GEOGRAPHYChina is located in East Asia. Ancient China is surrounded by Gobi Desert in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the east, the Himalayan Mountains in the southwest, and the Taklimakan desert in the west. This land has a wide variation of animals because of the different habitats provided for them. Most farming was done in the very fertile lands of the Yangtze valley. Present China is much bigger than Ancient China, which means that over time, the kings and different dynasties went gaining more and more land and wealth.All of the major rivers go in a western to eastern direction, and end up in the Pacific Ocean.
The two major rivers of China are the Yangtze and the Huan He. The major river of North China is the Huang He, or yellow river. This river left loess when the banks were flooded; desert winds brought this to this area. The Huang He also gained the name of “China’s Sorrow”, because in the past, it has destroyed large areas by flooding them. People used these rivers mostly for irrigation and transportation. The plant life In China is very varied. The natural forests are in the far-off mountain areas, where you can find are oak, ginkgo, pine, azalea, and camellia. Also, a tree that would come to everyone’s mind as they think of China, is the bamboo.
China is far away from any other civilizations at this time, so the people that lived there had to make their own goods, instead of trading things with other civilizations. Trade did exist, for example through the Silk Road, but not so many as in present day.Some of the species of animals in Ancient China were the paddlefish, some species of alligators and salamanders, water deer, giant pandas, apes, bears, leopards, wild horses, and birds of all types. Ancient China did have mineral resources. The most common and used were tin and copper, to make bronze. Chinese worked very well with bronze.
Also iron was very important. Jade was more precious than gold for the Chinese.GOVERNMENTChina’s government was ruled by an emperor (king). The king had to do a very good job, and his people would have to like his work and effort, if not, they overthrew him and someone else came to rule. The mandate of heaven, or approval by the gods, was very important. For example, if the crops were good, and everything was moving along fine, it meant that the gods liked you. But if there were floods and natural disasters, and if the crops were lost, then the people thought that that was because the gods were not pleased with the king, and then the king might lose the right to be king.
China started having a government in the Shang dynasty. They ruled what would now be Henan, Hubei, Shandong and part of Anhui. The Shang were an aristocratic society, or a heredity ruling class. This dynasty was also the first to leave written records. The principal Shang city was Anyang, it was in a clearance deep inside the forest. In 1027 BC, the Zhou overthrew the Shang and made their own dynasty. They were both very alike, and there was not much change in culture. But the Zhou brought up many fresh ideas, which would seem obvious because all people think in different ways, and have different solutions to their problems.
As an excuse of overthrowing the Shang, they said that the last Shang king had done so badly, that the gods weren’t satisfied, so they decided to let the Zhou rule. This is a part of the mandate of heaven, which meant that the ruler had approval from the gods. The Zhou dynasty also appointed lands to nobles and members of the king’s family, these nobles were granted land, but the land wasn’t theirs, because it all belonged to the king, this was called feudalism. These nobles had to provide protection to the people that lived there. The social pyramid in this government are the following. At the top was the king, ruler of all.
He appointed nobles, to manage some land and territory. The nobles were very close to the king, or members of the royal family. Below them, followed a literate priestly class, they were in charge of keeping records, mostly of the government, and to be a priest too.RELIGIONThe three most important religious beliefs in China were Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. These people believed in many gods, making them polytheistic. Their gods were natural gods, river god, earth god, rain godThe most powerful was the sky god, T’ien, the king of all gods.
Confucianism isn’t really a religion; it is just the thoughts of this man and his disciples, concerned with the principles of good conduct, practical knowledge, and proper social relationships. Confucianism is a philosophy. Although he is a very important person in Chinese history, it still doesn’t make it a religion, because he was never a god.
Confucius was born in 551BC, and died in 479 BC; he lived during the Zhou dynasty. His father was a noble, but he died when Confucius was only a few years old. He grew as a poor person.
When he was a teenager, he became very interested in learning. In those days, only the high-class people like nobles and kings were allowed and education, so it was hard for him to get one. So he went to work for a nobleman, and he learned much from him and he followed him everywhere, and that granted him a chance go to the capital. He studied a lot, he probably became the most intelligent and studied man at the time. He became known, and people sent their children to learn with him, and he was willing to teach anyone who wanted to learn. According to Confucius, Confucianism is not a religion, it is a way of behavior, so you will do the right things. Confucius never thought of himself as a god, but as a person who wanted to teach others. But he didn’t just want to be a teacher; he wanted to change the Chinese society by advising people on how to govern wisely.
