China

Geography Of ancient China

Geography-Physical environment and how it may influence an economy and culture.

The Huang He River, also called the Yellow River, flows eastward for 2,900 miles and gets its name due to its yellow color from crossing loess (deposits of yellow silt). The river empties into the Yellow Sea. 

The Chang Jiang River, meaning “Long River,” is also called the Yangtze and it flows 3,430 miles. The Chang Jiang River originates in Tibet and empties into the East China Sea. China’s first farmers lived in the North China Plain near the Yellow Sea.  They benefitted from the loess deposited by the Huang He River, providing them with fertile soil. Both rivers have caused terrible floods. The land surface of China is described as having three steps which descend as one moves from west to east.  Western China (the highest step) is home to the greatest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas, and the world’s highest plateau, the plateau of Tibet. Central China (the middle step) holds the Gobi Desert in its north. Surrounding the desert are mountains and very dry grasslands with no trees, called steppes.  Eastern China (the lowest step) borders the Pacific Ocean. The north has a cold, dry winter, and a warm, rainy summer. Farmers grew crops near the Huang He Valley. Southern China has a warm, rainy, long growing season, which incorporates “terrace farming.” China was disconnected from the rest of the world due to the mountains, deserts, and oceans that made up its borders. Geographic barriers made it difficult for trading, which affected the people in China. It led to separate communities within the Chinese civilization, having separate dialects and cultures from one another. China’s isolation led them to believe they were the only civilization in the world, which led to their name “Tian Xia” or “all under heaven.” 

 

The Shang Dynasty 1766 BCE-1122 BCE

Social Class-How a civilization is divided into classes that have different roles, responsibilities, and privileges.

Religion-A belief system that influences the development of a civilization. 

In 1766 BCE, Tang the Successful ruled over 1,800 villages near the Huang He and Chang Jiang rivers. This was the beginning of the 600 year Shang Dynasty. The dynasty was ruled by a monarchy (rule by a royal family) and had many social classes of craftsmen.  During this time, most villagers had chickens and pigs, and used silk worms to make cloth. There were metalworkers who made weapons and tools out of bronze. Buildings were made mostly of wood and mud, but crumbled long ago. Although most buildings are gone, many artifacts remain, including marble, jade figurines, silk fabrics, and bronze containers. These have all been found in tombs of the wealthy.

The Shang writing system was made of characters or symbols, much like the Egyptian system. Animal bones and shells called oracle bones held the earliest writings.

A diviner was often visited by Shang kings. It was believed that this person would help them speak to the gods. They would touch hot metal sticks to bones and shells and the king would read the cracks to find the answer.

The Zhou Dynasty 1122-256 BCE

Religion-A belief system that influences the development of a civilization. 

Leadership/ Government- How a civilization creates an organized way of leadership.

Social Class-How a civilization is divided into classes that have different roles, responsibilities, and privileges.

The Zhou Dynasty ruled from 1122 BCE to 256 BCE, the longest ruling dynasty in China. It is believed that the Zhou culture began west of the Shang Kingdom in the Wei River Valley. They worship Tian, a god whose name means “heaven.” The Zhou Dynasty began when King Wu won over the Shang in 1122 BCE. The mandate of heaven is something the Zhou people believed gave them the order to rule China. The kings showed virtue (good qualities) to keep the mandate. Zhou kings created a social structure, which had the kings in the position on top, followed by noble families, then peasant families. People in each class showed virtue by offering services to other classes. Kings provided land to nobles for military support. This is a political system of exchange known as feudalism. Peasants paid nobles for land use and lived hard lives of farming and serving in Zhou armies. The nobles helped protect them from enemies.

In 800 BCE, they were invaded by warlike nomads from the north and the west. In 771 BCE, Hai, the capital of the Zhou dynasty, was attacked. The king was killed, and Zhou moved to the east North China Plain. Once they moved, nobles grew powerful and began to call themselves kings. The last 200 years of the dynasty is referred to as the Warring Kingdoms Period or the Warring States Period because of the fighting between kings and the Zhou. Near 600 BCE, the Chu Kingdom had replaced feudalism by dividing their land into counties, and appointing people to run them based on skill. In 535 BCE, the king of Zheng called for written laws, which were firsts for China.

The Zhou Dynasty 1122-256BCE Part 2 of 2 Stations

Religion-A belief system that influences the development of a civilization. 

Confucius lived from 551 -479 BCE, during the Zhou dynasty. He was a teacher who opposed violence, and used short sayings that were easy to remember to teach kindness, respect, and good behavior. He also taught filial piety, which called for children to respect and honor their parents. He also believed this is how people should treat their rulers. He taught of people bringing goodness to society through five different relationships. These included parent to child, ruler to subject, older brother to younger brother, husband to wife, and friend to friend. His ideas were not accepted until after his death, when they began to spread through East Asia.

