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Shang Dynasty Essay

The Shang Dynasty ruled a region of China in the Yellow River valley, an area of land that is now commonly referred to as the cradle of Chinese civilization?. The Shang Dynasty ruled their empire from around 1500-1050 B. C. E. and existed during the time of China’s Bronze Age. The Shang is the first Chinese Dynasty to leave behind sufficient evidence of its culture. This evidence has come in the form of written documents, several bronze works, and the Shang oracle bones. As a result of discovering these ancient artifacts and translating them, much is known of the Shang Dynasty and how it was run.

Government was ran in the style of a monarchy and there was a class system in place as well. Over the course of the nearly 600 years that the dynasty ruled, there were about 30 kings in total that were served by officials who often held specialized positions of authority?. The Shang created a social pyramid not much unlike many other ancient cultures “with the king at the top, followed by the military nobility, priests, merchants, and farmers”?. The most distinguishable aspect of the culture between the upper classes and lower classes recognizable today is the burial process.

It was not uncommon for the upper class to be buried in extremely extravagant tombs that often contained sacrifices and other gifts. It was also not common for the lesser class to be simply buried in pits that varied in size, while the lowest classes of people were occasionally thrown down wells when dead4. This organized government and society was one of the Shang dynasty’s many contributions to Chinese civilization. The Shang also made a few additional historical contributions to Chinese civilization that include the invention of writing in China, advances in bronze technology, and the use of the chariot and bronze weaponry in war.

Most of the writings found from the Shang dynasty today are found in the form of the Shang oracle bones. This is most likely due to the fact that other forms of writing during the time was done on bamboo and silk, which have since decomposed, or on bronze where the writing was usually short5. Bronze in the Shang dynasty was used in very specific ways. This is known because “it is clear that only those with any degree of power in the kingdom had access to using bronze objects”6. These bronze objects ranged from food and wine vessels to military weapons, such as spears and bows.

The Shang mastered the art of molding these bronze objects and weapons that helped them to be very religious and, even more importantly, extremely effective in maintaining its military supremecy7. This military supremacy along with the invention of writing and an organized government allowed the Shang dynasty to rule for many centuries and also make it one of the most historically significant times in Chinese history. A. Legalism Legalism is a philosophy in which power is concentrated with the ruler, there are strict laws, and severe repercussions for breaking the laws.

Legalism was created by putting together ideas from Confucianism, Daoism, and Han Fei himself. Consequently, the largest advocate of this philosophy was Han Fei himself. He lived from around 280-233 B. C. E. and is said to have studied under a Confucian master named Xunzi. He also served as a minister during the Qin Dynasty which tried to put legalism in place. The whole idea behind legalism is that humans are born evil and selfish in nature and will only act in their own self-interest.

For this reason, legalism demands a very strict agenda. Once set in place, “law must be enforced without any favoritism or exceptions, there must be no consideration of extenuating circumstances, and the law takes on a life of its own and its integrity takes precedence over any individual (except the ruler…)”8. Everyone in the society was required to do exactly as the law says and no less. Han Fei also believed that for such a law to be uniformly effective it had inflexible so that everyone could understand it.

To this end, he also believed that that best rewards were the ones that were predictable. Legalism and Han Fei also called for severe and inescapable punishments for minor offenses in the hopes that fear would drive anyone away from committing major offenses that would call for unimaginable consequences9. This idea is extremely contradictory to Confucianism ideals, where rulers and their people should rely on morality. Han Fei didn’t believe people could ever change from their selfish state and for this reason didn’t believe Confucianism could be effective.

Legalism may conceivably work, but it is not possible to create a set of laws that cover all possibilities and it holds flaws that over time tend to create separation in society that is detrimental to the state10. A. Indus Valley Civilization. The Indus Valley Civilization, more commonly known today as the Harappan Civilization, was the earliest society is South Asia that began at around 3000 B. C. E. and lasted until 2000 B. C. E.. The Harappan Civilization was based in the Indus River Valley where its two largest cities were located.

Nevertheless, by about 2500 B. C. E. a uniform culture had “spread across nearly 500,000 square miles, including parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Baluchistan, Sind and the Makran coast”11. During the time this civilization was in existence it was extremely stable. The cities were well engineered and contained well designed infrastructures that were host to strong building built from brick and streets that were laid at the correct angles and lined with elaborate systems of covered drains12.