Did you know that now, the Chinese celebrate Confucius Birthday (Teacher’s Day), in honor of him? Some of his wise thoughts: Do not do unto others, what you would not want others to do to you. If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake Taoism. Tao means the way to happiness. It is believed to be a way of looking at life. For example, if you look at things in a good, positive way, you will be much happier.
Taoism was started by Lao-Tse, born in 604BC and died in 531 BC. It started when he tried to find a way that would keep away from the steady feudal fighting and other problems that upsetted society. He wrote a book about his thoughts called Tao-Te-Ching. Taoism started as a blend of psychology,(smart solutions and thoughts, other ways and belief) and philosophy ( a basic theory concerning this subject)but grew into a religious belief in 440 CE, when it was accepted as a state religion. At that time Lao-Tse became recognized as a god.
In Taoism, people don’t pray as a Christian would. They look for answers by inner meditation, and outer observation. For them time is cyclical, or that it is repeated or rotated, not like we think, that time is linear, that you go and go in a straight line, and everything is different.The Yin, (dark side) is the part that made the earth, and the Yang, (light side) is the part that formed the heavens. They represent complete opposites, like good and evil, light and dark, and man and woman. The symbol of Taoism represents Yin and Yang in balance. A meditation exercise or art is Tai Chi.
They meditate and it stimulates the nervous system, reduces blood pressure, relieves stress and works muscles without straining them. Traditional Chinese medicine says that illness is caused lack of balance in the body’s “chi” (intrinsic energy, or built in-energy). Tai Chi is supposed to balance this energy flow.
The third and last belief is Buddhism. Buddhism was founded by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He was native of Lumbini, which is now Nepal, in 563 BC. When he was 29, he left his family and went to seek the truth. In these times it was normal for men to leave their families to live in austerity, or living in hardness, especially for religious reasons. Buddha means THE ENLIGHTENED ONE. In 535 BCE, he reached ultimate understanding and took the title Buddha (one who has awakened). I guess he finally did find what he was looking for and reached his goal.
He did this through meditation, and the understanding and learning of his friends or colleagues. The foundation of his teachings are named the four noble truths and are the following. 1)Life is fundamentally disappointment and suffering.
2) Suffering is a result of one’s desires for pleasure, power, and continued existence.3) In order to stop disappointment and suffering one must stop desiring.4) The way to stop desiring and thus suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path–right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, and right concentration.
SOCIAL CLASSAt the top of the social class pyramid are the kings and nobles. They are the richest and have the most land. They lived in homes and palaces made of mud and wood. They had many things made out of bronze, like cups and candlesticks. The nobles had good clothing, like gowns of silk. Below these are the warriors.
They were constantly having war. They wore bronze armors and their chariots were made of wood and bronze. I’m not sure if the priests were above or below the warriors, my guess would be above the warriors, but anyways, they kept records of what was going on in the government and fulfilled their duties as priests. The majority of the population was made of peasants(farmers). Their lives were very simple, lived in close-by villages.
This is a weird thing I found, the peasants moved to land near the fields, and made houses out of bamboo, and in the winter, they moved back to their permanent houses. These people were worked a lot. The craftsmen and the merchants were out of the class structure because they weren’t nobles, and didn’t produce any food. They were hardly considered men, just like slaves. If there were a war going on, they would not take these people inside the protective walls, they would leave them outside to defend themselves. Also, in this social class, I thought that it weird, because you were either rich, or poor, and no one was in between. This could be related with the social class in Nicaragua, there is a very little middle class.
Family was very important to these people. The most central thing of this society was the family. The older people in the family were the ones granted the most respect, they made the important decisions. Women were treated inferiorly, they arranged their marriages. Also, for example, if a child got a bad grade on a test, or did something bad, he would be dishonoring the whole family, and the family would be extremely disappointed and offended. These families also believed that their ancestor’s spirits brought good luck or disaster to their families.WRITING AND EDUCATIONThe education in China was quite tough.
To start with, only the nobles and kings and their children could learn this method of writing. The peasants and their children were not granted the ability to learn how to be literate. It was difficult to teach people this because it was a big written language. Each character means an idea, or thought, not a sound like in the alphabet we have. Just so you get an idea, for you to be barely literate, you needed to know 1,000 characters, and to be considered a scholar (teacher), you needed to know 10,000 characters.
Just imagine how hard it is to memorize all those characters by heartThe first evidence of their writing was the oracle bones, also called dragon bones. These bones were used to communicate with their ancestors. The people that did these rituals or way of communicating were priests. The priests were usually women. This worked in the following way.
