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1 ANCIENT CHINA 2 Introduction to the Chin Dynasty The first official historical emperor of China was Shih Huang-Ti who unified China in 221 B.C.E. by destroying the Zhou Dynasty and many independent feudal states into which China had been split for about 500 years. His state is called the Ch’in or Qin Dynasty, which established a centralized empire, something not seen in the West for another 1000 years when first England and then France formed monarchies. While Shi Huang-Ti failed to establish a long-lasting dynasty, his fifteen year imperial system initiated the political structure of China almost uninterrupted for the next 2000 years. The Chin Dynasty’s impact on later Chinese history is immeasurable. During his reign armies were marching day and night to carve out his greatly expanded empire. The Middle Kingdom stretched from the foothills of the Mongolian Plateau to the Yangtze River Basin. A satirical couplet described the emperor as a “Man with a prominent nose, large eyes with the chest of a bird of prey, the face of a jackal, and the heart of a tiger or a wolf.” He ruled using legalism as his modus operandi. It was said that he lived in constant fear of assassination, moving from place to place. Only a handful of eunuchs knew where he was. Is this not shades of the world today? Policies and Accomplishments of the Chin Emperor 2 Many administrative measures were taken to reinforce his centralized control. A detailed census of the whole empire was taken, recording the number of households, heads of families, their names, ages, birthplaces. This census listed sixty million people. Not until twelve centuries later would the first census be taken in the West; the Doomsday Book as it is called in 1087 in England under King William the Conqueror, who several decades earlier had invaded and won his “Holy War” prize. As a consequence of this Chinese census, the ruler could now levy poll taxes, corvee, and military service. The written Chinese language was simplified and made uniform over the whole country, although many dialects were still spoken. The next steps were standardizing the weights, measures and coinage. This new round coin with a square hole became the means of exchange for the next 2000 years plus. Roads were constructed to the far-reaches of the empire, and standard dimensions were imposed for axles, and all chariots and carts. This common gauge made it possible to traverse over the wheel ruts (like in American when the covered wagons went West over the same ruts,) which greatly increased trade. Relying on his beliefs in legalism, Huang-Ti burned the books from the past, including Confucius’ ideas. Allowing men to give opinions based on the past he thought would ruin his legalistic state, and private learning was prohibited as well. Death penalties were given to anyone citing classical works. We have illustrations to show that scholars quoting Confucius were buried alive. He did allow reference books on 3 medicine, divination, and agriculture to be excluded from his ban book policy. Great Wall of China To protect against the barbarian Huns of the North, he launched one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by man. Protection from these barbarian nomads had preoccupied Chinese rulers for many centuries, and many small barrier walls had been erected by various feudal states during the Zhou Period. This Chin emperor decided to connect all these separate walls into a single massive fortification that stretched almost 1800 miles. (It is said that the government conscripted through the corvee process one million men to build this wall. 1 Many legends were told about the sacrifices of the people mobilized to build the wall. One of the most famous is about Meng Jiangnu whose husband was conscripted to work on the wall. During the years of separation she longed for her husband’s return. Finally, she set out to search for him. When she arrived at the eastern end, she learned that her husband was dead, and that his remains were buried beneath the wall. She wept such poignant copious tears that the Great Wall fell apart in compassion where she stood and exposed the bones of her beloved husband. A temple was built in her memory, and still stands at Shanhaikuan. 1 The wall you see today mainly dates from the Ming Dynasty 14-17th centuries or 1600 years later. 4 Burial Site of the Chin Emperor In 1974 archaeologists found an impressive site with 7000 life-size terra cotta soldiers equipped with real weapons and chariots, and terra cotta horses. This was the monumental burial for the Chin Emperor. No two of the soldiers are alike, and they seem to be copied from live models. Since the entire site including his actual burial tomb has not been excavated yet, more surprises may surface. According to scholars, the construction of the first emperor’s mausoleum took thirty-six years and engaged 700,000 artisans. Also recreated in this subterranean chamber was his entire court, complete with palace buildings, and representations of the major mountains and rivers, using mercury for the liquid. Armed mechanical crossbows were strategically placed inside the tumulus to deter grave robbers. Numerous artisans were buried alive inside the tomb because they knew too much. Some 2200 years later this awesome site inspires and warns of the power of government and man. The Han Dynasty Following the Chin emperor’s death, there was a struggle for the throne. Getting the “Mandate from Heaven”, the winner established the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C.E. and lasted until 220 C.E.). It appears that the Han Dynasty came to power on the wave of peasant revolts, so the first emperors took steps to improve the life of the common Chinese people. 