Essay, Research Paper
The Correlation Between Chinese History And Beliefs
The numerous cultures of Mainland China are both intricate with their systems of deities and traditions, and yet humble with their ways of life and survival. China is located in the midst of high lands, plateaus, canyons and numerous river systems. In coinciding with the difficult landscapes in which they live, the Chinese people have managed to generally abide by the natural protocols of the land. Throughout their approximately five thousand years of civilization the Chinese have concocted many traditions which are based upon their thriving in their environment. These traditions are what produce the intricate social structures of most of China. Every aspect of the Chinese culture is interrelated and therefore necessary for the continuance of the civilization. These qualities are what have confirmed China as not only a grand civilization but also one of great integrity.
The area in which China is contained is within the continent of Asia surrounded by the countries of Mongolia, Myanmar, India, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, and both North and South Korea. With these various surrounding civilizations China has been susceptible to multiple altercations with encroaching empires and inflictions from outside cultures. Most disputes were over jealousy fueled by the captivating land in which China is located. However, the Chinese people, in accordance with their cultural beliefs, felt it dishonorable to claim ownership of any parcel of land.
The Chinese people carry much pride for their vast existence as a mainly undivided civilization. However, their earliest of history was not thoroughly documented until the Qin dynasty (approximately 200 B.C.E.) Before that specific era Chinese history was preserved through stories by mouth rather than by quill. Though it is impossible to be assured of the validity of any oral tradition the Chinese people still regard them as written history. Many of the beliefs in current Chinese culture still heavily rely on the precepts of these stories as their basis.
The unwritten history of China began nearly five thousand years ago with two rulers of primordial Asia. The first of the rulers was known as Huang Di, also referred to as the Yellow Emperor, and ruled part of the Yellow River Valley of central Asia. The second of rulers was known as Yan Di, often referred to as the Fiery Emperor, to whom an unknown area of outer Asia had belonged. The importance of these two rulers is said to be in cause of their extensive attributes to early civilization in China. The invention of the cart, the boat, clothes, script and medicine is attributed to the genius of Huang Di. Whereas the necessity of cultivating the land through the use of a plow is attributed to Yan Di.
`Perhaps, hundreds of years thereafter the attributions of Huang Di and Yan Di, the leaders known as Yao, Shun and Yu had led the people one after another. Yu was a prestigious and popular leader who supposedly gained the respect of his followers by taming two flooding rivers by redirecting their currents towards the sea. Upon the death of Yu his son, Qi. had succeeded as ruler. With this first exchange in rule the first dynasty in Chinese history had been founded. It was called the Xia dynasty. With the establishment of its first dynasty China had been transformed from a primitive society, consisting of no family structure, private property, or class distinction, to a society based mainly on family and private ownership. Little is known about the Xia dynasty except for that it had lasted four hundred years and was ultimately overthrown by the Shang,a state that was east of the Chinese establishment.
All history before the Shang dynasty is largely legendary with very little or no material evidence of neither the Xia dynasty nor the rulers Yu, Huang Di or Yao Di. However, the Shang dynasty is assured to have existed in some manner as it is proven by numerous burial chambers and oracle bones unearthed one-hundred years ago in Anyang County, Henan Province. Anyang is believed to be one of the various capitals during the Shang Dynasty. The nearly one hundred thousand bones with nearly three thousand different ideograms on them concluded this assessment. The findings of the many scriptures on the bones represent the existence of the Chinese written language for more than three thousand years.
Within the capital the Shang rulers carried on superstitious traditions to determine how they would rule the land. At many times the rulers would summon the court diviner to assist in their decision. The court diviner would then take either a tortoise shell or the bone of an ox, drill a hole through it, and place it overtop of a fire until cracks developed. Then the court diviner would study the cracks as to determine the outcome of a decision and then they would record it onto a bone or piece of stone. These scribed bones were referred to as the oracle bones. In this manner many of the accounts of the Shang dynasty is assured to be valid.
Though the Chinese civilization had been much revised and advanced since the Xia dynasty. It had nonetheless still maintained its one notorious trait of slavery. The slaves of the Shang dynasty had been mainly that of the captured nations through acts of battles amongst other states and tribes. Slaves were used primarily to till the land and to conduct the household work of their masters. In more dire circumstances the slaves may be bought only for sacrifice to the gods and their masters? ancestors, or even to be buried alive with the corpse of their master.
