Environmental Conflicts And Environmental Challenges In Ancient China
River Systems Two major river systems flow from the mountainous west to the
Pacific Ocean. The Huang He (hwahng•HUH), also known as the Yellow River, is found in the north. In central China, the Chang Jiang (chang•jyhang), also called Yangtze (yang•SEE), flows east to the Yellow Sea. The Huang He, whose name means “yellow river,” deposits huge amounts of yellowish silt when it overflows its banks. This silt is actually fertile soil called loess (LOH•uhs), which is blown by the winds from deserts to the west and north.
Environmental Challenges Like the other ancient civilizations in this …show more content…
Recall that many of the Egyptian hieroglyphs stood for sounds in the spoken language. In contrast, there were practically no links between China’s spoken language and its written language. One could read Chinese without being able to speak a word of it. (This seems less strange when you think of our own number system. Both a French person and an American can understand the written equation 2 + 2 = 4. But an American may not understand the spoken statement “Deux et deux font quatre.”) The Chinese system of writing had one major advantage. People in all parts of China could learn the same system of writing, even if their spoken languages were very different. Thus, the Chinese written language helped unify a large and diverse land, and made control much easier. The disadvantage of the Chinese system was the enormous number of written characters to be memorized—a different one for each unit of language. A person needed to know over 1,500 characters to be barely literate. To be a true scholar, one needed to know at least 10,000 characters. For centuries, this severely limited the number of literate, educated Chinese. As a general rule, a nobleperson’s children learned to write, but peasant children did …show more content…
Floods, riots, and other calamities might be signs that the ancestral spirits were displeased with a king’s rule. In that case, the Mandate of Heaven might pass to another noble family. This was the Chinese explanation for rebellion, civil war, and the rise of a new dynasty. Historians describe the pattern of rise, decline, and replacement of dynasties as the dynastic cycle, shown above.
Control Through Feudalism The Zhou Dynasty controlled lands that stretched far beyond the Huang He in the north to the Chang Jiang in the south. To govern this vast area, it gave control over different regions to members of the royal family and other trusted nobles. This established a system called feudalism. Feudalism is a political system in which nobles, or lords, are granted the use of lands that legally belong to the king. In return, the nobles owe loyalty and military service to the king and protection to the people who live on their estates. Similar systems would arise centuries later in both Japan and Europe. At first, the local lords lived in small walled towns and had to submit to the superior strength and control of the Zhou rulers. Gradually, however, the lords grew stronger as the towns grew into cities and expanded into the surrounding territory.
Synthesizing According to Chinese beliefs, what role did the Mandate of Heaven play in the dynastic cycle?