENG TANG, WHO OVERTHREW
THE EVIL KING OF THE LEGENDARY XIA.
- THE SHANG DYNASTY WAS A
MONARCHY GOVERNED BY A SERIES
OF KINGS, 29 OR 3 0 IN TOTAL, OVER
THE COURSE OF ALMOST 6 0 0 Y E A R S .
- THE KINGS OF THE SHANG ARE
BELIEVED TO HAVE OCCUPIED SEVERAL
CAPITALS ONE AFTER ANOTHER, ONE OF
THEM POSSIBLY AT MODERN ZHENGZHOU,
WHERE THERE ARE RICH
ARCHAEOLOGICAL FINDS, BUT THEY
SETTLED AT ANYANG IN THE 14TH
- THE KING APPOINTED LOCAL GOVERNORS,
AND THERE WAS AN ESTABLISHED CLASS
OF NOBLES AS WELL AS THE MASSES,
WHOSE CHIEF LABOR WAS IN
- IN ADDITION TO HIS SECULAR POSITION,
THE KING WAS THE HEAD OF THE
ANCESTOR- AND SPIRIT-WORSHIP CULT.
- - COURT RITUALS TO PROPITIATE SPIRITS
AND TO HONOR SACRED ANCESTORS
WERE HIGHLY DEVELOPED.
- -EVIDENCE FROM THE ROYAL TOMBS
INDICATES THAT ROYAL PERSONAGES
WERE BURIED WITH ARTICLES OF VALUE,
PRESUMABLY FOR USE IN THE AFTERLIFE.
THE ZHOU DYNASTY
- Around the year 1046 BCE, King Wu, of the province of Zhou, rebelled against
King Zhou of Shang and defeated his forces at the Battle of Muye, establishing the Zhou
Dynasty (c. 1046- 226 BCE).
- The Mandate of Heaven was invoked by the Duke of Zhou, King Wu’s younger
brother, to legitimize the revolt as he felt the Shang were no longer acting in the interests
of the people.
- The Mandate of Heaven was thus defined as the gods’ blessing on a just ruler and
rule by divine mandate. When the government no longer served the will of the gods, that
government would be overthrown.
- UNDER THE ZHOU, CULTURE FLOURISHED
AND CIVILIZATION SPREAD. WRITING WAS
CODIFIED AND IRON METALLURGY
BECAME INCREASINGLY SOPHISTICATED.
- THE GREATEST AND BEST KNOWN
CHINESE PHILOSOPHERS AND POETS,
CONFUCIUS, MENCIUS, MO TI (MOT ZU),
LAO-TZU, TAO CHIEN, AND THE
MILITARY STRATEGIST SUN-TZU (IF HE
EXISTED AS DEPICTED), ALL COME FROM
THE ZHOU PERIOD IN CHINAAND THE TIME
OF THE HUNDRED SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT.
- During the Zhou dynasty, China underwent quite dramatic changes. Iron, ox-drawn plows,
crossbows, and horseback riding were all introduced; large-scale irrigation and water-
control projects were also instituted for the first time, greatly increasing the crop yield of the
North China Plain.
- The communication system was also greatly improved through the construction of new
roads and canals. Trade was increased, towns grew up, coinage was developed, chopsticks
came into use, and the Chinese writing system was created out of its primitive beginnings in
the Shang period.
- In 771 B.C. the Zhou court was sacked, and its king was killed by invading barbarians who
were allied with rebel lords. The capital was moved eastward to Luoyang in present-day Henan
- With the royal line broken, the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the
fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated.
THE SPRING & AUTUMN PERIOD &
THE WARRING STATES
- During the Spring and Autumn Period (772-476 BCE the Zhou government became decentralized in their
move to the new capital at Luoyang, marking the end of the `Western Zhou’ period and the beginning of
- At the same time, however, the different states were breaking away from central rule by Luoyang and
proclaiming themselves sovereign.
- This, then, led to the so-called Warring States Period (476-221 BCE) in which seven states fought with
each other for control.
- All seven of the states used the same tactics and observed the same rules of conduct in battle and so none
could gain the advantage over the others.
- between 262 and 260 BCE, the state of Qin gained supremacy over Zhao, finally defeating them at The
Battle of Changping.
Three Schools of Thought
-Due to the political and economic uncertainty
of the waring states period, several schools of
thought emerged that sought to provide answers
to the problems that were plaguing China. Three
of the most popular schools were:
-Over the course of the 4th-3rd centuries one small state after the other
was conquered, and the number of surviving states dwindled.
