Li’s role in the Tradition of Chinese History
The development of civilization in China started earliest as compared to other countries in world history (Pines, 2002). The development started about 5,000 years ago. Professor Li, a philosopher, discusses the history of China which dates back to almost a million years ago. Approximately 400,000-500,000 years back, the occupants of the Chinese land were human beings who were primitive (Berry, 2008). In Zhoukoudian, which is in the southwest of Beijing lived an upright Peking primitive man (Dreyer, 2007). He used fire and simple tools for his survival. Residents of the valley of Yellow River about 6,000 to 7,000 years ago also practiced farming and rearing of livestock (Wyborny, 2004).
In China, the word ritual refers to ancestral worship ceremonies, parent’s burial and rules guiding the relationship between children and parents (Berry, 2008). The Chinese value and respect their customs and cultures and they view it as honoring an event that already exists. Rituals are performed by those who have belief in them and just someone doing it for the sake of pleasing the audience is just passing time (Ebrey, 2010). It is not encouraging though for a non-believer in rituals to discourage the believer. Strictly speaking, everyone has his own school of thought to perform what he views fit for his lifestyle (Pines, 2002).
Socialization of morals lies in one’s daily experiences or the already existing customs a person is accustomed to. Use of common sense as proposed by psychologists to avoid doing things in a manner not expected is discouraged in Confucianism reasoning. Self or group motivation is a way of elevation that can be applied to improve morale and self-esteem (Berry, 2008).
Slavery began in the twenty-first century in China. During this period, cattle keeping and agricultural practice significantly improved (Hung, 2001). They also had exquisite skills in blacksmith as smelting of iron increased. The culture of the Chinese flourished due to emergence and increase in the number of philosophers and critical thinkers famously known as Confucius. As a result, a multi- national feudal state that is unified was centrally established. It was the first empire of the Qin Dynasty, the Qin Shi Huang that arose in 221 B.C (Berry, 2008).
The society of feudal continued and ended after the war of opium (Dreyer, 2007). China’s culture continued to develop as the economy grew. Technological development in science increased alongside the development of art and literature (Hung, 2001).
During the Tang Dynasty, the Chinese civilization went a notch higher as they traded globally. Thereafter, Britain that had the interest in trading in opium in China began the opium war in the year 1840. The immense foreign powers by force occupied concessions after the war and China were divided into influence spheres. Therefore, a society that is semi-feudal arose and transformed China (Pines, 2002).
The revolution of Xinhai led by Sun Yat-sen in 1911 put an end to the feudal monarchy. Later in 1978 the policy of Open Door was adopted by China thus the self-seclusion history of 5,000 years ended.
Three traditions of philosophy have shaped the culture of Chinese. Such include Confucianism that deals with relationships between humans, Buddhism that favors philosophy than religion and Taoism that deals with how nature brings harmony to human (Berry, 2008). The three are teachings of philosophy but not religions as far as the Chinese are concerned (Hardy & Kinney, 2005).
Confucianism and its Foundation
Rather than being a religion belief system, it is ethical and based on the relationships concept (Chou, 2012). According to philosopher Confucius, obligations and responsibility has a dual aspect in relationships in Confucianism (Ebrey, 2010). As a result, every relationship in all levels bears responsibilities and obligations that must be fulfilled (Pines, 2002).
Under the right circumstances and with encouragement, Confucianism holds that individuals can control their emotions. It is also considered that for the mind to be thoughtful enough then it should be in its fresh and pure state (Hung, 2001). Li is embodied in the mind and is not influenced by the external factors that are independent. It is a fact that knowing what to do and doing the same right thing is are compatible. It is proper for a person to think correctly and do as his thoughts direct him but not vice versa.
Punishment helps keep people in line by making them not repeat the wrongs ones done but does not create in them a sense of timidity in them (Hardy & Kinney, 2005). Though when an individual is guided by virtue and kept in line with rites will help to create a sense of both fear and reform one’s character. Alternatively, it is incorrect to assume that the government is virtuous since it is composed of people with diverse traits.
The Confucians have a belief that by doing morally upright things then harmony prevails upon man. Anyway, in all levels of relationships, there is no given point that everyone will be lovely to each other (Chou, 2012).