First, the person would ask a question, for example: If I sacrifice 6 enemy soldiers and 5 oxen, will it rain tomorrow? Then the priest would make drawings that would best describe the question on the oracle bone, that would be usually made of animal bone or turtle shell. Now, the priest would heat a bronze pin and hold it to the bone. This would make cracks on the bones, and the priest would study the cracks to find an answer. The advantage of their method of writing is that it was easy to read. People that didn’t even speak the same language, that were from different parts of China were able to understand their writing.
This form of writing is sacred; we can prove this because it has never been changed, only modified and is still the way they write in china, one idea behind the other.ECONOMYMost of China’s economy was gotten from agriculture. The two most important crops were millet and rice cultivations.
Wheat, oats, barley were also cultivated, but were less important. Also, roads were built to make the movement of troops easier, but also for commerce. Some archaeologists found metal coins that were found far away from where they were minted (made).
This means that they had good transportations for it to get so far. Also, the Chinese civilization was known for their excellent work with bronze. The people also made things like weapons and farming instruments out of iron. Also recall that iron is stronger than bronze, so that helps too to have better tools. Irritation was also a big part in this, because with better tools, better crops, better transportation facilities, this all made it easier, so the economy grew.
An important part of the Chinese economy was the coin. The coin was made around 1,000 BC. These coins were made out of shell, satin, jade and animal hide. As time went on, they developed better ways to make and different materials to make the coins, because after some time, they would wear down and deteriorate. To fortify these coins, they pasted copper on the old coins, and that would be a new coin. Also, knife and spade-shaped coins were made.
The coins changed according to the changes in rulers and dynasties. The coins were the same shape, but it had something else unscripted in it about the ruler. The coin’s weight changed as the coins changed.SCIENCE/TECHNOLOGYThe Chinese were great inventors, and their culture was very advanced compared to the other river civilizations rising at the same times.
Their technology was more advanced than in the other early river civilizations.The Chinese invented many of the things we use daily in our lives and don’t even realize it. For examples, they made block paintings, what they did is that they carved one side of a wooden square, and then they put ink on the carved side, and made a print of the ox’s figure on a piece of paper. These box paintings were mainly used as seals. The Chinese invented the yo-yo, but was made of bamboo. They were the first to make gunpowder and fireworks. First, they used fireworks for shows, but then used them to scare enemies away. The fireworks were made of small bamboo cases, and were filled with gunpowder, and a fuse was put on one side.
They invented the wheelbarrow, which was to carry loads too heavy for a normal person to carry. The wheelbarrow was made of wood, and the Chinese nicknamed it wooden ox. They also invented the compass. The Egyptians wrote on papyrus, but the Chinese were the ones to make the paper made out of trees, which is the type of paper we use today. The Chinese armies used kites, but they used them to measure distances and to use as a signal.
One of their inventions which even has their name is fine porcelain. Fine porcelain is used to make plates, and guess what, that’s why they call it CHINA. The Chinese used acupuncture as a medical technique, which is still used today. In acupuncture, they insert these needles in your skin, and it cures many things. They made beautiful silk garments. The Chinese were the first to be able to weave silk, which they got from silkworms. A trading route was made that traded mostly silk from China all the way through Asia, and even to Rome.
The Chinese developed math very well. They were the ones to make up the zero. The Chinese invented the abacus, an instrument used to count. The Chinese also developed the calendar.
It started around 2953 BC, it was based on the motion of the sun, the same as other ancient cultures like the Aztecs. The motions were seen as the three roads through the heavens. The Yellow road, was the path of the sun, the Red road, was the equator, and the White road was the path of the moon.ARTS/ARCHITECTUREChina has been known for their beautiful architecture. They are known for their harmonious temples and rich traditions (religions, meditation). Their art is a balance of the old ways, mixed with modern, new ideas combined with their way of life and beliefs.
Artisans were very skillful, and their techniques were passes within families generations after generations. Their tools were simple, made out of wood and bamboo. These artisans and architects worked mainly for kings and rich people. They were assigned projects, just like we do when we want to build something. The rest of the artists were retired, and had more time to work freely. Although there were many emperors and dynasties, there is one thing they all agreed on, that keeping their traditions was very important. The Chinese worked very well with bronze, and are well-known for it.
Luxurious tombs were built fore the emperors, so they would have all they needed in the afterlife. The archaeologists have found jewelry, money, pottery weapons, and other ceramics. The walls of the toms had legends written on them, and things of daily life too. On one tomb of a very important emperor, archaeologists found hundreds of soldiers made out of ceramic. They were painted in vivid colors, and they were all carefully hand-made.