-Rulers fearful that their states might be next were ready to listen to
political theorists who claimed expertise in the accumulation of power.
-These theorist, labeled Legalists because of their emphasis on the need
for rigorous laws, argued that strong government depended not on moral
qualities of the ruler or his officials, as Confucius would claim, but on
establishing effective laws and procedures.
-The doctrine was formulated by Han
Fei Zi ( d. 233 B.C.) and Li Si ( d. 208
B.C.), who maintained that human
nature was incorrigibly selfish and
therefore the only way to preserve the
social order was to impose discipline
from above and to enforce laws
- The Legalists exalted the state and
sought its prosperity and martial
prowess above the welfare of the
common people. Legalism became
the philosophic basis for the imperial
form of government.
- Confucius (551?-479? BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure,
educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought
- His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of
subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such
an individual should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and
government in which he should participate.
- Confucianism is a worldview, a social ethic, a political ideology, a scholarly tradition, and
a way of life.
- Sometimes viewed as a philosophy and sometimes as a religion, Confucianism may be
understood as an all-encompassing way of thinking and living that entails ancestor reverence
and a profound human-centered religiousness.
-CONFUCIUS CONSIDERED THE FAMILY
THE BASIC UNIT OF SOCIETY, AND AS A
RESULT FOCUSED A LOT OF HIS TEACHING
ON THE CONCEPT OF FILIAL PIETY.
-IN CONFUCIANISM, FILIAL PIETY IS THE
ATTITUDE OF OBEDIENCE, DEVOTION,
AND CARE TOWARD ONE’S PARENTS AND
ELDER FAMILY MEMBERS THAT IS THE
BASIS OF INDIVIDUAL MORAL CONDUCT
AND SOCIAL HARMONY.
-FILIAL PIETY CONSISTS IN PUTTING THE
NEEDS OF PARENTS AND FAMILY ELDERS
OVER SELF, SPOUSE, AND CHILDREN,
DEFERRING TO PARENTS’ JUDGMENT, AND
OBSERVING TOWARD THEM THE
PRESCRIBED BEHAVIORAL PROPRIETIES.
-FILIAL PIETY WAS ROOTED IN CHINA’S
FEUDAL SOCIAL STRUCTURE, IN WHICH
LAND WAS HELD BY LARGE CLANS
WHOSE INTERNAL LIFE WAS
STRUCTURED HIERARCHICALLY AND
PATRIARCHALLY. CONFUCIUS RAISED
FILIAL PIETY TO A MORAL PRECEPT BY
CITING IT AS THE BASIS OF REN
(“HUMANITY”), THE CULTIVATED LOVE
OF OTHER PEOPLE THAT WAS THE
CONFUCIAN MORAL IDEAL.
- FILIAL PIETY IS NOT SIMPLE
OBEDIENCE BUT RATHER DEFERENCE,
AND ON OCCASION IT EVEN ENTAILS
REMONSTRANCE OR GENTLE
- Confucius' social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of ren,
“compassion” or “loving others.”
- Cultivating or practicing such concern for others involved deprecating oneself.
This meant being sure to avoid artful speech or an ingratiating manner that would
create a false impression and lead to self-aggrandizement.
-For Confucius, such concern for others is demonstrated through the practice of
forms of the Golden Rule: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to
others;” “Since you yourself desire standing then help others achieve it, since you
yourself desire success then help others attain it” (Lunyu 12.2, 6.30).
- Confucius taught that the practice of altruism he thought necessary for social
cohesion could be mastered only by those who have learned self-discipline.
- Learning self-restraint involves studying and mastering li, the ritual forms and
rules of propriety through which one expresses respect for superiors and enacts
his role in society in such a way that he himself is worthy of respect and
- A CONCERN FOR PROPRIETY SHOULD
INFORM EVERYTHING THAT ONE SAYS AND
“LOOK AT NOTHING IN DEFIANCE OF
RITUAL, LISTEN TO NOTHING IN
DEFIANCE OF RITUAL, SPEAK OF
NOTHING IN DEFIANCE OR RITUAL,
NEVER STIR HAND OR FOOT IN
DEFIANCE OF RITUAL.” (LUNYU 12.1)
- SUBJECTING ONESELF TO RITUAL DOES
NOT, HOWEVER, MEAN SUPPRESSING ONE'S
DESIRES BUT INSTEAD LEARNING HOW TO
RECONCILE ONE'S OWN DESIRES WITH THE
NEEDS OF ONE'S FAMILY AND COMMUNITY.
