Understand Chinese heritage and culture


Part 1

A thousand years ago, Chinese civilization dominated that of the peoples of Europe. The history of China began around 4000 BC or around 2,700 BC with a succession of wise emperors who introduced the elements of a civilization. They educated their people and prudently placed China, as early as the third millennium BC, on a surprisingly high cultural level.

Peking Man made his appearance in the Far East at a time when remains in other parts of the world are very rare and disputed. Peking Man lived in caves; he was undoubtedly a hunter, in possession of very simple stone tools and also the art of making fires. At the time of Peking Man, there must have been a warmer and especially more humid climate in North China and Inner Mongolia than today. Historical accounts have reported, for example, that stone tools were still used in Manchuria and eastern Mongolia at a time when the metal was known and used in western Mongolia and northern China.

Agricultural sector

Around 4000 BC, we can trace in North China a purely Mongoloid people of Neolithic culture. Instead of hunters, we find cattle herders, who are also to some extent farmers. In the west, in the present-day provinces of Sichuan and in all the mountainous regions of the provinces of Kansu and Shensi, the ancestors of the Tibetan peoples lived as another distinct culture. They were shepherds, usually wandering with their flocks of sheep and goats on the heights of the mountains. Further east is the Yao culture, an ancient Austronesian culture, whose inhabitants also lived in the mountains, as collectors and hunters, some engaged in simple agriculture. They later mingled with the last great culture of the south, the Tai culture which is distinguished by agriculture. People lived in the valleys and mainly cultivated rice.

A group which occupied the high altitudes and practiced hunting or slash-and-burn agriculture came into closer contact with another group in the valleys which practiced some form of higher agriculture. The result, as a rule, was a stratified society consisting of at least one privileged layer and one ruled layer. This is how were born around 2000 BC. AD new cultures, well known archaeologically. The most important of these are the Yang-Shao culture in the west and the Lung-Shan culture in the east.

chinese historical tradition

Chinese historical tradition has it that the semi-historical rulers, Yao and Shun, and the first official dynasty, the Hsia dynasty, ruled parts of China with a center in southern Shansi. The central territory of the Shang Kingdom was northwest of Honan, along the Shansi Mountains and extending into the plains. It was a peasant civilization with cities. Shang State had its center in northern Honan, north of the Yellow River. Silk was already in use at this time. The invention of sericulture must therefore date from very ancient times in China. He is undoubtedly from southern China.

The intellectual level reached in the Shang era was very high. With these 3000 characters, the Chinese of the Shang era knew how to express themselves well. In the field of material culture, horse breeding is becoming more and more evident. Along with horse breeding, the light two-wheeled war chariot made its appearance. A Shang-era tank was piloted by three men: the warrior who was a nobleman, his driver and his servant who handed him arrows or other weapons when needed. The families of craftsmen and craftsmen were also hereditary servants of noble families – a type of social organization that has its parallels in ancient Japan and later in India and other parts of the world. At the beginning of the Chou period, we find the typical signs of a real feudalism: the fiefdoms were given during a ceremony during which symbolically a piece of land was given to the new holder of the fiefdom, and its deposit. The Chou did not have priests. As with all the races of the steppes, the head of the family himself performed the religious rites. The feudal lords and the nobles dealt with their own problems to obtain the submission of the surrounding villages to their garrisons; they soon paid little attention to the remote central authority. Much of the bronze, and later all of the iron, for use in northern China came from the south by road and in ships up the rivers to Ts’i, where it was distributed among the different regions.

We have to consider the intellectual history of this period, because between 550 and 280 BC, the enduring fundamental influences in the Chinese social order and throughout the intellectual life of China have their origin. One of these scholars was China’s best-known philosopher Confucius. He was born in 551 BC in the feudal state of Lu in what is now Chantong province. Confucius abandoned his wanderings, settled in his hometown of Lu, and taught his disciples there until his death in 479 BC. circle of disciples. His teachings were then put into writing and formed the moral code of China’s upper classes.

Important changes

The introduction of the cavalry brought a change in clothing throughout China, as the ancient costume in the form of a long skirt could not be worn on horseback. The pants and the cap were introduced from the north. The new technique of warfare made it important for each state to have as many soldiers as possible. The cultivation technique has undergone significant changes. The animal-drawn plow seems to have been invented around this time, and now certain metal agricultural tools like iron sickles and iron plowshares have become more common. Field manure was used in the Shang era. The increased use of metal and the invention of coins greatly boosted trade. Iron, which had become common, was produced mainly in Shansi, other metals in southern China. The rulers of the various states entrusted the collection of taxes to the merchants, which had great advantages for the sovereign: he could obtain a part of the taxes because the merchant generally had grain in stock.

Recent discoveries in Central Asia indicate that the direct connections between India, Persia, and China may have started at a much earlier time than we previously thought. The Sogdian merchants who later played a large role in trade contacts were perhaps already active from 350 or 400 BC. The most important philosopher of this school was Tsou Yen. He was of the opinion that Tsou Yen’s basic ideas had their root in earlier Chinese speculations: the doctrine that everything that exists must be explained by the positive, creative or negative, passive (Yang and Yin) action of five elements, wood, fire, earth, metal and water.

Some people place the start of the Ch’in dynasty in this year, 256 BC. others prefer the date 221 BC. The merchant class is rapidly gaining in importance. By 221 BC Shih Huang-ti had become Emperor of All China. The commercial colonies which gradually extended to Canton and even further south served as Chinese administrative centers for provinces and prefectures, with their own small but adequate armies, so that in case of need they could defend themselves. This first kingdom of the Hsiung-nu was not yet extended, but its ambitious and warlike attitude made it a danger for Ch’in. It was therefore decided to maintain a large standing army in the north. In addition to this, the already existing border walls in the mountains were reconstructed and transformed into a single large system. Thus was born in 214 BC, from the blood and sweat of countless workers, the famous Great Wall.

In 206 BC, Liu Chi took the title of emperor and gave his dynasty the name of Han dynasty. After his death, he received as emperor the name of Kao Tsu. The period of the Han dynasty can be described as the beginning of the Chinese Middle Ages, while that of the Ch’in dynasty represents the transition from Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The Wang Mang dynasty lasted only from 9 to 23 AD; but it was one of the most moving periods in Chinese history. The great series of certain laws of Wang Mang earned him the name of “first socialist” on the throne of China.

The famous Shih Chi is the first historical work of a modern type and it was also the model for all subsequent official historiography. Most of the paintings were made on silk, much of which came to market under the control of silk-producing southern China. As for paper, it was invented in the 2nd century BC. AD by perfecting the techniques of making bark fabrics and felt. The sculpture and architecture of the temples received a great boost with the spread of Buddhism in China. All the dynasties of China cannot be brought together in a single article, for their royal splendor demands volumes. China has grown over the centuries and its legacy will last for many centuries to come.


Comments are closed.