In the Classical Period, though miles apart, both Imperial Rome and Han China had parallels and differences in methods of political control. The two civilizations both used the aspects of religion and belief systems to attain political influence over their subjects, but had differing methods to reach this goal. Standardization and cultural unity was a key factor in both civilizations regarding political control, as was expansion and growth of trade. The systems of belief of both Han China and Imperial Rome were quite different.
Rome began with a polytheistic religion but later converted to Christianity, a monotheistic religion, with the arrival of Constantine. Constantine united all of the Roman Empire under Christianity. People began to recognize the substantial favors and special treatment being given to Christians by the central government, so they decided to convert as well. China, however, had a different belief system than that of the Romans, mainly because it was not an actual religion.
The Romans had followed a religion based from their culture and homeland, because Jesus was from Rome, while the Han peoples followed a belief system that had been long-standing in Chinese History; Confucianism and Legalism. The Han adopted both Legalist and Confucianist principles when Gaozu defeated competitors for the control and establishment of the Han Dynasty. Emperor Wu then adopted and placed more of an influence on Confucianism under his rule, using Confucian scholars as government officials.
While the actual systems of belief of the two systems differed, the common idea behind political use and influence of religion and belief systems is the same. Both used these systems to rule/govern. Constantine claimed to have been spiritually motivated to convert to Christianity, but later used this fact to bribe others into following his rule. The Han did not have to bribe their people into following the law of government, but Confucianist scholars were elected officials, bring religion and beliefs into politics, just as the Romans had done.
Standardization was a very important factor governing political rule in both Han China and Imperial Rome. China had been composed of clashing groups of people with differing languages and cultures since the Warring States Period. Shi Huangdi established the first empire of China, the Qin, and creates uniform systems of weight, measurement, and coinage; a uniform law code; regulations regarding the lengths of axles on carts; and a common system of writing to unify the people of China.
After the Qin Dynasty fell, the Han Dynasty adopted the systems of standardization used by the Qin. They were able to build roads, expand in population and size, and take part in trade due to a culture made of common, uniform systems. While a common system of writing was established in the Han Dynasty, it was controlled by the elite class so that no one else could outdo them in education and overtake their positions of control. In the Roman Empire, Diocletian created a series of reforms as emperor which controlled prices on goods, which was set in a standard system of money.
Latin language and religion were other examples of standardized aspects of Roman society. Standardization was critical in both civilizations because both the Han and Romans controlled such a vast, diverse empire, and they had to have a common means of communication and commerce across the regions. Standardization allowed the civilizations to expand and flourish while keeping certain aspects of politics under governmental control. Both Han China and Imperial Rome expanded greatly during their rule and eventually introduced the aspect of trade into their culture.
The civilizations were able to enlarge their areas of political influence, taking over new peoples and lands and introducing them to their own unique cultures. Romanization was a key event that took place during Imperial Rome. As Rome conquered and spread out over new lands, Roman culture and Latin language went with it. Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty expanded the empire into northern Vietnam, North Korea and Manchua in hopes of finding new lands suitable for their agriculture. Their language, beliefs, customs and technology accompanied them on their journeys and soon took hold in the newly conquered lands.
This expansion was also the basis for the beginnings of trade along the Silk Road in China. Both civilizations faced problems of defense regarding the vast areas of land they were now in control of. Because they had expanded to such great distances, government officials had to delegate people to govern the areas that were farther away from and not as affected by the central government directly. The ancient civilizations of Imperial Rome and Han China shared both similarities and differences regarding the way that that the civilizations controlled politically.
While the two were alike in the common themes of expanding to increase political control and sending smaller officials under the central government to rule indirectly under the central government, as well as using religion and standardization to unite different groups of people as one, they differed in the fact that the Roman emperors had to bribe their people into following rules while the Han did not, as well as in the culture and beliefs they were introducing to these new territories.
Subject: Han China,
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 January 2017
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