 

The First Chinese Empire; The Qin Dynasty 221 BCE-206 BCE

Leadership/ Government- How a civilization creates an organized way of leadership.

In 256 BC, the small state of Qin grew to be the most powerful in Southern China. It was the located west of the Wei River valley. Their army was successful due to its iron weapons and horse-led army. In 246 BCE, the Qin gained a king who was only 13 years old. The Warring States period ended in 221 BCE, when the Qin rule all of the northern states, creating China’s first empire. Once the empire was established, the king named himself Qin Shi Huangdi, or “The First Emperor of China.”

Shi Huangdi ruled using legalism, a form of government that gave all power to one leader. He used strict laws and fear to rule. He had success in uniting North China, and made lasting influences. For example, the word China comes from Qin. He broke down the feudal system by taking land away from nobles. He gave it to peasants, who paid taxes directly to his government. He then forced all the nobles to move to Xianyang, the Qin capital, where they were watched by officials to prevent an uprising against the emperor. Other strict laws Shi Huangdi enforced included only permitting members of his army to carry weapons, harsh punishments for those who disobeyed laws, and death for those who opposed him. In 206 BCE, the Qin Dynasty fell out of rule, having lasted only 15 years.

The First Chinese Empire; The Qin Dynasty 221 BCE-206 BCE

Leadership/ Government- How a civilization creates an organized way of leadership.

Achievements-The lasting contributions of a civilization.

 

In order to unite the empire, Shi Huangdi standardized currency, weight units, measurements, and writing across the empire. The writing system helped when it came to recordkeeping and overall communication. He improved trade by standardizing coins and the width of roads. He unified people with the harsh policies, such as total control of books used for teaching.  At one point he even ordered books about Confucianism to be burned.

Shi Huangdi ordered that existing walls be built taller and longer for protection from invaders from the north. “The Great Wall” as it came to be known, was to be 25 feet high, 20 feet wide, and over 3,000 miles long. Many people working on the wall were mistreated, having to work long hours in harsh conditions and far from their families. Along the wall there were towers 40 feet tall where soldiers could keep watch for enemy attacks. They would use a smoke or fire signal from tower to tower until it reached the capital.

Shi Huangdi planned an extravagant tomb for himself at the age of just thirteen. It took over 30 years to construct and was still not ready in 210 BCE when he died. In the 1970s, Chinese farmers discovered the tomb, and to this day it is one of the most amazing archeological finds. The tomb is filled with 7,000 life size soldiers made from clay, all armed with real weapons. There were also clay horses and wood-and-bronze chariots. It is suggested that the outside was disguised to look like an imperial city.

The Han Dynasty 202 BCE-220 CE

Leadership/ Government- How a civilization creates an organized way of leadership.

Achievements-The lasting contributions of a civilization.

Economy-How a civilization makes money through the buying and selling of goods and services.

 

After the fall of the Qin dynasty, there was a civil war in which the peasants, officials, and nobles fought for power. Liu Bang became the King of Han and eventually went on to take over all of the Qin Empire. He became emperor with the respect of the peasants because, like them, he came from a poor farming family. When he began to govern, he was given the name Gaozu, or “High Ancestor.” He began the Han dynasty, which lasted 400 years, ending in 220 CE.

Like the Qin Dynasty the Han worked on uniting China. The Han used teachings of the highly respected philosopher Confucius to lead China with a moral and behavioral guide.

Wu Di or “Warlike Emperor” ruled in 141 BCE, and was known for forming large armies. With this growing army came an increase in taxes, which was not favored by the people. He made Confucianism the official religion and founded a Civil Service, which took case of the day-to-day running of the government.  A Civil Service official had to pass rigorous examinations that people studied for decades to pass.  He improved jobs with benefits, which led to an increased importance of education.

 

The Han Dynasty 202 BCE-220 CE

Achievements-The lasting contributions of a civilization.

Economy-How a civilization makes money through the buying and selling of goods and services.

China’s Golden Age began around 200 BCE and was filled with economic growth, success in war, and an increase in education, which was good for the Han Empire. Artists flourished, creating paintings, sculptures, and silk weaving. Han scientists made the first seismograph (measures earthquakes), along with sundials and water clocks that measured time.

During the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road was one of the most traveled trade routes and covered 4,000 miles through Asia, all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Chinese people traveled these roads trading silk for horses, spices, fruits, musical instruments, glass, and other items not found in China. The road was also used to spread Buddhism from India, throughout China.