The civilization had also grown to domesticate animals such as camels, goats, and water buffalo and cultivate crops such as wheat barley and peas13. In addition to domestication and cultivation, the Harappan people were also avid traders. This is known by the many seals discovered. There have been so many uncovered that it suggests each merchant or mercantile family had its own seal14. The civilization was extremely successful for an extended period of time, but at around 1700 B. C. E. it began to decline. By 1500 B. C. E. the Harappan people and their civilization seemed to disappear.

There are many questions as to why this happened and also many theories. Some include ecological changes that forced them to move out of the region. An example could have been flooding along the Indus River. Another theory involves other groups of people, that could involve the Aryans or other barbaric tribes of the region, forcing the Harappan people out. A. Hellenism After Alexander died in 323 B. C. E. his generals divided the land amongst themselves and by around 275 B. C. E it was divided into three powerful Hellenistic monarchies.

Hellenistic is defined as relating to Greek culture, language and history. These three monarchies were defined as such because although they lied separately from the former Greek empire, they all still embraced the Greek language and culture while sharing no political uniformity at all. The Hellenism allowed people from any monarchy to travel, speak the native language, and relate to the citizens, creating some uniformity between the three regions. These new states were ruled absolutely by kings, compared to classic Greek states where the people ruled.

These kings were extremely interested in amassing large sums of riches and purchased items from all around the world ranging from India, Syria, Spain, and Cornwall15. Once these riches were obtained they were put on display for all to see. The kings made huge donations to zoo and libraries16. An example is the Library of Alexandria. The people of these states were not as satisfied. Not long ago they were involved in the workings of a democratic state and now they were a part of an impersonal empire that sought only wealth17.

Many philosophers criticized this saying that money is not what brings happiness. The Hellenistic age did not last long and ended in 36 B. C. E. when the last of the Hellenistic people fell to the Romans. B. 1. The Origin of Death The story of the origin of death created by the Kono people of West Africa tells a story of an old man and a god. The last lines in the story read: In keeping with his promise, Alatangana had no choice but to let his children go and answer Sa, whenever he called. Thus even today, Alatangana’s children still answer to the call of Sa.

All because Alatangana didn’t pay a dowry when he marries Sa’s daughter. The story arrives at this point only after a series of events play out between the old man, Sa, and the god, Alatangana. The first event is Alatangana creating a more habitable world for Sa, his wife and his daughter. Alatangana then begins to fall in love with Sa’s daughter and asks Sa for his permission to marry her. Despite being told no by Sa, Alatangana does so anyway. Alatangana and the daughter have fourteen children together, seven of which are male and seven which are female.

Every one of them is a different race and every one of them speaks a different language. This is Sa’s doing and he also sends Alatangana’s children to every corner of the world. When his children ask to be taken of out the darkness Alatangana asks Sa for help. He sends birds back to Sa that will sing and bring forth the light of day. However, in return for this gift Sa tells Alatangana that he may now take a child of his whenever he so pleases. Alatangana must agree to this and the deal is done. In this story death is portrayed by Sa, who many now take any of god’s children whenever he sees fit.

The last lines of the story demonstrate how the Kono relate such an ancient tale to today by stating that “…Alatangana’s children still answer to the call of Sa”. In addition, the fact that the dowry is once again highly stressed in the final line show the importance of that aspect in their culture at the time. This interpretation of how life and death came to be are historically relevant because it illustrates how earlier civilizations made sense of the world they found themselves in. It also shows us that the Kono believed that death was an equally, if not more significant, part of life compared to gods and other aspects.

The story also shows that the Kono believed everyone was a child of god and that death did not choose a certain class to focus death upon, or deny a class death because of something such a wealth or power. The story suggests equality between all people with regards to god and death. B. 3. Purusha The myth of Purusha is one on how the world is created and is from the Rigveda. The Rigveda is the oldest Aryan scripture, being transmitted orally from around 1500-1000 B. C. E. before being written down in Sanskrit at around 800-500 B. C. E.

The story of Purusha tell how that world is created but in a very symbolic way. Each part of Purusha’s body is used to make what becomes each of the social classes and gods of old. According to the myth “The Brahmin was his mouth, of both his arms was the Rajanya made. His thighs became the Vaisya, from his feet the Sudra was produced”. Each body part became a specific class for a specific reason. The Brahmin came from the mouth because they devoted their lives to memorizing all the Veda’s. They were the only ones who knew the Veda’s and therefore were called upon to recite a Veda when someone needed guidance.

