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Humanities 254: Historical Outline Chapter I, II, III with additions.
Ancient Records:
5 Classics
Book of Changes (Yiching or Yijing) is a book of divination
Book of Records (Shujing) collection of writings from late Shang, early Zhou
Book of Odes (Shijing) a collection of songs from late Shang, early Zhou
Spring and Autumn Annals (Chunqiu), Chronicles of Confucius’ state of Lu, 722-481 BCE.
Book of Rites (Liji), part of which form two of the Confucian 4 Books
4 Confucian Books [all post-Confucius
Analects (Lun Yu) of Confucius. Thought to be actual sayings of the sage.
From Book of Rites of Liji:
The Great Learning (Da Xue)—self cultivation and ordering of family and society
Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong)—how man and his actions can be harmonized
with universe. Emphasis on moderation.
Book of Mencius (372-289 ish BCE. Greatest Confucian in his day.
5 Elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—all permanent, and related to the 5 directions, the 5
seasons, the 5 metals, the 5 atmospheric influences, et cetera. In Yiching, each of these is further associated
with either yin (negative, female) or yang (positive, male)
For thousands of years, Chinese scholars had to memorize these books and all of the related
Early China
Early Early China
Sinanthropos pekinensis, or Beijing Man, remains in caves outside of Beijing. Beijing Man walked
upright, used fire and stone tools, in what is called the Middle Pleistocene Age, 500,000 years ago.
Hebei Province, Beijing.
In same caves, near Zhoukoudian, 30 miles sw of Beijing, Late Paleolithic Homo Erectus found.
Homo Erectus (homo sapiens) lived 200,000-100,000 BCE years ago
3 skulls found in middle cave carbon dated to 16,922 B.C., and in upper cave, skulls to 35,000 BCE,
definite homo sapiens.
Three Early Chinese Cultures
Two or three food gathering cultures from Neolithic Period (12,000-2000 B.C. in China, but closer to
5000 BCE)
Qinglian’gang culture of lower Yangzi region
Evidence from 5000 B.C. of rice cultivation and use of painted pottery with simple cord designs.
Yangshao culture of middle yellow river or central plain.
Evidence from 4500 B.C., near Xi’an of millet cultivation, domestication of dogs and pigs. Painted and
marked pottery. Reddish pots with black designs, some geometric, some natural.
Longshan culture centered in eastern China, overlapping and succeeding Yangshao.
Evidence in Shandong Province of pottery painted with birds and flowers. In Henan Province, Yangshao
and Longshan cultural artifacts found together, with Longshan in strata above that of Yangshao. Pottery
thin, hard, black, angular, burnished.
All three of these Neolithic cultures lived relatively settled lives, in villages surrounded by ditches (for war
defense and irrigation), and engaged in hunting, fishing, weaving, and agriculture—especially millet grain.
Houses subterranean, round or rectangular.
Worth NOTE: In Western China, 4000-2400 BCE carbon dated, mummified corpses of Caucasions—long
noses, blond and brown hair, thin lips, deep set eyes, dressed in colorful robes and trousers, stockings,
conical hats. Thought to have inhabited this region eclusively in deep ancient times.
Mythical Early China Entering the Records
Human beings the parasites on the body of the creator, Pangu. After his death, a succession of mythical
Sage kings introduced key inventions:
Fuxi: domesticated animals and instituted marriage
Shennong: introduced agriculture, medicine, and trade
Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor: invention of writing, ceramics, and the calendar
Emperor Yao: flood control, and system of meritocracy—he passed over his own son in favor of Shun.
Shun: passed the reign to his minister Yu.
Yu Began the first historical dynasty of China, the Xia Dynasty (2200-1750)
Xia Dynasty (2200-1750 or Morton, 2205-1766 BCE] )
Derived from Longshan culture, and located along the Yellow River near Luoyang and Anyang and
Evidence of earliest bronze vessels, and near Henan, palace-like buildings and tombs
Shang Dyansty (1766-1122 B.C.E., or Morton 1523-1027 BCE])
Overlaps with Xia—dynasties not exactly successive.
Key Shang capital at Zhengzhou and Anyang (excavated in 1930s)
Walled cities of tamped earth
Slave labor society, with human sacrifice prevalent. Kings buried in big pits requiring hundreds of men to
dig. Those who dug were killed and buried.
Shang had many deities (Di), but most were royal ancestors and nature spirits. Key and enduring feature
of China. Shang king probably a Shaman. Irrational Society. Slave Society. Lots of Human sacrifice.
Oracle bones—scapulimancy and plastromancy—150,000 fragments of these ‘dragon bones’
Predictions, divination—heated bronze tools pressed to bone, and cracks interpreted.
Inscriptions use a vocabulary of more than 3000 graphs, and include dating system of 10 day
Weeks, 60 day cycles.
Bronze ritual vessels for ceremonial and ritualist purposes—lobed bodies, tripods—for meat, wine. Stylized
surface decoration.
Shang a warring society in which King had right to demand labor and service from aristocratic clans
Society highly organized—strong administration—officials had specialized functions
Relationship between kings, aristocratic clans personal, but formalized through ritual, linked through
Western Zhou (1027-221 B.C.E., or Morton 1027-221 BCE)
Western Zhou—1122-771 B.C.E. [Morton 1027-221 BCE]
Eastern Zhou—capital moved to Louyang, loss of central control in 771 BCE.
Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 B.C.)
Warring States Period (403-221 B.C.)
