Ancient Dynasties and Classical Chinese Thought (1).pdf - FDINT 205 CHINA BYU-IDAHO History 1 ANCIENT DYNASTIES CLASSICAL CHINESE THOUGHT1 THE HISTORY

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Unformatted text preview: FDINT 205 CHINA BYU-­‐IDAHO History 1 ANCIENT DYNASTIES & CLASSICAL CHINESE THOUGHT1 THE HISTORY OF CHINA, as documented in ancient writings, dates back some 3,300 years. Modern archaeological studies provide evidence of still more ancient origins in a culture that flourished between 2500 and 2000 B.C. in what is now central China and the lower Huang He (Yellow River) Valley of north China. Centuries of migration, amalgamation, and development brought about a distinctive system of writing, philosophy, art, and political organization that came to be recognizable as Chinese civilization. What makes the civilization unique in world history is its continuity through over 4,000 years to the present century. The Chinese have developed a strong sense of their real and mythological origins and have kept voluminous records since very early times. It is largely as a result of these records that knowledge concerning the ancient past, not only of China but also of its …a Chinese neighbors, has political survived. pattern of dynasties, one following another in a cycle of ascent, achievement, decay, and rebirth under a new family. Chinese history, until the twentieth century, was written mostly by members of the ruling scholar-­‐official class and was meant to provide the ruler with precedents to guide or justify his policies. These accounts focused on dynastic politics and colorful court histories and included developments among the commoners only as backdrops. The historians described a Chinese political pattern of dynasties, one following another in a cycle of ascent, achievement, decay, and rebirth under a new family. Of the consistent traits identified by independent historians, a salient one has been the capacity of the Chinese to absorb the people of surrounding areas into their own civilization. Their success can be attributed to the superiority of their ideographic written language, their technology, and their 1 Excerpted from CHINA: A country study. Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. Edited by Robert L. Worden, Andrea Matles Savada and Ronald E. Dolan, 1987. Web. political institutions; the refinement of their artistic and intellectual creativity; and the sheer weight of their numbers. The process of assimilation continued over the centuries through conquest and colonization until what is now known as China Proper was brought under unified rule. The Chinese also left an enduring mark on people beyond their borders, especially the Koreans, Japanese, and Vietnamese. Another recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the sedentary Chinese against the threat posed to their safety and way of life by non-­‐Chinese peoples on the margins of their territory in the north, northeast, and northwest. In the thirteenth century, the Mongols from the northern steppes became the first alien people to conquer all China. Although not as culturally developed as the Chinese, they left some imprint on Chinese civilization while heightening Chinese perceptions of threat from the north. China came under alien rule for the second time in the mid-­‐seventeenth century; the conquerors— the Manchus—came again from the north and northeast. Another recurrent historical theme has been the unceasing struggle of the…Chinese against the threat…on the margins For centuries virtually all the foreigners that Chinese rulers saw came from the less developed societies along their land borders. This circumstance conditioned the Chinese view of the outside world. The Chinese saw their domain as the self-­‐sufficient center of the universe and derived from this image the traditional (and still used) Chinese name for their country—Zhongguo, literally, Middle Kingdom or Central Nation. China saw itself surrounded on all sides by so-­‐called barbarian peoples whose cultures were demonstrably inferior by Chinese standards. This China-­‐centered ("sinocentric") view of the world was still undisturbed in the nineteenth century, at the time of the first serious confrontation with the West. China had taken it for granted that its relations with Europeans would be conducted according to the tributary system that had evolved over the centuries between the emperor and representatives of the lesser states on China's borders as well as between the emperor and some earlier European visitors. But by the mid-­‐nineteenth century, humiliated militarily by superior Western weaponry and technology and faced with imminent territorial dismemberment, China began to reassess its position with respect to Western civilization. By 1911 the two-­‐millennia-­‐ old dynastic system of imperial government was brought down by its inability to make this adjustment successfully. THE ANCIENT DYNASTIES Pangu Chinese civilization, as described in mythology, begins with Pangu, the creator of the universe, and a succession of legendary sage-­‐emperors and culture heroes who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to find sustenance, clothing, and shelter. The first prehistoric dynasty is said to 2 be Xia, from about the twenty first to the sixteenth century B.C. Until scientific excavations were made at early bronze-­‐age sites at Anyang, Henan Province, in 1928, it was difficult to separate myth from reality in regard to the Xia. But since then, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s, archaeologists have uncovered urban sites, bronze implements, and tombs that point to the existence of Xia civilization in the same locations cited in ancient Chinese historical texts. At minimum, the Xia period marked an evolutionary stage between the late Neolithic cultures and the typical Chinese urban civilization of the Shang dynasty. THE DAWN OF HISTORY – SHANG DYNASTY Thousands of archaeological finds in the Huang He Valley [Yellow River 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 (also called the Yin dynasty in its later stages) 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 the development of a writing system, as revealed in archaic Chinese inscriptions found on tortoise shells and flat cattle bones (commonly called oracle bones), and the use of bronze metallurgy. A number of ceremonial bronze vessels with