6 The Growth of Asian Civilizations 500 b.c.–a.d.
nomadic invaders stormed the Zhou capital in 771 b.c.,
the power of the kings came to an end. Although the Zhou kings moved the
capital eastward to Luoyang,
real power passed into the hands of mighty feudal lords. For the next five
hundred years, China entered a period of great turbulence, as hundreds of
warlords fought each other for territorial control. During this time of
turmoil, major political and social ideas developed that would serve as a
firm foundation for future Chinese civilization.
the power of the Zhou rulers steadily declined, feudal lords who had once
been loyal to the kings began building their own power in the walled
cities of their estates.
The kings became little more than figureheads with religious functions,
but no political or military power.
Spring and Autumn period.
After the fall of the Western Zhou dynasty
China entered what became known as the Spring and Autumn period,
named after official state records of the same name.
At the beginning of this period, around 722 B.C., about 200 independent
states competed against each other for territory.
As the intensity of warfare gradually increased, some states sought
diplomatic solutions to their conflicts.
They held frequent negotiations and conferences, signed treaties, and
formed alliances. Some states arranged marriages between their royal
families to strengthen their bonds, while others chose to hold hostages to
ensure a stable political situation.
Gradually, however, the fighting became more ruthless and diplomacy
failed, as feuding states expanded and came into closer contact with each
other. Strong lords subdued weaker ones, thereby growing ever more
powerful. As chariot warfare died out, new, deadlier techniques of warfare
were developed. Armies swelled with large numbers of peasant soldiers
armed with iron weapons.
Eventually cavalry and mounted archers were introduced, adding to the
destructiveness of war.
Era of Warring States. In
403 B.C., as Chinese leaders abandoned diplomacy and turned to brute
conquest, the so-called Era of the Warring States began.
Over the next several hundred years, powerful states destroyed or
absorbed weaker ones and the number of states in China declined sharply.
At the beginning of the 400s b.c.,
seven major states—among them Qin, Chu, Han, Wei, and Zhao—had emerged
as the leading powers in China, battling each other for dominance. By the
end of this period, the state of Qin emerged victorious over the others.
As the Chinese states grew stronger, they also became more
centralized—largely to support bigger, more powerful armies.
Bureaucracies staffed by appointed officials replaced the old system of
government by hereditary nobles. The need to support larger, centralized
states also brought economic changes. New crops, tools, and irrigation
techniques helped expand agricultural production. Trade increased, and
cities grew larger and more prosperous.
Era of a Hundred Schools. The
Classical Age was the most creative period for Chinese philosophy. In
response to the insecurity and near-constant warfare, Chinese thinkers
looked for ways to restore harmony in society. This period of
philosophical development is also known as the Era of a Hundred Schools,
because so many divergent approaches to philosophy emerged.
At the root of these philosophies was an ancient Chinese idea that
everything in the world results from a balancing of complementary forces,
called yin and yang. Yin was associated with darkness,
weakness, and passivity, while yang is characterized by brightness,
strength, and activity.
Many people believed that when yin and yang were in balance, peace and
prosperity would reign. For example, when opposing forces in nature, such
as rain and drought, are in balance, the people prosper; when they are out
of balance floods or drought cause people to suffer.
most influential philosopher in Chinese history, and the one who best
embodied the search for balance and harmony in Chinese life, was Kongzi,
or Confucius. Living from 551 b.c.
to 479 b.c.,
Confucius advocated a code of conduct that he believed would promote order
in a turbulent Chinese society.
[BIO]Born to an aristocratic family that had fallen on hard times,
Confucius was raised in humble circumstances. He aspired to political
office, and as a young man he wandered from state to state in search of an
Failing to find work as a politician, Confucius became a teacher.
He soon gained many followers among the sons of families hoping to get
jobs in the growing bureaucracies of the Chinese kingdoms.
In his teachings, Confucius emphasized the need for a system of
ethics and values that would restore social harmony and political
stability in China. Confucius believed that in an earlier age, all people
knew their proper places in society and fulfilled their duties
accordingly. He believed that the best way to solve China's current
problems was to return to that imagined golden age. He advocated respect
for traditional culture and strong adherence to the principal of order.