Adopted many aspects of Shang culture—esp. administrative techniques
Introduced the Mandate of Heaven.
Fall of the Shang said (in the Shujing) to be the result of the shortcomings of the last Shang ruler.
For this reason, the Mandate of Heaven passed to the Zhou King Wen, and on to his son, King Wu,
whose brother is the famous Duke of Zhou.
King Wu died shortly after conquest of the Shang
King Wu’s brother, the Duke of Zhou, refused to seize power, and instead, protected the
kingdom for King Wu’s son, until he came to a majority. In the meantime, the Duke of Chou
1. Consolidated Zhou control of the Shang by showing leniency, and by hiring Shang officials.
2. Expanded empire by conquering and by transfer of people to new regionsd.
3. Granted territory to vassals—set up something like a feaudal society.
4. Required that appointments to vassals and administrators be renewed—a Proto bureaucracy
Decline of Western Zhou in 9th because vassals
Became independent, regional. Foreigners
Forced move of capital East, to Luoyang, in 771
Eastern Zhou (722-481—Spring and Autumn Period)
Independent Vassals profess only symbolic allegience to the weakened Zhou—but did not usurp Rites to
170 Independent stated recorded. 15 big ones. By end of Period, constant warfare.
Throughout the Spring and Autumn Period, only 38 years of peace.
*War caused a fragmentation and expansion of the bureaucracy:
Shi, or gentlemen, began to dominate by 5th B.C.
*Iron and Steel produced in abundance. Agriculture prospers.
*Well-field System (Mencius): land divided in 9 holdings. 8 farmed by families-but 9th for the king or lord.
*In 594 BCE, tax system—peasants provide money rather than labor.
*Ownership, free markets begin to emerge.
*Coinage shows growth in commerce (Shang used shells)
Eastern Zhou Warring States Period (403—221 B.C.)
Military Specialists such as Sunzi—his Art of War. (5th B.C.)
New Weapons—crossbow (5th BCE) , iron swords (6th BCE), armor, smelting and casting of iron (513
Rise in the Infantry—huge armies—600,000 men. Could cover variable terrain better than cavalry.
The iron plough, fertilizer, irrigation, the rigid harness for horses, and specialization in trade and
inter-regional trade.
Private Ownership emerges, society more individualistic.
Philosophers of the 100 Schools
Confucius (551-479 B.C.) A Shi from state of Lu, pre 100 schools.
Expert on ceremony, geneology, and ancient customs
Belief in order based in rectification of names, in ritual and filial piety, and in education, good and moral
government based in jen or “benevolence.”
Creation of the junzi or “man of excellence.” For the first time, this did not have to be a prince.
“The Junzi understands what is moral. The petty man understands what is profitable.”
From his troubled times, Confucius saw Zhou as golden age. Actions of Kings Wen, Wu, and Duke of
Zhou especially praised.
Mozi (470-391 B.C.) the opposite of Confucius.
A peasant, perhaps a prisoner or a slave. Attacks Confucian aristocratic pretensions.
Attacks Confucian ‘graded love’ in favor of ‘universal love”—the need to care for the whole of society.
Attacked Confucian belief in ritual
Laozi’s Daodejing (texts compiled from 4th century B.C. writings)
Counter to both Confucius and Mozi—the Taoist sage king acquired enlightenment and did nothing—
Not to honour men of worth will keep the people from contention: not to
Value goods which are hard to come by will keep them from theft; not
To display what is desirable will keep them from being unsettled of mind.
Sages should “empty [the people’s] minds and fill their bellies. Free from earthly restraints.
Zhuangzi (369-286 B.C.) Taoist
Dreamed he was a butterfly—distinction as simply transformation
Mencius (372-289 B.C.)
Mencius a Confucian who gathered students around him, traveled, advised kings. Very famous intellect.
Advocated the Well Field system
*Saw Human Nature as GOOD (Confucius—men are close to one another by nature, but diverge in their
*What set men apart from beasts was the heart—an essential desire for a moral code.
Hsunzi (298-238 B.C.)
Hsunzi a Confucian who took pupils and saw Human Nature as Evil. Believed in extreme rectification of
names, study of the Zhou.
Qin Dynasty (256/221-206 B.C.)
One of the powerful early states, located near Xian.
Legalist, based on work of Hsunzi and his pupil, Han Fei tzu (condemned Confucian idealization of
past, accepted Mozi’s utilitarianism, Hsuntzu’s rationality, and Taoist wuwei [so long as punishments
in place]
Powerful State Administration—strict laws, punishments—State Supreme, not people—rational
approach to order.
New roads built radiating from capital
Standard coinage—round with pierced hole
Territorial expansion
Beginning of Great Wall
Last use of Human Sacrifice
Standardization of written Chinese characters (small seal script of Li si)
Feudal and Well-Field system abolished
State Divided into Districts (xian)
Population divided into groups of 5-10 families, each responsible for one another. Punished
collectively. Severe punishements—boiling to death, et cetera.
Tang Gongsun moves from state of Wei to a first administrator of Qin State, who employed able people
from everywhere. Renamed Lord Shang, 361 B.C. Lord Shang believed in war as a rational means
for expanding the state—subdued states of Chu, then Ba. Annexed rest of Zhou territory 256 B.C.
In 221 B.C.E. Qin emperor assumed title Shi Huangdi, or First Emperor of Qin—First Emperor of China.
In 213 BCE, famous burning of the books
400 Scholars burned alive
But scholars remembered
Former or Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 9)
Triumph of Confucianism