inscriptions date from the Shang period; the workmanship on the bronzes attests to a high level of civilization. Jian Drum Base Shanghai Museum Oracle Bone A line of hereditary Shanghai Museum Shang kings ruled over much of northern China, and Shang troops fought frequent wars with neighboring settlements and nomadic herdsmen from the inner Asian steppes. The capitals, one of which was at the site of the modern city of Anyang, were centers of glittering court life. Court rituals to propitiate spirits and to honor sacred ancestors were highly developed. In addition to his secular position, the king was the head of the ancestor-­‐ and spirit-­‐worship cult. Evidence from the royal 3 tombs indicates that royal personages were buried with articles of value, presumably for use in the afterlife. Perhaps for the same reason, hundreds of commoners, who may have been slaves, were buried alive with the royal corpse. THE ZHOU PERIOD CHINESE DYNASTIES 1700 – 1027 B.C. 1027 – 771 B.C. 771 – 221 B.C. 770 – 476 B.C. 475 – 221 B.C. Shang Western Zhou Eastern Zhou Spring & Autumn Warring States CHINESE EMPIRES 221 – 206 B.C. 206 B.C. – A.D.220 A.D. 222 – 581 A.D. 581 – 617 A.D. 618 – 907 A.D. 907 – 960 A.D. 960 – 1127 A.D. 1127 – 1279 A.D. 1279 – 1368 A.D. 1368 – 1644 A.D. 1644 – 1911 Qin Han Three Kingdoms Sui Tang Ten Kingdoms & Five Dynasties Northern Song Southern Song Yuan Ming Qing M ODERN CHINA A.D. 1911 – 1949 A.D. 1949 – Republican China Peoples’ R epublic of China The last Shang ruler, a despot according to standard Chinese accounts, was overthrown by a chieftain of a frontier tribe called Zhou, which had settled in the Wei Valley in modern Shaanxi Province. The Zhou dynasty [sometimes spelled Chou] had its capital at Hao, near the city of Xi'an, or Chang'an, as it was known in its heyday in the imperial period. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang, the early Zhou rulers, through conquest and colonization, gradually Sinicized, that is, extended Shang culture through much of China Proper 2 north of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River). The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other, from 1027 to 221 B.C. It was philosophers of this period who first enunciated the doctrine of the “mandate of heaven” (tianming), the notion that the ruler (the "son of heaven") governed by divine right but that his dethronement would prove that he had lost the mandate. The doctrine explained and justified the demise of the two earlier dynasties and at the same time supported the legitimacy of present and future rulers. The term feudal has often been applied to the Zhou period because the Zhou's early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe. At most, however, the early Zhou system was proto-­‐feudal, being a more sophisticated version of earlier tribal organization, in which effective control depended more on familial ties than on feudal legal bonds. Whatever feudal elements there may have been decreased as time went on. The Zhou amalgam of city-­‐states became progressively centralized and established increasingly impersonal political and economic institutions. These developments, which probably occurred in the latter Zhou period, were Used broadly to mean China within the Great Wall, with its eighteen historic provinces. Divisible into two major, sharply contrasting regions, north China and south China. The dependencies on the north and west-­‐-­‐Manchuria (now usually referred to as northeast China), Mongolia, Xizang (Tibet), and Xinjiang or Chinese Turkestan-­‐-­‐were known in the imperial era as Outer China. 2 4 manifested in greater central control over local governments and a more routinized agricultural taxation. 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 Province. Because of this shift, historians divide the Zhou era into Western Zhou (1027-­‐771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou (770-­‐221 B.C.). With the royal line broken, the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. Eastern Zhou divides into two sub-­‐periods. The first, from 770 to 476 B.C., is called the Spring and Autumn Period, after a famous historical chronicle of the time; the second is known as the Warring States Period (475-­‐221 B.C.). THE HUNDRED SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT The Spring and Autumn [770 – 476 B.C.] and Warring States [475 – 221 B.C.] periods, though marked by disunity and civil strife, witnessed an unprecedented era of cultural prosperity-­‐-­‐the "golden age" of China. The atmosphere of reform and new ideas was attributed to the struggle for survival among warring regional lords who competed in building strong and loyal armies and in increasing economic production to ensure a broader base for tax collection. To effect these economic, military, and cultural developments, the regional lords needed ever-­‐increasing numbers of skilled, literate officials and teachers, the recruitment of whom was based on merit. Also during this time, commerce was stimulated through the introduction of coinage and technological improvements. Iron came into general use, making possible not only the forging of weapons of war but also the manufacture of farm implements. Public works on a grand scale-­‐-­‐such as flood control, irrigation projects, and canal digging-­‐-­‐were executed [see map at right]. Enormous walls were built around cities and along the broad stretches of the northern frontier. So many different philosophies developed during the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States periods that the era is often known as that of the Hundred Schools of Thought. From the Hundred Schools of Thought came many of the great classical writings on which Chinese The Grand Canal Canal_of_China.png 5 practices were to be based for the next two and one half millennia. Many of the thinkers were itinerant intellectuals who, besides teaching their disciples, were employed as advisers to one or another of the various state rulers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. CONFUCIUS The body of thought that had the most enduring effect on ”Let the subsequent Chinese life was that of ruler be the School of Literati (ru), often called the Confucian school in the a ruler West. The written legacy of the and the School of Literati is embodied in the Confucian Classics, which were subject a to become the basis for the order subject” of