There are three modes of representation of relationships in a society that is highly hierarchical (Ye, Fei & Wang, 2007). Such are the king is the master of the minister, father is the master of the son, husband is the master of the wife (Chou, 2012).
Confucianism also entails the five virtues that are always constant and they include rightness, ritual, goodness, credibility and wisdom (Ebrey, 2010). Confucius maintains that the five constant virtues are critically important in every level of relationships and ensures that man lives in harmony (Ye, Fei and Wang, 2007).
Lao-Tse is believed by many as the founder of Taoism, a present-day of Confucius. It is the power that governs both the living and non-living things provides equality in the universe. It indicates that for anything right to exist, then its opposite wrong side exists too (Ye, Fei & Wang, 2007). Though it commenced as a combination of both the philosophy and psychology, Taoism, in 440CE, evolved into a religious faith and the state adopted it as a religion. Taoism state support ended in 1911 with the end of Ching dynasty (Ban & Dubs, 1948). In the next period of warlordism, heritage of Taoism was destroyed and there was no more freedom of religion after the victory of Communist in 1949 (Chou, 2012). Temples were confiscated and treasures pillaged as manual labor was put to monks (Ban & Dubs, 1948).
It originated from India after being established by Siddhartha Gautama and got its way into China during Empire Han Ming Ti ruling. Gautama was a Confucius contemporary. Though its impact was not immediately felt as its followers were still having a test of it, its fame came during the great time of barbaric and social indecision (Dreyer, 2007). It took place to popularize due to Chinese resistance and their emphasis toward relationships that revolve around society and family (Ye, Fei & Wang, 2007).
Gautama realized and felt saddened by the fact that human was suffering and decided to look for alternative means of bringing comfort (Hung, 2001). He realized that the human can overcome pain by overcoming his own desires. He, therefore, came up with a set of rules known as the Eightfold Path that are similar to the biblical Ten Commandments (Ban & Dubs, 1948). The mindset was to bring peace that is spiritual where it is believed that harmony substitutes pain (Chou, 2012).
China Buddhism incorporates practices of religion that the Chinese believed brings salvation to them. There has been a mix of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism since the incoming rule of Song Dynasty. The resultant mix is the philosophy and culture of Chinese (Wyborny, 2004).
The Chinese Language
Chinese language is composed of over 45,000 characters though quite a number of the elements in the character have been simplified by the government (Dreyer, 2007). As a matter of fact, memorizing them is easier than before. The language has a variety of tones that make the Chinese words have plenty of meanings. Its grammar is not as complex as those of other languages (Ye, Fei & Wang, 2007).
In the ancient, the Chinese novelists themes revolved around developments that are personal and relationships (Ebrey, 2010). Chinese writing currently concentrates on modernizing China through revolution (Berry, 2008).
Differences between the Western and Chinese Cultures
Whereas the Chinese culture has much emphasis on relationships in which the concerned parties have an obligation to help each other, western culture emphasizes on freedom, privacy, and personal rights (Pines, 2002). Chinese still value their customs and cultures to date. They believe that giving of gifts is something from the heart and should not be given in a way that shows that it is a bribe. Additionally, priority is always given to guests and they are served with the best (Chou, 2012).
Despite the cultural Chinese beliefs, there has been a significant change in the customs and cultural beliefs as China strive to be a modern superpower nation.
The Han Dynasty
Founded by the rebel leader, Liu Bang, who was also an adventurer, the imperial Han Dynasty was the first in China that lasted for a longer time. It rebelled against Qin Dynasty that was the government so oppressive. Liu Bang and his lieutenants created a stable government after several years of political stability. The Han Dynasty is more of a golden age to Chinese in their history. It comprises two periods, the former Han Qianhan and the later Han Houhan. Geographically, Han Qianhan represents the western Han Xihan and the Han Houhan represents the Eastern Han Donghan (Hung, 2001).
The court residence was in Changan during the Western Han rule and in the Luoyang during the Eastern Han government. The capital shifting from Western to Eastern is a pattern similar to those preceding governments (Hardy & Kinney, 2005). The only variation is that unlike the other dynasties that shifted as a result of military divergences, the Han Dynasty capital shifting was due to economic and political reasons (Hung, 2001).
