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Autor: anton 25 November 2010
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Classical China encompasses three major dynasties: the Zhou, the Qin, and the Han. When Shi Huangdi of the Qin Dynasty was killed in 210 B.C., angry peasants organized massive rebellions. One peasant leader defeated all his opponents and in 202 B.C., he formed the third dynasty of classical China: the Han. The Han Dynasty existed for more than 400 years, until 220 C.E.
The rise of Rome was the last phase of classical Mediterranean civilization, after Rome conquered Greece and the Hellenistic kingdoms in 100 B.C.E. The local monarchy that would someday become one of the world's most powerful empires began around 800 B.C.
Political institution was extremely important in classical China. Under the Han Dynasty, the power of the emperor and bureaucracy were emphasized. The organized structure of government allowed such a large territory to be effectively governed, even though it was the largest political system in the world at the time. The Han's political framework stressed male dominated families. Han rulers didn't support local warrior-landlords, believing that they were corrupt. Because bureaucracy was so important, civil service exams were first given, a tradition that would be incorporated into modern poli-tics. Not only did bureaucracy effectively govern, but it had a sort of checks and balance on the upper class. Chinese bureaucracy from the Han Dynasty existed well into the twentieth century.
The imperial government sponsored intellectual life, such as astronomy and mathematics. Han rulers promoted Confucianism, with the idea that they were in charge of their subjects' beliefs. The administration also took part in the economy. It organized production, standardized currency and measures, sponsored public works like canal sys-tems and irrigation, and tried to regulate agricultural supplies to control price increases.
The Roman republic allowed all citizens to meet in assemblies to elect magis-trates. The most important legislative body was the Senate, made up of aristocrats. Public service and participation, political ethics, uncorrupt government, and oratory were ex-tremely important. Roman leaders were very tolerant of local customs and religions and believed that well made laws could hold the lands together. Aristocratic leaders supported legal codes to protect private property as well as their poor subjects. It was a sort of check on the upper class. They believed that laws should evolve to keep up with the demands of the changing society. Imperial law codes also controlled property rights and trade. The law of the land was fair and equal for everyone, for the most part. The Roman govern-ment also supported public works like roads and harbors to facilitate transport and com-merce. It also supported an official religion, but tolerated others as long as they didn't interfere with loyalty to the state.
Unlike the Chinese, the Romans didn't emphasize as much on hierarchy, obedi-ence, or bureaucracy, but more on participation. However, some of the Romans' political writing did resemble Confucianism. Both governments also supported government funded public works.
Early Han rulers expanded Chinese territory, pushing into Korea, central Asia, and Indochina. This expansion led to contact with India and the Parthian Empire in the Middle East, which ultimately lead to trade and commerce. The Han Dynasty and classi-cal China as a whole was an agricultural society; therefore, there were wide gaps between the upper class and the common people, who were generally farmer-peasants. Slaves were used, but not much, because there were plenty of peasants to work. Trade mostly encompassed luxury items for the upper class, such as silks, jewelry, and furniture. Cop-per coins began to be used, which smoothed trade. However, trade and money wasn't very important in society because Confucianism disdained moneymaking lives. Therefore merchants were not highly regarded.
The Roman economy was characterized by agriculture, trade, and slavery. Most Romans were farmers and were forced to become tenants or laborers of the lower classes under their landlords. The Romans went into commercial agriculture, even pushing into north Africa. Commercial farming lead to widespread trade. The Roman state controlled supplies and the empire traded with India and China. It was disadvantaged because its manufactured products were inferior to those of Asia's, which exported more precious goods. Roman estate owners used slaves, paid laborers, and tenant farmers.
One social difference in the economies of the Han Dynasty and the Roman Em-pire was the status of merchants. Roman merchants were much better off than the Chi-nese merchants because trade was more important in their area. Both societies used slaves. However, because the Romans always had a supply of slaves, there was no need for them to make many technological advances in agriculture and manufacturing, leaving them lagging behind China in technology.
Confucianism was a system of ethics that relied on the fundamental goodness of human beings. The Han rulers advocated Confucianism because of its emphasis on politi-cal virtue and social order. Legalism was born during the late Qin period and extended into the Han, and was known for its strict laws, harsh punishment, and practicality. Both were social belief systems, not religions, and both attempted to lead an organized society. However, their techniques were obviously very different. Daoism came about in 500 B.C. It was a way of nature, based on an eternal principle governing all workings of the world. Confucianism and Daoism were more widely accepted than Legalism because Legalism caused antipathy among the common people because they were the ones who suffered under it.
There was no dominant religion in Rome, but Christianity was born during its reign. The Romans believed that the spirits of nature were in gods and goddesses who controlled human life. They performed ceremonies and embraced storytelling using the gods. Because the leading religion didn't have much of a spiritual aspect, many of the uncommon people were unhappy.
Both societies didn't support a dominant religion. The Han Dynasty experienced Daoism, Legalism, Confucianism, and other philosophies and religions all at the same time. Therefore, there were often rifts in upper class and popular beliefs in both societies. However, because Confucianism was the preferred philosophy in China, there was much more spirituality in the area than in Rome.
Chinese art during the Han dynasty and classical China as a whole was very de-tailed and decorative. Artistic styles were very geometric and precise; calligraphy became an important art form. Chinese art included bronze, pottery, silk screens, and jade and ivory sculptures. Imperial palaces, tombs and other monumental buildings were erected. The Chinese also made great strides in math and science. They believed that practicality was a better method than hypothesizing. During the Han Dynasty, scientists created a sort of seismograph to register earthquakes. They also studied the movement of planets, cre-ated an accurate calendar, and studied the mathematics of music.
The Romans' architectural skills were quite spectacular. They built many monu-ments and public buildings, surpassing Greek architecture. Upper classes enjoyed public baths, courtyards, and marketplaces. The Roman Empire took pride on their athletics, like gladiators and chariot races. Roman intellectuals were much more practical and ethical than their Greek counterparts. They engineered and constructed arches, roads, and aque-ducts. Roman artists painted realistic paintings. Sculptors molded scenes of Roman tri-umph.
Both the Han Dynasty and Roman Empire were alike in the fact that their ap-proach to science and mathematics was very practical. Both societies also constructed colossal structures, many of which were for the comfort of the upper classes. They were also very geometric in their art and architecture; in fact, the Romans moved away from the simple lines of Greek temples.
The Roman Empire began to decline after 180 C.E. The fall wasn't uniform and in the end, no civilization rose to take over. However, their heritage was richer than that of China's. Even the United States possesses traces of Roman history. The framers of the Constitution implemented Roman precedents into the national document. Designers of public buildings throughout American architectural history have copied Roman models. Western education typically includes Roman history.
The Han Dynasty declined after its central control diminished and was crippled by invasions of a nomadic people called the Huns. China was in total chaos and by the time stability was restored, the Han Dynasty had collapsed. The four centuries of domina-tion left a multitude of tools for subsequent civilizations to use. Although not the coun-try's dominant philosophy, Confucianism is still widely studied. The Han's emphasis on bureaucracy and civil service examinations are still carried on today. Unlike the Roman Empire, the Han Dynasty had established strong enough political structures to withstand its fall for future societies to take over. However, both societies have had immense im-pressions and have set examples for civilizations and societies today.
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