10. People and World Empires: Classical China

I. What Were the Major Philosophical Systems Founded during the Hundred Schools Period (551-233 B.C.E.)?
A. Change and disruption (771-221 B.C.E.)
1. Political change
- vassal lords usurped the King’s power raising questions concerning the nature of political authority
- Period of the Warring States demonstrated the need to find a new basis for established order and stability to society

2. Economic change
- rise of cities, development of new technologies and trade challenged traditional agrarian society

3. Social change
- social mobility increased among the nobility as new opportunities developed: mercenaries, merchants, teachers, administrators

B. Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.)
1. Life:
- born in the state of Lu, of aristocratic descent
- became a tutor specializing in the arts of city- life
- developed an ethical and moral system by which the state and society could achieve order and stability
- having been unsuccessful in finding a ruler to adopt his ideas, Confucius died a disappointed man
- His students collected his teachings in a book, The Analects

2. Teachings
a) Goal: To achieve order and stability through good governance and good behavior

b) Political Order
- the ideal prince rules humanely and in the interest of his subjects

- ren > the ideal of virtue that one strives  towards encompassing love, benevolence, compassion and sympathy towards one’s fellow man

- tę > the power derived from virtue; a good person exercises virtue and others will follow

- li > the code of gentlemanly conduct by which one governs one’s life

c) Social Harmony
- achieved through the Five Relations by which a senior person owes affection and care to a junior person in return for respect and obedience

Ruler > subject
Father > son
Older brother > younger brother
Husband > wife
Friend > friend

3. Confucius’s Legacy
- not concerned with spiritual matters, but ethical and moral problems of man’s relationship with his fellow man
- provided the basis and guidelines for the legitimate exercise of political authority devised a social system that would provide Chinese society with stability and order
- His thoughts influenced other philosophers and various schools of Confucianism developed

C. Mencius (c. 372-289 B.C.E.)
1. Life:
- Like Confucius, a teacher who failed to see his ideas put into practice
- Like Confucius, his ideas were recorded by his students after his death in the Works of Mencius

2. Teachings
a) men were good by nature
- thus not just princes could achieve the ideals of humane conduct
- the realization of good comes with self- cultivation and self-knowledge

b) the ruler should be concerned with the well-being of the common people
> economic and social justice

c) a ruler who does not rule in the interest of the people cannot be considered a legitimate ruler

D. Xunzi (c. 300-23 B.C.E.)
1. Life:
- A learned man like Confucius and Mencius, but had also served as an administrator in the government

2. His teachings
- Humans were innately evil interested only in pursuing their own self-interest
- But with the proper education and moral training, they could become good

E. The Legalists > Legalist Sanction
1. Influenced by the work of Xunzi; unlike the previous thinkers were not concerned with moral issues, rather dealt with reality

2. Teachings
- the role of the king was to increase the state’s power and wealth, while the role of his subjects was to serve the state
- the king had absolute power, was above the law, and he dictated laws to control his subjects’ behavior
- through rewards and harsh punishment, obedience of his subjects was obtained

F. Daoism – The Quietist School
1. Laozi (6th century B.C.E.)
- a semi-mythical figure
- Classic of the Way and of Virtue

2. Teachings
- to achieve harmony one must act in accordance in the Dao
- the Dao is the source of all creation and the cosmic force that governs the world
- through introspection and quiet reflection on nature an understanding of the Dao may be achieved > nonaction

3. Legacy of Daoism
- Government, institutions and moral laws obstruct the free play of the Dao, and thus not advocated by Daoists
- Daoism became a popular religion of the masses incorporating elements of mysticism and magic
- For the shi, it became a creative and artistic inspiration that focused on the natural world as a source of spiritual fulfillment

II. How Did the Qin Dynasty Restore Order to China?
A. Shi Huangdi (221-210 B.C.E.)
- China’s First Emperor

B. Unification of China
1. Established of centralized state
- dismantled feudalism
- divided the empire into 36 provinces
- capital city built at Xianyang

2. Ruled by the Legalist Sanction

3. Standardized weights, measures and coinage
> improved trade

4. Undertook massive building projects:
- the Great Wall
- roads and canals
- the Emperor’s tomb

C. Fall of the Qin
1. The dynasty collapsed several years after Shi Huangdi’s death due to the heavy burdens placed on the populace by the building projects and the cruelty of the reign

2. Legacy:
- Legalism discredited
- laid the foundation for a strong, centralized state

III. What Were the Achievements of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. - 220 C.E.)?
- Founded by Liu Bang

A. State Confucianism
- Combined Confucian principles with Legalist practices
- Maintained centralized governmental institutions
- 165 B.C.E. first Civil Service exams;124 B.C.E. - Imperial University founded with studies based on Confucianism
- Rise of the scholar-gentry

B. Xian – Capital of the late Han
- Population of about 100,000 (with the population from the surrounding countryside > 250,000)
- Within the city’s walls was the inner or forbidden city that comprised a series of luxurious palace complexes that housed the Imperial family: the Emperor, his wife, numerous concubines, their children, eunuchs, servants, etc.
- Established the layout for future capitals

C. Economic Prosperity
1. Expansion of technology and industry
- silk manufacturing
- paper making by 100 B.C.E.
- metallurgy and iron-casting
- ceramics
- water mill
- compass, ship’s rudder, fore and aft rigging of sails

2. Expansion of trade
- extended to Southeast Asia and westward along the Silk Road
- wealthy merchants were viewed as potential rivals to the upper classes; laws were passed restricting their ability to hold government offices, wear silk, carry weapons and own carriages

D. Expansion of Empire
1. Destroyed the power of the Xiongnu and penetrated deep into Central Asia

2. Vietnam and Korea brought under Chinese authority

3. Spread of Chinese Culture
- Vietnam remained a colony of China from 111 B. C. E. to 939 C. E.
- early kingdoms of Korea underwent periods of conquest and domination
- during this period many aspects of Chinese culture such as its belief systems (Confucianism and Buddhism), education and writing systems, and political and administrative organization were adopted.

E. Decline of the Han
1. Isolation of the Emperor, court intrigues

2. Economic hardship
- population growth (from 20 million to 60, then decline back to 20 million)
- shortage of land for the small farmers
- peasant uprisings

3. Concentration of land and re-emergence of powerful large landowning families

4. Increased pressure of nomadic invaders 
 

 

 

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