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Transcript of Ancient China
The Geography of China
8th Grade World History
Geography isolated China from the rest of Asia, which led to a unique culture developing.
Mostly, China has been a racially and culturally homogenous civilization
Chinese society places an emphasis on the duties of individuals to others
The Chinese developed many technological innovations which led it to be more advanced than other contemporary societies at periods in history.
China is a giant region in Eastern Asia
Natural geographic barriers surrounds China - Pacific Ocean to the east, deserts and steppes to north and west, and Himalaya Mountains to the south.
China became a very difficult area for other civilizations to invade
Two major rivers allowed river civilizations to develop
Huang He (Yellow River) and Chiang Jiang (Yangtze River)
Rivers flowed from snows in Himalayas and Tibet to lowlands and flood plains in east
Rice crop became the staple of the Chinese diet
Little is known about how Chinese civilization began - first settlements thought to begin around 5000 BCE.
At first, Chinese civilization was split into many groups scattered across river valley areas with no central government
In time, different clans united large parts of China under one government
Time periods in Chinese history are classified by
As groups conquered areas, one family would rule for generations. Father would pass on ruling title to son, brother, etc.
Dynasty - a line of rulers who come from the same family
First powerful dynasty of China was the Shang Dynasty (1650-1045 BCE)
Controlled areas between Huang He and Chiang Jiang
Most people were farmers who worked the lands of the aristocrats
Some were traders and artisans
Shang artisans worked with bronze and jade.
Longest dynasty in Chinese history (1045 BCE - 221 BCE)
Overthrew the Shang dynasty after a large income gap between the rich and poor under Shang made people unhappy
Many developments occurred during rule by the Zhou.
Chinese develop irrigation and flood control and invent the iron plow, which allowed them to grow more food than ever before
Chinese begin to develop the use of silk
Cultural developments occur under the Zhou that become the basis for current Chinese culture...
The Mandate of Heaven
The idea that gives a Chinese king the right to rule the people.
Heaven chooses the king. His job is to keep the gods happy. If gods aren't happy, trouble will befall the king and his people. The people, therefore, have the right to overthrow a dishonest or evil ruler.
Also during Zhou Dynasty, the most famous Chinese historical figure lived... his name was Confucius (551-479 BCE)
Historians don't know much about his life, much is thought to be legend.
At about 50, he was a government official, but was forced to leave office and go into exile. He was troubled by the constant fighting and arguing among clans in China.
He became a traveling teacher. Some think he developed about 70 disciples. His teachings were eventually placed into a book called "The Analects"
First Chinese writings showed that they believed that the world was controlled by an "all-powerful deity" (Shangdi).
Despite that, regions believed in other deities, local spirits, and ancestors in factors of what happened in the world.
At this time in China's history, many different areas in China were in conflict.
As a result, most of his teachings were about how to bring harmony to China
The teachings of Confucius, in time, became the official set of beliefs for Chinese culture. In other words, it became "the way" for the Chinese to pay respect to Heaven and their ancestors.
Heaven ("Tian") has put into place a moral order (right and wrong), but is dependent on humans to put it into practice.
"Ri" (compassion and love for others) should come before any self-motivating act.
It is through following rituals ("li") that one can maintain the moral order and honor Tian, while at the same time maintaining peace and harmony in China.
The Chinese do not use an alphabet.
Instead, each symbol stands for a word
Has not changed since ancient times.
Through compassion and rituals ("ri" and "li"), the needs of communities will always be met, and an ordered society will be made possible.
Rituals were in all areas of Chinese life... tea-drinking, music, everything... Confucius said that all of these things should follow a proper method.
Last, one of the greatest virtues of a person is based on their relationships to others.
The Five Bonds: Ruler to ruled, Father to son, Husband to wife, Elder Brother to younger brother, Friend to friend. Loyalty to these bonds was extremely important, and extended after death.
The victor of the warring states period was a group called the Qin (Ch'in)
Defeated the powerless Zhou and conquered the six remaining major states, reunifying China in 221 BCE. The ruler who did so was a man named Qin Shihuangdi.
Shihuangdi was very strong-fisted, and his unifying China allowed for a period of brief prosperity and a unified work force.
Shihuangdi ordered a few massive building projects, where many Chinese peasants were ordered to leave their communities and work under slave-like conditions.
Warring States Period
Qin Building Projects
Xia Dynasty??? (2100-1600)
Ruled from 206 BCE - 220 CE
Considered the "Golden Age of China," as it was an age of economic prosperity and the growth of a money economy
The Han discovered how much silk was desired in the Mediterranean world and began to export silk in large amounts for profit.
Began the civil service examinations, which helped anyone with the right skills/education obtain a job in the government.
New inventions helped China prosper during this time period.
Emperor (and family)
Kings and Nobles
Merchants (considered parasites by upper class)
Waterwheels - Used to grind grain and provide continuous power
Steel - Able to produce stronger and more durable tools
Paper - Easier ability to keep records, eventually used in place of coins
Ship rudder and movable sails
But alas, the Han collapsed when weak emperors took advantage of their power. Eventually, civil war split the empire apart and another "Warring States" situation began called the Three Kingdoms period.
And so begins our study of China after the Han.