Equipped with apparatus of administration inherited from the Qin Dynasty, Liu Bang formed a government run on the basis of the Confucianism doctrines which ensured that the people’s welfare were well-taken care of (Wyborny, 2004). Measures of strict control of the finances of the state were put into place. Qin’s policy of legalists was adopted and a system that is censorial applied for registration of all the members of households. Bang’s administration came up with strict measures to put the local government into check (Berry, 2008).
In the Han Dynasty, there were regions that were under the extreme control of the central government called commanderies which were administered by military commanders (Ebrey, 2010). The commanders were responsible for revenue collection and ensuring that peace prevailed. Due to rebellion from seven other states, these commanderies lost their independence. In 200BC, the Han Dynasty was defeated by Xiongnu and was forced to join the government as an inferior member. Xiongnu’s continued attacks on the Han’s borders forced the leader then, emperor Wu to launch a counter military strike that finally led to the defeat of Xiangnu (Hardy & Kinney, 2005).
The sovereignty of Han thus extended to the basin of Tarim of Central Asia after the conquering of Xiongnu, which was then divided into two distinct confederations (Ban & Dubs, 1948). As a result, there was the start of trade along the Silk Road that extended all the way to the Mediterranean (Dreyer, 2007). Chinese silk had demand in the Roman Empire market and, as a result, there was an increment in the level of their wealth. Precious ores such as silver and gold were also traded on (De, 1973).
Schools were established under the Han administration so as to promote the ideals of the official scholars. Additionally, the university was further established where the classics of Confucian were studied and thereafter the young graduates became bureaucrats (De, 1973). As the number of graduates increased the state became autocratic. With time, a political and bureaucratic culture was formed. It helped balance the partnership among the scholars, political and economic elite (Pines, 2002).
The Economy and the Social Order
The Han leadership formed coalitions with other leaders thus they were able to get social support from other diverse regions (Ban & Dubs, 1948). The strategy ensured that the tax base widened hence there was more revenue collection. Promotion of business growth by the state pushed the merchants to form a business partnership with the ruling elites. Funds raised through trade in salt and silk was used in financing the military functions (Ban & Dubs, 1948).
There was paper invention that improved the Chinese lifestyle. People started writing as painting with scroll commenced. Confucius teaching would be written as well as literature. The Han administration controlled the businesses of merchants as peasants got dignified treatment for being productive (Ban & Dubs, 1948).
Expansion of the Silk Road and the Empire
Significant economic achievement of the Han’s Dynasty was the opening and expansion of the Silk Road. Eventually, this opened up other routes that merchants could follow to reach out to the customers. As a result, the empire prospered economically and the intermingling led in exchange of cultures. The creation of an army that is powerful was essential to the expansion of the empire borders. The traders were, therefore, assured of security along the Silk Road. Since the military service was made compulsory, the army expanded to a million as compared to the rivals, the Roman Empire, that had about 30,000 soldiers. Settlement of traders and farmers brought lots of development along the Silk Road due to the government’s support (Ebrey, 2010).
As most of the kids of the rich were tutored at home rather than being sent to school, the poor had their children taught in school (Ban & Dubs, 1948). The poor in the countryside lived a much more peaceful life than those in the city. Canals were built for better and efficient movement of goods and merchants who took advantage of the channels made wealth and invested. The interaction of the Han Dynasty and the Roman Empire brought about religious mix (Wyborny, 2004). The largest Chinese work of historiography known as the Grand Historian Records was done during the Han Dynasty by Sima Qian (Ebrey, 2010). The historiography contains the Chinese history that dates back to 2,000 years ago. It is also during the Han’s reign that the whole modern China proper the Northern Vietnam among others was incorporated into China (Ebrey, 2010).
Generally, the Han Dynasty rule brought about changes in social, political and economic arena due to trade and political stability (Ban & Dubs, 1948).
Zheng He who was a Kunyang’s second son and was originally named Ma He. He was a born Muslim but embraced different religious cultures as he grew up. His great-grandfather served in the Empire of Mongol as an administrator and was also a governor of the Yunnan during the Yuan Dynasty reign. His father’s surname Ma and the title hajji suggested that they ones made the pilgrimage to Mecca (Wyborny, 2004).