5 Taxes were cut, harsh laws of the Chin Dynasty removed, people who had sold themselves as slaves were freed, and soldiers were told to go back to their farms. With the ban on books lifted too, scholars began to restore Confucian classics. Teachings of Confucius and his followers became the official word of the state. A system was started in which anyone who wanted to be involved in the government had to pass a series of tests on Confucian Classics. From the Han period up to almost the present day, this was the most important way to get ahead in China; to do well on these civil service examinations. Only sons of wealthy and noble families were allowed to take these exams during the Han Dynasty. Those successful on the tests, became the new ruling group in China, and were called the Mandarins by the West. Attacks of the Huns did not stop when the Han took over, and these long and costly wars took their toll on Chinese society. Large numbers of peasants needed to be drafted once again, farmland was not cared for, people were starving in times of flood and drought, and taxes went to pay for wars. Peasants lost their land for not paying their taxes, and then the landlords grew in power and wealth. This led to infighting between them and the emperor. Consequently, the peasants formed secret societies to plot against their landlords. This pattern of war, landlords growing richer, and peasants getting poorer, repeated itself century after century. It was widespread revolt that finally brought down the Han Dynasty in 221 C.E. 6 Under the Han rulers China more than doubled in size geographically. At its peak the Han Dynasty equaled the Roman Empire in brilliance and military power. To this day, native Chinese call themselves Han people, sons of Han, as well as sons of the Yellow Emperor. This was done to distinguish themselves from the minority groups of barbarian descent. The majority of the Chinese population in these early dynasties was farmers. Peasants held varying amounts of land, but few produced more than they needed. Only some were able to sell their surplus. Many peasants had little or no land of their own, and were forced to labor for wealthy landlords, paying him dues, just like in Medieval Feudal Europe. Slaves were another group of people who could be bought and sold, and even killed by their owners. A name for slaves in Chinese literally meant animal people. A proclamation surviving from this time classified runaway servants with stray cattle. Slaves also worked on public works projects. Family and Marriage Customs of the Ancient Chinese and the Plight of Girls and Women Family and marriage customs of these Ancient Chinese people are intriguing, and many are doleful. As the family was patriarchal and extended, the eldest male was the decider over the two to three generations in residence. According to an old Chinese proverb: “the most beautiful and talented daughter is not as desirable as a deformed son.” Preference for boys was so open that in upper-class families the cherished son was 7 occasionally given a girl’s name during his childhood in the belief that the evil spirits would think the child was a girl, less valuable, and would pass him by. Birth of a male heir was considered a matter of utmost urgency, and was sought by every possible magical, medical and spiritual means. The birth of a daughter was greeted with considerably less enthusiasm. Marriages, especially among the elite, were arranged by parents. The bride was brought to the home of her in-laws, and she was on probation for three months. Her main duty was to produce a son. There is considerable evidence however those women from powerful scholar/gentry households enjoyed more freedom and status in the Han Dynasty era than in later Chinese History. While political positions were reserved for males, women could sometimes exert powerful influence from behind the throne. Although Confucian scholars down through the centuries held the view that women were unfit for politics.2 “A woman with a long tongue is a stepping-stone to disorder. Disorder does not come down from heaven. It is produced by women. Those from [whom] come no lessons, no instruction, are women and eunuchs.” Peasant girls and women suffered even more prejudice than upperclass women. Peasant fathers, who were unwilling or unable to support a girl, sometimes drowned the newborn. This practice of infanticide, though probably never very common, increased during times of economic hardship. 2 This is the same as John Calvin’s views in Reformation Europe. 8 Girls were often placed as a cook, musician, or concubine in the home of a wealthy person. Sometimes while still quite young, a girl might be purchased by a farsighted individual who wanted her for a future daughterin-law. Any girl who did not dutifully serve her parents and grandparents was to receive 100 strokes of the Pan-Tse (bamboo stick). If she was insulting toward them she was strangled, and if she wounded them she was tortured and then cut up into pieces. No matter what her circumstances, a woman could look forward to a life of subjugation under her father and eldest brother in her childhood, and under her husband and his mother after her marriage, and then to her own sons upon her husband’s death. Her only opportunity for self-assertion came through her sons’ marriages when she became a mother-in-law. Once married a Chinese young maiden was known by only two surnames, her husband’s and her father’s. She had no first name. Only husbands could obtain divorces, not wives. Grounds for divorce were the following: if the wife was barren, if she had an illness which provoked disgust such as leprosy, had a chronic illness, if she was neglectful of her father-in-law, talked too much, spread malicious gossip, committed adultery, or was jealous when her husband took another wife or a concubine and brought them to the home to live. 3 Religious Beliefs and Practices of the Ancient Chinese 3 Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth, while based in China during the late 19th and early 20th century, clearly relates all these thousands of years’ negative of treatment of females. 