During the 11th century B.C.E., more than likely in the exact year of 1066, Zhou, a state in the Wei River valley in present-day Shaanxi Province, conquered the Shang dynasty. Before the conquest of the Shang Empire, King Wen of the Zhou Empire had made his state strong and planned the conquest. King Wen had died before his conquest had been victorious so his son, King Wu, had assumed the conquest. King Wu had become the founder of the Zhou dynasty, but had died two years later during an intense battle with the last of the Shang family. His son was too young to succeed the throne so his younger brother of King Wu, Duke of Zhou, had instead taken care of state affairs. These three rulers had been the designers of the political and social structures of the Zhou dynasty.
Each ruler attributed to the establishment of the feudal belief system in China.
Through this system the country of China had been divided into several sections assigned to individual members of the Zhou family. Each person in a specific area ruled by a specific member of the Zhou family had become property of that member and that members? descendants. This method of organization gave land and people to the members of the upper class. The exact number of classes and divisions thereof are unknown as factual evidence. The number of classes is thought to lie between ten and twelve with numerous subdivisions.
Of the known classes there are the king, master of all, people and land alike. At the bottom is the common serf, bound to the land either by extreme adversity or because of his birthright. The serf had first attend his masters? land and then was allowed to tend to his own. The common serf was not allowed to ever leave his masters? fief. Also if the lord of the land was in need of a women then the serfs? daughters or wife may be subject.
The life of a serf was better than a slave in that he was allowed the right of a family, tools and land of his own.
The Zhou rulers used two methods of maintaining law and order within the kingdom. The first method, and most often used, was through acts of severe punishment or torture. The second was through the use of rites to adjust relations among the nobles. The rites were a series of rules and regulations concerning behavior, conduct and social institutions. These systems and institutions suited the social conditions very well and the Zhou enjoyed peace and stability for about 300 years.
In 771 B.C., a mixture of natural calamities, internal struggles in the court and attacks by bordering tribes brought the Zhou family?s rule to the brink of collapse. However, in the following year the Zhou moved their capital from the Haojing area in the west to the Luoyi area in the eastern side of China. The dynasty name changed to mark the beginning of a new empire. The new dynasty was referred to as the East Zhou dynasty and the earlier dynasty was now known as the West Zhou dynasty. The new dynasty was then once again divided into yet two more periods called the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period.
The Spring and Autumn Period had taken place between the years 770 B.C. and 476 B.C. The namesake for this era was simply the result of the many important events that had taken place during this period. Which coincidentally had been recorded in an archive entitled the ?The Spring and Autumn Annuals.? Much like the namesake for its counterpart, The Warring States Period, had been named literally because there were warring states within the kingdom during the times between 475 B.C. and 221 B.C. During these periods the king had only the power of ownership to his title and the name of his country. That is, he was weak in every way and unable to control the acts of any nobles that may have gained more land and power than he. The land under his direct rule had continually gotten smaller as a result of invasions by rebelling nobles.
In effect of the extinguishing kingdom, the number of states decreased from 1,000 during the Western Zhou to a mere 100 during the Spring and Autumn Period and finally to the minute amount of twenty during the Warring States Period. There were many social renovations that had taken place during this period as well. Through the increasing usage of iron tools, agriculture had developed furthermore. Lords had learned that they may receive more money if they were to rent their lands to the serfs. So, in effect, there was the establishment of landowners and tenants.
Along with this development of agriculture, handicrafts and commerce also grew, and there appeared a new merchant class. Many merchants were rich enough to visit and bribe princes and dukes. Another group of people, scholars, also developed. These came from different classes. Before the Spring and Autumn Period, what learning there was had been monopolized by the nobles; they alone could use the books and documents stored by the government, and other people could not share this right. The great political and social changes during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods broke the monopoly of learning by the nobles. At all levels of society ;declining nobles, new landlords, free citizens, even poor people ;there were people who made an effort to study and turn themselves into scholars. When rulers of states wanted wise advice that would help them to make their states rich and strong, they turned to scholars for such help and often put them into important positions. Which represented the incorporation of more logical thinking, unlike the use of a court diviner during the Xian and Shang dynasties.
The Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods were thus a time of change. States expanded or were conquered. The old systems and institutions established in the Western Zhou were no longer observed. The rites and original social order were broken.Old beliefs collapsed and new ideas spread. This turbulent situation urged scholars of the day to think of ways to bring about peace and stability, or to make a state rich and strong. Some of them went a step further to study fundamental principles of the universe and human life. Therefore these two periods, especially the Warring States Period, saw the rise of many different schools of philosophy.