- CONFUCIUS' EMPHASIS ON RITUAL DOES
NOT MEAN THAT HE WAS A PUNCTILIOUS
CEREMONIALIST WHO THOUGHT THAT THE
RITES OF WORSHIPAND OF SOCIAL
EXCHANGE HAD TO BE PRACTICED
CORRECTLY AT ALL COSTS.
- Daoism stands alongside Confucianism as one of the two great religious/philosophical
systems of China.
- Traditionally traced to the mythical Laozi “Old Philosopher,” Philosophical Daoism
owes more to “philosopher Zhuang” (Zhuangzi) (4th Century BCE).
- In the broadest sense, a Daoist attitude toward life can be seen in the accepting and
yielding, the joyful and carefree sides of the Chinese character, an attitude that offsets and
complements the moral and duty-conscious, austere and purposeful character ascribed to
- DAOISM IS ALSO CHARACTERIZED BY A
POSITIVE, ACTIVE ATTITUDE TOWARD THE
OCCULT AND THE METAPHYSICAL (THEORIES
ON THE NATURE OF REALITY), WHEREAS THE
AGNOSTIC, PRAGMATIC CONFUCIAN
TRADITION CONSIDERS THESE ISSUES OF
ONLY MARGINAL IMPORTANCE.
- BEHIND ALL FORMS OF DAOISM STANDS THE
FIGURE OF LAOZI, TRADITIONALLY
REGARDED AS THE AUTHOR OF THE CLASSIC
TEXT KNOWN AS THE LAOZI, OR THE
DAODEJING (“CLASSIC OF THE WAY OF
- CERTAIN CONCEPTS OF ANCIENT AGRARIAN
RELIGION HAVE DOMINATED CHINESE
THOUGHT UNINTERRUPTEDLY FROM BEFORE
THE FORMATION OF THE PHILOSOPHIC
SCHOOLS UNTIL THE FIRST RADICAL BREAK
WITH TRADITION AND THE OVERTHROW OF
DYNASTIC RULE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE
20TH CENTURY, AND THEY ARE THUS NOT
- The most important of these concepts are:
1. the continuity between nature and human beings, or the interaction between the
world and human society.
2. the rhythm of constant flux and transformation in the universe and the return or
reversion of all things to the Dao from which they emerged
3. the worship of ancestors, the cult of heaven, and the divine nature of the
- What Laozi calls the “constant Dao” in reality is nameless. The name (ming) in
ancient Chinese thought implied an evaluation assigning an object its place in a
- The Dao is outside these categories.
“It is something formlessly fashioned, that existed before heaven and earth… Its
name (ming) we do not know; Dao is the byname that we give it. Were I forced to
say to what class of things it belongs I should call it Immense.”
- Dao is the “imperceptible, indiscernible,” about which nothing can be predicated but
that latently contains the forms, entities, and forces of all particular phenomena:
“It was from the Nameless that heaven and earth sprang; the Named is the mother that
rears the Ten Thousand Things, each after its kind.”
-The Nameless (wuming) and the Named (youming), Nothing (wu) and Something (you),
are interdependent and “grow out of one another.”
- Nothing (wu) and Dao are not identical; wu and you are two aspects of the constant
Dao: “in its mode of being Unseen, we will see its mysteries; in the mode of the Seen, we
will see its boundaries.”
-Nothing does not mean “Nothingness” but rather indeterminacy, the absence of
perceptible qualities; in Laozi’s view it is superior to Something. It is the Void (that is,
empty incipience) that harbours in itself all potentialities and without which even
Something lacks its efficacy.
RETURN TO THE DAO
-The law of the Dao as natural order refers to the continuous reversion of everything to its
- Everything issues from the Dao and ineluctably returns to it; Undifferentiated Unity becomes
multiplicity in the movement of the Dao. Life and death are contained in this continuing
transformation from Nothing into Something and back to Nothing, but the underlying primordial unity
is never lost.
- For society, any reform means a type of return to the remote past; civilization is considered a
degradation of the natural order, and the ideal is the return to an original purity.
- Any willful human intervention is believed to be able to ruin the harmony of the natural
transformation process. The spontaneous rhythm of the primitive agrarian community and its un-self-
conscious symbiosis with nature’s cycles is thus the Daoist ideal of society.