In time, Confucius's teachings were written down in The Analects,
a work that formed the basis for Confucianism, a philosophy that continues
to influence Chinese thought today. Generally conservative, Confucianism
stressed the importance of the family, of respect for one's elders, and of
reverence for the past.
Confucius believed that if his ideas were applied to politics,
order would return to China. In his view, this could be accomplished in
two ways. First, people should accept and carry out their given roles.
"Let the ruler rule as he should and the minister be a minister as he
should," he stated. "Let the father act as a father should and
the son act as a son should."
In this way, Confucius claimed, society and government would function
smoothly. His second point was that people, particularly rulers, should
act virtuously. As he put it,
a prince's personal conduct is correct, his government is effective
without the issuing of orders. If his personal conduct is not correct, he
may issue orders but they will not be followed.”
Confucius hoped to put his ideas into practice by becoming a top
adviser to a ruler. His emphasis on ethics in government, however, did not
appeal to most Chinese rulers, who were mainly interested in gaining and
holding on to power. As a result, Confucius never received the official
support he desired. During his lifetime, his efforts to influence the
functioning of government had little impact.
After Confucius's death, however, others carried on his teachings,
and his reputation grew. Eventually his ideas would have great impact on
Chinese life. He was even raised to the status of a god by some followers.
Confucius was not a religious teacher, however, and Confucianism remained
more of a practical philosophy than a religion.
to Confucianism, the most important Chinese philosophy during this period
was Daoism (dow-izm).
In part, Daoism was a reaction against the social and moral conformity of
Confucianism and against the power struggles of the Era of Warring States.
Daoists emphasized the independence of each individual, whose sole task
and importance was to fit into the great pattern of nature. The road, or
the way, to fit into nature was the Dao.
Daoists could not concretely define their beliefs, but only
experience them: "The one who knows does not speak, and the one who
speaks does not know."
Laozi, the founder of Daoism, is thought to have lived sometime around the
400s b.c. and is
credited with writing the principal Daoist work, the Dao De Ching.
Contradiction or paradox is characteristic of Daoism. The principle
of wuwei (woo-way)
or non-action, is central to Daoist thought:
by not doing, act by non-action, taste the taste-less, regard small as
great, much as little. . .
hardest things in the world begin with what is easy; the greatest things
in the world begin with what is minute.
the Saint never does anything great and so is able to achieve the
non-action, Daoists did not mean complete inaction, but doing what comes
naturally. Daoists believed that if left to itself, the universe proceeded
along its own harmonious course.
The Daoists believed that the desire for power or material wealth
clouded people's minds to truth. Real knowledge and contentment, they
said, came from self-contemplation:
understand others is to be wise,
to understand one's self is to be illumined.
who overcomes others is strong,
he who overcomes himself is mighty.”
Eventually Daoism was turned into a religion, with its own temples
and rituals, and became quite popular. But even as a philosophy it
appealed to many Chinese. Artists in particular found inspiration in its
emphasis on the contemplation of nature. Even many Confucians found Daoism
appealing as a kind of release from the restrictiveness of Confucian moral
codes. In that sense, Daoism and Confucianism complemented each other,
much like yin and yang.
third major philosophical school to emerge during the Classical Age was
Legalism. Unlike the Confucians or Daoists, the Legalists did not favor a
balanced approach to human conduct. Instead, they believed that strictly
enforced laws, not ritual observances, would resolve the problems of
political disunity and insecurity.
Legalists believed that the state would be best served by putting
the king's interests first. Kings should vigorously enforce laws to
preserve order in society, they believed. In their
view, people were by nature selfish and untrustworthy and could only be
controlled through clearly defined rewards and punishments.
“The empire can be ruled only by utilizing human nature,” noted one
have likes and dislikes; thus they can be controlled by means of rewards
and punishments. . . . The ruler need only hold these handles [rewards and
punishments] firmly, in order to maintain his supremacy. . . . These
handles are the power of life and death. Force is the stuff that keeps the
masses in subjection.”
Legalism, with its principle of rule by force, would become the
official philosophy during the next Chinese dynasty, the Qin. Under this
dynasty, China would be controlled by its first truly centralized,
explain the significance of the following:
and Autumn period
of Warring States
of a Hundred Schools