Lecture for SS2 Asian Studies, prepared by Martin Benedict Perez, PSHS Main Campus
I. Preface: From Bones to PhilosophersII. The First Empires A. The Qin: The idea of China B. The Han: The empire expandsIII. Analysis: Patterns in Chinese HistoryIV. The Golden Age A. The Tang: The cultural powerhouse B. The Song: The commercial powerhouseV. The Asian Superpower A. From the Yuan to the Ming B. Influence on East Asia
Born during the chaotic Eastern Zhou Zuang Zi (370 – 301BCE) Sun Tzu period, Chinese philosophy was Buddhism enters Lao Zi primarily preoccupied with restoring social Xun Zi order and harmony. (300 – 237BCE) Confucius Mencius Qin Shi Huang Di (551 – 479BCE) (370 – 290BCE) and the LegalistsShang Western Zhou (1027 – 771BCE) Eastern Zhou (770 – 221BCE) Qin Han AXIAL AGE (800 – 200BCE) 1000BCE 0
Under the guidance of Li Si, The First Emperor utilized Legalism. He centralized all power to himself by placing only giving power to those loyal to him. At his command was a powerful army. He also established a network or roads and canals, and built frontier walls for protection. Furthermore he unified currency, system ofQin Shih Huang Di writing, and even philosophical thought“The First August God of the Qin” (through book burning) throughout the empire.
Coins from the Qindynasty (left) andQing dynasty (right)
In 138BCE, Zhang Qian was sent on a diplomatic mission to form an alliancewith the Yuezhi against the Xiongnu. After many adventures andmisadventures, he would return to the capital in 125BCE with newknowledge of grand civilizations to the west.
China silk, clothing, lacquerware, spices Indo-China spices, ivory, timber, pearls North India precious stones, ivory, tortoise shell, incense, spices, cloth, timber South India ivory, tortoiseshell, spices, precious stones, cloth, timber Arabia spices, slaves, precious stones East Africa gold, ivory, exotic animals, slaves, incenseTrans-Sahara ivory, gold, slaves North Africa grainSouth Europe olive oil, wine, glassware, coinageWest Europe silver, tinNorth Europe slaves, amber Asia Minor silver, precious stones, timber, wine
Society during the HanConfucianism became the statephilosophy. “Men of wisdom andvirtue” were put in placethrough the civil serviceexaminations.Scholar-officials were expectedto be junzi. Women, however,were not allowed to take theexam.
Science and technologyInnovation during the Han wouldbe unmatched until the Song. Itwas the highest civilization of itsage.It exemplified the insight of theArab philosophers who said thatthe purpose of science is “to putup a city”. Seismograph invented by Zhang Feng in the year 132.
PATTERN 1TERRITORIAL PRESSUREIncursions from Chinas north by nomadic groups, are from thoseattracted by the wealth of the settled, agricultural civilization ofChina.The most illustrative examples are those of the Mongols, whoconquer China and establish the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368 CE), and ofthe Manchus, who again conquer China and establish the lastdynasty, the Qing, that rules for 300 years (1644-1911 CE).Each of these invaders rules through the Chinese bureaucracy,leading to the expression that China "sinicizes its conquerors."
PATTERN 2CULTURAL CONTINUITYDynasties rise and fall but Confucian values keep China intact. This isseen manifested in several ways:1. the evolution of the bureaucratic structure — the civil service examination system, the scholar-gentry who sit for exams and staff the civil administration;2. the refinement of the Confucian classics as the basis of education and elite selection;Thus there emerged a tendency in China towards politicalunification and reunification. A factor that also facilitated this wasincreasing population density.
PATTERN 3STRENGTHENING OF THE IMPERIAL CENTERBeginning with the legalistic approach of the First Emperor of theQin, the emperors of China continued a trend of concentrating powertowards the center. Instruments of government were strengthened asthey moved authority further towards the emperor.The irony however is that it is during moments when power is tooconcentrated at the center at the expense of the rest of Chinesesociety that a dynasty becomes more vulnerable to rebellion.The height of imperial concentration can be seen in the Ming dynasty.
The Tang (618-907), along with theSong dynasty (960-1279 CE) thatfollows, is often referred to asChinas "Golden Age“.Poetry, calligraphy, landscape painting,philosophy, political thought, historicalwriting, scientific advances in astronomy,chemistry, and medicine, and theproduction of fine silks, porcelain, and teasall flourish, particularly in the period fromthe 7th to the 12th centuries.
“The ruler depends on the state, and the state depends on its people.Oppressing the people to make them serve the ruler is like someonecutting off his own flesh to fill the stomach. The stomach is filled, but the body is injured; the ruler is wealthy but the state is destroyed.”
Chang’an was animperial city, anadministrative centerdesigned to show off thepower of the emperor andthe majesty of his court.
Drinking Alone by Midnight A pot of wine, under the flowering trees; I drink alone, for no friend is near. Raising my cup I beckon the bright moon, For her, with my shadow, will make three people. The moon, alas, is no drinker of wine; Listless, my shadow creeps about at my side. Yet with the moon as friend and the shadow as slave I must make merry before the Spring is spent. To the songs I sing the moon flickers her beams; Li Bai In the dance I weave my shadow tangles and breaks.(Li Bo / Li Po) While we were sober, three shared the fun; Now we are drunk, each goes their way. May we long share our eternal friendship, And meet at last on the paradise.
What Du Fu says of Liu Bai – A hundred poems Liu Bai wrote after a cask of wine. He was asleep at a tavern in Xian When the Emperor called; he would not board the imperial barge, But said, ‘Your humble servant is a god of wine.’Du Fu
Liu Bai answers back –I met Du Fu on a mountaintopin August when the sun was hot.Under the shade of his big straw hathis face was sad–in the years since we last parted,he’d grown wane, exhausted.Poor old Du Fu, I thought then,he must be agonizing over poetryagain.
Northern Song (960 – 1127) Southern Song (1127 – 1279)
Song China was a period of great change.1. The traditional aristocracy weakened even further after theTang. Two reasons: Shift to large cities and the abolition of the“equal field system” in favor of a money tax.2. Economic base began to expand to, and somewhat shifted to,the south. Food production improved immensely and led to aspike in population growth. Cities also grew immensely dense.3. The government became even more autocratic. The centralgovernment was better funded, and more government officialscame from the commoner class.
Zhu Xi (1130-1200)Neo-ConfucianismIntroduced a philosophy that synthesizedDaoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.Compiled The Four Books (The Analects,The Mencius, The Doctrine of the Mean,The Great Learning) which then becamethe standard for Confucian learning.Advocated the selection of officialsthrough schools, not just examinations.
While Buddhism and Daoism ushered in a creative agein China, Confucianism further deepened as the socialethic of China.Chinese society has two main classes: the gentry(scholarly elite) and the peasants. Third would be themerchants.Women had an important role to play in the family, buttheir subordinate role was reinforced towards the latterSong dynasty.