They were made with details, and not a single soldier’s face is like one another. There were also ceramic horses.The Chinese also had music. Some of the instruments they had were drums and fiddles. According to the famous Confucius, music was meant not for entertainment, but to calm your soul.FAMOUS PEOPLE/PLACESEmperor Qin Shin Huang wanted to have a very strong city wall for better protection. A wall already existed, although much smaller, and Qin wanted it to be fortified. Qin said Let it be eight horses wide at the top, and six horses wide at the bottom, and five men high.
The wall was to protect the kingdom’s northern border. Work was brutal; many men died and were buried inside the wall. The construction of this wall begun in 221BC and was finished in 204BC. The wall was built of earth and stone.
The great wall stretches 1500 miles.Qin Shin Huang was the first emperor of China. He is also known as the Tiger emperor. He standardized weights and measures. He is very famous, especially for ordering to make the Great Wall of China and for his luxurious tomb. In his tomb, he had an army of warriors and horses made out of clay; no two are alike, all hand-made and brightly colored. Emperor Qin wanted to have an army with him for when he died.
Qin’s army was much bigger than the one given to him in clay. 700,000 laborers worked 36 years building his monument. The clay army was called the Terracotta army. His tomb had diamonds in the ceilings, to make it look like stars. His tomb had beautiful bronze-works. It had furniture, and everything the king would need in the afterlife. Today, there is a display of the Terracotta army in China.Confucius was a Chinese philosopher.
He was born to a poor, but good family. He was left an orphan when he was very young. During his life he held minor spots in the government, but was known for being a teacher.
When he died, he was 72, and had taught more than 3,000 disciples (students). Confucianism was an optimistic belief, and followed by many.Other important places in ancient China were the Hang He and the Yangtze River. They were used for transportation and irrigation. This civilization was settled close to the rivers, and that is why they are so important.FASHION/ENTERTAINMENTShoes were a very important issue.
Like the clothes one normally wears, they showed status. The nobles wore slippers made out of fine cloth, and were very comfortable and nice looking. The peasants wore sandals made of straw, they were very simple, but were much better than walking around bare-feet. The peasants wore clothes made of ramie (a plant that was woven to make clothes, ramie was rough) The rich people wore clothes made of fine silk, beautifully woven and decorated. Nobles wore fancy turquoise colored hats.
The Chinese had very good, fine clothing. Of course, the ones with the very fine, smooth, and beautifully decorated silk clothes were the rich. When it was cold, the people wore coats, mainly made out of squirrel or fox skins. The men had a very weir hairstyle. They shaved their heads, except for the part in the middle, they let that grow, and almost never cut it. But these guys didn’t leave it short, it was a symbol of smartness, the longer you had it, the wiser you were. I mean, just imagine someone walking on the streets with a 12 feet long pile of hair. These people wrapped it around their heads once it grew too long.
They used golden hairpins to hold their hair better. The name of this style of hair is the topknot, just in case you ever chose to have that hairstyle.Women usually wore crowns, adorned with jewels, and bells that hang at the edges. Just the description sounds like those hats that the jokers, or comedians of the kings, but that’s just my opinion, because I couldn’t find a picture. Women had little boxes that were used to put make-up in them.
The box had a small mirror, rouge and lipstick. Women’s eyebrows were upside down v shaped, like this ^. Some of the popular things in China were dancing, hunting with falcons, music. They even played polo, and a game similar to rugby and football. They had important dates too, like the emperor’s birthday and stuff like that.
The Chinese also played board games like go and backgammon.BIBLIOGRAPHYGEOGRAPHYEncarta EncyclopediaMcDougal Litell World HistoryGOVERNMENThttp://members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.htmlMcDougal Litell World Historyhttp://www.crystalinks.com/chinadynasties.htmlRELIGIONhttp://www.religioustolerance.org/buddhism.htmhttp://www.bright.net/jimsjems/taoism.htmlhttp://www.religioustolerance.org/taoism.htmhttp://members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.html#CONFUSOCIAL CLASS/DAILY LIFEhttp://members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.html#CONFUMcDougal Litell World HistoryWRITING/EDUCATIONMcDougal Litell World HistoryECONOMYhttp://search.britannica.com/frm_redir.jsp?query=ancient+china+economy&redir=http://hanwei.com/culture/coin.htmEncarta EncyclopediaMcDougal Litell World HistorySCIENCE/TECHNOLOGYMcDougal Litell World HistoryEncarta Encyclopediahttp://darkwing.uoregon.edu/felsing/cstuff/history.htmlART/ARCHITECTUREhttp://www.users.bigpond.com/wernerschmidlin/ancientchina.htmlhttp://members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.htmlFAMOUS PEOPLE/PLACESEncarta Encyclopediahttp://www.unesco.org/whc/sites/438.htmENTERTAINMENT/FASHIONhttp://members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.html#CONFU