The Rajanya, or warrior class, was made from the arms because fighting required heavily upon your arms and strength. The Vaisya, or merchant and artisan class, were made from the thighs because they represented hard work and were the pillars on which the civilization ran. The Sudra, or laborer class, was made from the feet because they were the lowest of all the people created and could metaphorically be stepped on by higher classes. In the myth the two higher classes are also described together in the first sentence together, emphasizing the line between the two upper classes and the two lower ones.

Along these lines, this myth is to show were these classes lie in society and give the people in the classes a reason to why they are there. This way, the people in power now have a reason to stay in power and give the people in lower classes a reason to stay there. Therefore, the story is used as a validation for the caste system of the time as a whole. It suggests that any other form of social structure would be wrong because it would not be divine. This small exert from the myth of Purusha on how humans were made played an important role on how the caste system was working at the time and gave people a reason not to question it.

3. 6. Analects The Analects is a text that contains hundreds of sayings of Confucius written down by his students after his death and completely out of context. Confucianism was based on the idea that all people had the ability to become good and that society should be run on morality. This is in contrast with other ideals such as Legalism which was based on the idea that everyone was born evil and selfish, could never change, and required to be severely punished for minor offenses. Confucius did not believe that this was an effective way to rule people and his reasoning is shown in the Analects.

It is written in Book II, III. 1. “The master said, ‘If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the punishment, but have no sense of shame’”. By stating this Confucius believes that if a ruler is trying to obtain uniformity to obey a law by punishment people will simply try and avoid the punishment without conforming and will have learned nothing. In the second part of the passage he states “If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules propriety, they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good…”.

With this he simply states that upon learning a moral philosophy that people will uniformly want to become good. With this in mind, Confucius also believed that the government should play a small role in the lives of the people and always hold the people in its best interest. The following saying recorded in the Analects go on to state how people should be treated when alive, while being buried, and how they should be sacrificed. All of these things should be dependent on how well you conformed to the acceptable standards of morality that should be set in place.

These passages all sum up some of the main points of Confucianism such that morality should play a key role in how one’s life is lived and how ruling should take place. B. 7. The Apology In The Apology written by Plato, Socrates is being put on trial by the city of Athens and is giving his defense. He is on trial for corrupting the youth and being impious, although it is certain he has done neither of these formally accused things. During Socrates defense he states that Athens and other cities need people like him. Someone who would go around and ask questions in order to make people think.

Socrates believed that people didn’t truly think about what they were doing and to do so needed to ask more questions. Socrates also believed he was wiser than any other man in that he knew that knew nothing. In fact, his defense against the charge of being impious was that he firmly believed he was carrying out the will of Apollo and was told by the oracle of the god that he was the wisest man. If he believed such things then there is no way he could possibly not be pious. With this that charge was somewhat thrown away. He tried to explain that he was only trying to promote productive thought throughout the city and its people.

He felt that he was necessary for the city to be attached to just as a gadfly to a horse. Just as the city was unwilling to think without a being questioned, the horse was too lazy to move without a sting. He ended his defense by stating that instead of killing him they should reward him. With his argument that they needed him more than they knew it and somewhat sarcastic punishment suggestion, he was sentenced to death. This is only an interpretation by Pluto and states that it is beneficial for someone to be asking questions and trying to enlighten others.

It also represents the philosophical style which Plato learned from Socrates and advocated during his lifetimes as well. A style that effected Athenian life by making the city more conscious and aware of the actions it partook on a day to day basis when put into practice. C. 1. Paleolithic to Neolithic The Neolithic Revolution marked the beginning of the Stone Age and set up a new form of lifestyle for early humans. The Neolithic Revolution was proceeded by the Paleolithic era. The people that were alive at this time are the oldest know people in existence.

These people were hunters and gatherers, relying on the food they could find in the forest or the animals they could kill to eat. They were also nomadic people, never staying in one concrete place but rather moving to wherever the climate and was suitable for their style of life. When the Neolithic Revolution took place people began to work more on their stone working abilities. Thus, the Neolithic revolution coincides with the beginning of the Stone Age. The Neolithic revolution also marked several other large changes in the way people live.