9 By the end of the Zhou Dynasty, basic religious patterns were evident. The state was to perform sacrifices to the Gods, chiefly ones of Heaven and Earth. This continued until the beginning of the twentieth century. The Altar of Heaven with the temples and the square altar of Earth still stand in Beijing today. Signifying the water god, the Dragon in Chinese religion and culture represented strength and fertile beneficence of rain. It was not the maiden-eating one of Western mythology. Early on the dragon became the emblem of the Emperor or son of Heaven. His throne was the dragon throne. No one else was entitled to use the dragon symbol. The extended Chinese family’s duty was to worship their ancestors with sacrifices. The Chinese believed that a human had two souls, the Po, which was the animal or life soul, and the Hun, which was the spiritual or personality soul, similar to the Ba and Ka for the ancient Egyptians. Both souls became separated from the body at death, but they could be kept alive by sacrifices upon which they fed. While the life soul (Po) gradually decayed as the body decayed after death, the spiritual or personality soul (Hun) survived as long as it was remembered, and received sacrifices from the living. This Hun or spiritual soul had numerous powers. It could respond to questions and requests, and even could postpone death of its descendants. It also was capable of doing harm. If the Po or life soul was neglected, it could become a demon and haunt the living. These demons or ghosts as they were often referred to were serious threats to the Chinese people. Male 10 descendants were necessary to perform sacrifices to prevent dire consequences. The downfall of a kingdom or dynasty was described in histories of China using the phrase “sacrifices were interrupted.” Because of ancestor worship in China, great attention was paid to the funeral and mourning rituals. Neglect of mourning rites for parents was the most serious offense. Up to three years for mourning was followed in many stages of Chinese history with some degree of withdrawal from public life. Wearing coarse garments was also practiced. This was why the final resting place of the deceased was extremely important and of great consequence for the descendants. The seismograph was invented by the Chinese to detect earthquakes so that your departed relatives would not be on a fault line. Initially the peasants did not practice ancestor worship. By the Han period, however, they worshipped their deceased relatives. Peasants also worshipped local deities of the earth and fertility. One of the Chinese creators was Nu Wa, a goddess who had the body of a snake, or in another version mated with her brother to produce the Chinese people. Shamans of both genders communicated with the spirit world. Very early in Chinese History this shamanistic practice was eliminated from the religious practices of the upper class. One of the festivals for the peasants shows one of their rituals. A beautiful young maiden was chosen from a village, fattened up for a year, and then placed on a raft in the Yellow River. She became the symbolic “Bride of the River,” to enjoy or suffer her fate. 11 Chinese trade and the Silk Road China has been famous for thousands of years regarding its export trade. It was the Han emperors that opened the trade routes to the West, with the introduction of the “Silk Road.” Until these times there was practically no contact between China and the Western regions. Now Chinese caravans went to India, Persia, and the Mediterranean countries. Foreign interest for silk was greater than China’s interests in anything the West had to offer with the exception of Arabian Horses. After the opening of the Silk Road references to China began to appear in Western literature. Chinese silk eventually reached the Roman Empire, where it was so highly prized by Roman ladies that the demand for it was said to have caused a drain of gold and silver. The spice trade was established too. Through China’s contact with Southeast Asia, tea was introduced. At first it was a medicinal beverage, but later it was popular for all purposes. Tea was often boiled with rice, ginger, salt, onion, orange peel and milk. When the practice of drinking tea by itself developed, it later became ritualized. Scientific, Medical, and Technological Advances of the Ancient Chinese During these ancient times in China, they cleverly introduced and invented scientific and technological advances. Papermaking, after its early invention, spread from China to Japan, Korea, India, and Arabia, 1000 years 12 before it was introduced in Europe. Under the Han, the first dictionaries and general history of China were written. Chang Heng, 78-139 C.E. became a famous astronomer, mathematician, poet, and inventor. His invention of the seismograph, of which we have early renditions, insured his place in history. Surviving loved ones could now know where a region in China was rocked by earthquakes, and not bury their dead in this place. Another astonishing invention that acted in tandem with the Chinese reverence for their ancestors was acupuncture. It is thought this method of treating a variety of illnesses goes back to the third century B.C.E. and by the Han times it was perfected. All sorts of illnesses could be cured with acupuncture: asthma, ulcers, arthritis, and poor eyesight. The Chinese believed that a life-force flows through the body along definite paths. When the flow is blocked or when the forces of Yin and Yang are out of balance in the body, then acupuncture needles were used to restore good health. Medical students in Ancient China tested their acupuncture skills on bronze models. Acupuncture is used today in lieu of anesthetics to perform major surgeries with little or no pain.