Zheng He was captured by the Ming’s general at Yunnan in 1381 as he walked along the road. Zheng was about ten years old when he was castrated and later sent to serve in the Prince of Yan household. The prince lived in the northern frontier which was in the proximity of the hostile Mongol as he governed Beiping. Since they lived in a hostile environment, Zheng became a soldier at a young age and on the other hand participated in Zhu Di’s military operations (Ban & Dubs, 1948).
Zheng He commanded his first expedition on the second of March, 1390, when he accompanied Zhu to counter the Mongols. It turned out victorious as Naghachu, the Mongol’s leader, surrendered on realizing he had been deceived (Hardy & Kinney, 2005). He finally became the prince’s trusted advisor (Ebrey, 2010). With the passing of time, he earned the trust and confidence of Zhu. While staying at Beiping, Zheng was educated on Buddhism (Hung, 2001).
When Zhu Di’s father died, the prince of Yan was the apparent option as the successor to the Emperor of Yongle but still the empire was taken over by his cousin as the Emperor of Jianwen. Later in1398, Zhu issues a policy that strips the princes of their powers (Ban & Dubs, 1948). Zhu rebelled against his nephew 1399 and defends Beiping’s city against the armies of imperial with the aid of Zheng He as his army commander.
Eventually, Zhu Di died and since he had no son to succeed him as the Emperor of Hongxi, Zheng He was apparently appointed as the defender of Nanjing. Zheng He was again appointed in 1430 by the Emperor of Xuande to command the last expedition in the Indian Ocean since he was viewed as a trustworthy comrade.
Zheng had been ordered more than ones to be an envoy to several regions beyond China and each time he had several men to accompany him in his fleet of ship (Dreyer, 2007). He was the acting voyage and commercial representative of the court of Ming. He carried with him gifts that were valuable to all the countries he visited which he used as persuasive to lure the rulers of the nations he did visit. His aim was to convince the rulers to develop close ties with China (Dreyer, 2007). During these visits, he could study the hosts’ customs and habits. His approach was through negotiations and consultations as he ventured into what could be of benefit to him (De, 1973).
As a reward, he was given such valuables as precious stones, ivory among others for China. His expertise in the quick learning of the people’s cultures helped him seal deals. Zheng He had a warm reception in every region he visited. Emissaries and representatives of trade of the nation’s Zheng had visited were sent to China too (Hung, 2001). Sociable relations among the countries Zheng He voyages visited had strengthened ties with China and there was an exchange of both economic and cultural values. Visitors to China were treated with lots of hospitalities that always prompted them to keep ties with China (De, 1973).
Zheng He’s most ambitious and exciting voyage was his fleet to Africa. It was the fourth adventurous journey and he visited such places as Malindi and Mogadishu among other regions. On his way back to China, he carried with him a giraffe which was a symbol of the region he had visited. Despite the smooth sailing, the fleet also had to deal with the dangerous situations as encounters with the pirates (Ebrey, 2010). His voyage was also faced hostilities from individual rulers who did not like adventurous and intruders into their periphery. During such encounters, he and his men had to come up with strategies to meet the scenarios or live immediately (De, 1973).
Zheng had his seventh and last voyage at the age of 59. Though his health was not at its best, it was already an order from the Emperor of Xuande. On his way back after the voyage mission in Kenya after several stoppages, He died somehow when the fleet was in the waters of Indonesia (De, 1973).
Zheng He traveled a lot globally to increase the Chinese ties with the outside world and improve the trade. It was also designed to enhance the reputation of China with the other trading compatriots. Due to Zheng’s loyalty and patriotism, quite a number of monuments were erected in his remembrance (De, 1973).
The genius in Zheng He is portrayed in his ability to build a big fleet ship that could survive for over thirty years (Hardy & Kinney, 2005). His ability to have about 5,000 soldiers under him without any squabbles and to operate his ship as he toured the world is a capability that is yet to be matched to any other person’s ability (Wyborny, 2004).
In conclusion, Zheng was more a conqueror than he was an ambassador of peace. There is no dispute to this as the number of countries he visited and made business ties with is a record that speaks for itself (Berry, 2008).
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