People began to farm and produce their own food along with domesticate animals. It is now known that the Neolithic people planted and grew primitive forms of wheat and barley. This crop could have been very useful because it could be stored and used at a later date18. For example, during a drought or dry season one could use their stored crop to help feed their animals. In this way agriculture grew alongside the domestication of animals. This time called for planning that involved picking the most productive grain to plant the next growing season and which of your most powerful animals you should have mate19.

This newfound knowledge and ability to stay in one place allowed the human population to grow in concentrated areas. This was a very change from Paleolithic times where groups typically ranged from 20-30 people. During the Neolithic age it was not uncommon for there to be large farming towns and cities with thousands of residents. Almost every of life was changed during the Neolithic revolution and the way of life it brought was effective. Until recently, in the past couple centuries, Neolithic culture had survived in many parts of the world. C. 4. Polis

The term polis in Greek means city-state, and its existence during the Archaic age and at the time of Alexander the Great had a large effect on Greek culture. The Archaic age burst from the dark ages in Greece and lasted from around 800-500 B. C. E. and with it brought a revitalized trade, agricultural and urbanization elements. At the height of the Greek colonization there were about 1,500 city-states that occupied a very large Greek speaking cultural zone. These city-states were often run in one of three way that included a democracy, and oligarchy, or a tyranny. The

democracy is the one which the power is held in the people’s hands. In this system everyone may have equal power with accordance to the law but it was often recognized that the wealthy still retained more power. The system where the few wealthy and powerful did run the government was called and oligarchy. One in which only one person rules is a tyranny. The city-states at the time had no standing armies, were religiously centered, and also focused on the arts. By the time the Classical age came to be along with the great ruler Alexander the Great Greece was very powerful and rich with culture.

This was due impart to the city-states that allowed the Greek culture to spread to all corners of the empire while retaining a stable social and political structure within themselves and therefore the entire empire. Notes 1. Selena Lai and Waka Takahashi Brown, “The Shang Dynasty, 1600 to 1050 BCE. ” FSI Stanford Spice Digests, (2006): Accessed September 29, 2013, http://iis-db. stanford. edu/docs/117/ShangDynasty. pdf. 2. Ibid. , 1. 3. ushistory, “9b. Shang Dynasty — China’s First Recorded History. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://www. ushistory. org/civ/9b. asp. 4. Ibid. , 1.

5. Lai and Brown, “The Shang Dynasty, 1600 to 1050 BCE,” 1. 6. Ibid. , 1. 7. Ibid. , 1. 8. Gregory Smits. “Legalism,” in the web-based book Topics in Premodern Chinese History. (accessed September 29, 2013). http://www. personal. psu. edu/faculty/g/j/gjs4/textbooks/PM-China/ch5. htm. 9. Ibid. , 1. 10. Ibid. , 1. 11. Tripod, “The Indus Valley Civilisation. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://sympweb. tripod. com/IndusValleyhistory. htm. 12. Ibid. , 1. 13. Ibid. , 1. 14. Ibid. , 1. 15. The History Channel, “Hellenistic Greece. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://www. history.

com/topics/hellenistic-greece. 16. Ibid. , 1. 17. Ibid. , 1. 18. Edrene S. McKay, “Paleolithic &Neolithic Societies,” in World Civilizations from Prehistory to 1500. Accessed September 30, 2013. www. Online-History. org. 2 19. Ibid. , 2. Bibliography McKay, Edrene S. , “Paleolithic &Neolithic Societies,” in World Civilizations from Prehistory to 1500. 1. Accessed September 30, 2013. www. Online-History. org. 2 Lai, Selea and Waka Takahashi Brown, “The Shang Dynasty, 1600 to 1050 BCE. ” FSI Stanford Spice Digests, (2006): 1. Accessed September 29, 2013. http://iis-db. stanford. edu/docs/117/ShangDynasty.

pdf Smits, Gregory. “Legalism,” in the web-based book Topics in Premodern Chinese History. 1. Accessed September 29, 2013. http://www. personal. psu. edu/faculty/g/j/gjs4/textbooks/PM-China/ch5. htm). The History Channel, “Hellenistic Greece. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://www. history. com/topics/hellenistic-greece Tripod, “The Indus Valley Civilisation. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://sympweb. tripod. com/IndusValleyhistory. htm. ushistory, “9b. Shang Dynasty — China’s First Recorded History. ” Accessed September 29, 2013. http://www. ushistory. org/civ/9b. asp.


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