traditional society. Confucius (551-­‐479 B.C.), also called Kong Zi, or Master Kong, looked to the Confucius early days of Zhou rule for an ideal social and political order. He believed that the only way such a system could be made to work properly was for each person to act according to prescribed relationships. Kong Zi, Confucius "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject," he said, but he added that to rule properly a king must be virtuous. /Confucius_Tang_Dynasty.jpg To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values. His ideal was the junzi (ruler's son), which came to mean gentleman in the sense of a cultivated or superior man. MENCIUS Mencius (372-­‐289 B.C.), or Meng Zi, was a Confucian disciple who made major contributions to the humanism of Confucian thought. Mencius declared that man was by nature good. He expostulated the idea that a ruler could not govern without the people's tacit consent and that the penalty for unpopular, despotic The penalty for rule was the loss of the "mandate of heaven." The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucian thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework on which to order virtually every aspect of life. 6 unpopular, despotic rule was the loss of the “mandate of heaven” Diametrically opposed to Mencius, for example, was the interpretation of Xun Zi (ca. 300-­‐ 237 B.C.), another Confucian follower. Xun Zi preached that man is innately selfish and evil and that goodness is attainable only through education and conduct befitting one's status. He also argued that the best government is one based on authoritarian control, not ethical or moral persuasion. LEGALISM Xun Zi's unsentimental and authoritarian inclinations were developed into the doctrine embodied in the School of Law (fa), or Legalism. 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 strictly. 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. When the most practical and useful aspects of Confucianism and Legalism were synthesized in the Han period (206 B.C.-­‐ A.D. 220), a system of governance came into existence that was to survive largely intact until the late nineteenth century. DAOISM Taoism (or Daoism in pinyin), the second most important stream of Chinese thought, also developed during the Zhou period. Its formulation is attributed to the legendary sage Lao Zi (Old Master), said to predate Confucius, and Zhuang Zi (369-­‐286 B.C.). The focus of Taoism is the individual in nature rather than the individual in society. It holds that the goal of life for each individual is to find one's own personal adjustment to the rhythm of the natural (and supernatural) world, to follow the Way (dao) of the universe. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian moralism, Taoism served many of its adherents as a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar on duty as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse. YIN-­‐YANG Lao Zi (depicted as a Taoist god) 3a/Lao_Tzu_-­‐_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15250.jpg Another strain of thought dating to the Warring States Period is the school of yin-­‐yang and the five elements. The theories of this school attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature, the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In 7 later periods these theories came to have importance both in philosophy and in popular belief. MO ZI Still another school of thought was based on the doctrine of Mo Zi (470-­‐391 B.C.?), or Mo Di. Mo Zi believed that "all men are equal before God" and that mankind should follow heaven by practicing universal love. Advocating that all action must be utilitarian, Mo Zi condemned the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music. He regarded warfare as wasteful and advocated pacifism. Mo Zi also believed that unity of thought and action were necessary to achieve social goals. He maintained that the people should obey their leaders and that the leaders should follow the will of heaven. Although Moism failed to establish itself as a major school of thought, its views are said to be "strongly echoed" in Legalist thought. In general, the teachings of Mo Zi left an indelible impression on the Chinese mind. TRADITIONAL SOCIETY AND CULTURE To understand contemporary [Chinese] society, it is necessary to be familiar with past legacies, particularly in the realm of values and in areas of social life, such as family organization, where transformation has not been a high-­‐priority political goal. Confucianism, never a religion in any accepted sense, is primarily concerned with social order China's traditional values were contained in the orthodox version of Confucianism, which was taught in the academies and tested in the imperial civil service examinations. These values are distinctive for their this-­‐worldly emphasis on society and public administration and for their wide diffusion throughout Chinese society. Confucianism, never a religion in any accepted sense, is primarily concerned with social order. Social harmony is to be achieved within the state, whose administrators consciously select the proper policies and act to educate both the rulers and the subject masses. Confucianism originated and developed as the ideology of professional administrators and continued to bear the impress of its origins. Imperial-­‐era Confucianists concentrated on this world and had an agnostic attitude toward the supernatural. They approved of ritual and ceremony, but primarily for their supposed educational and psychological effects on those participating. Confucianists tended to regard religious specialists (who historically were often rivals for authority or imperial favor) as either misguided or intent on squeezing money from the credulous masses. The major metaphysical element in Confucian thought was the belief in an impersonal ultimate natural order that included the social order. Confucianists asserted that they understood the inherent pattern for social and political organization and therefore had the authority to run society and the state. 8 The Confucianists claimed authority based on their knowledge, which came from direct mastery of a set of books. These books, the Confucian Classics, were thought to contain the distilled wisdom of the past and to apply to all human beings everywhere a...
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