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Ancient Civilizations in China: History and Culture

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Cultural Studies
Wordcount: 1801 words Published: 16th Aug 2018

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Ancient China is Located in Asia. It has the oldest surviving civilization in the world. Most people talk about other civilizations, such as; Egypt, or Rome. Ancient China has a very interesting history. In Ancient China, they had a total of 11 dynasties. No one is sure of when exactly it began, but roughly from 4000-5000 years. The aspects this essay will focus on are education, social classes, and art and architecture. Agriculture in China was is part of social classes, everyone- except the royal families- has jobs to do, and most people are farmers and silk makers, or have any other hard working job.

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In ancient China, there is lots of different architecture, and they are all based on their history and their rulers. In China the roofs of most buildings, were curved. It was not just because of structural use, but it had a symbolic significance. And by being tiled, it shows as a sign of wealth. And the reason they are curved is because they protected the inhabitants from evil spirits, which were believed to travel in straight lines. In China a building’s roof was normally put up before the walls. It was supported on purlins (horizontal beams) and crossbeams resting on columns rather than on triangular roof tresses. The walls which were made of wooden panels or brick were filled in later and were not load-bearing to any large extent. This system gave Chinese architects freedom to think about different silhouettes for their buildings.

Another thing that is created in China, is silk. Silk is made from silk worms. You must unravel, spin and weave their cocoons. You must first take the cocoon of the silk worms, and then connect it to the machine that pulls the silk of the cocoon by a thread. Then once the silk is all off the cocoon (it’s still wet), they take all the wool together and put it on a curved metal rod, which stretches the wool, also they leave it to dry there. Then they have some people hold all sides of it and stretch it out till it is roughly the size of a single bed. And then they cover it. The more advanced the cocoon is, the thicker the silk is. This could be the job of many farmers. I think ancient China’s art and architecture is always something to do with their beliefs or rulers.

Social classes were very important in ancient China, The Chinese believed that strict social groups and people should behave according to their social position. This belief that strict social groups and people should behave according to their social position, was proven by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher. Under the emperor, there were four social classes in China. The four classes were nobles & officials, peasants, artisans and merchants.  The emperor and his family were the top class in China. Emperors believed that they were chosen by heaven and therefore didn’t need to obey humans. An emperor expected his subjects to be loyal and obedient.

The noble class in ancient China was very privileged. Nobles were usually the extended family of the emperor and empress and those people that excelled in their fields, mostly in the military. The status of nobles, however, changed often depending on who gained or fell out of favor with the emperor. When a new emperor came to power, it was common for him to favor a new set of nobles. They often became land owners so they could collect taxes from the people who lived on their land, which made them richer. If the nobles gave some of their income to the emperor, they would receive privileges and were afforded some protection in return. If nobles committed a crime that would result in them being sentenced to death, the emperor could grant them a special favor that would allow them to commit suicide, which they considered a much more honorable death.

Officials were another group that had high social status in ancient China. Boys whose families could afford to send them to school began their education at an early age to become officials and were prepared to pass a difficult exam. If they didn’t pass, they were usually still able to find jobs since they were considered well educated. Officials were arranged in ranks. The two most senior officials acted as advisers to the emperor. Most officials lived very comfortably and were well-respected because of their position and education.

Peasants – Even though peasant farmers in ancient China were one of the lowest social classes, they were still considered important because they produced the food for the rest of the society. Most peasants were very poor and led simple lives. They worked very hard and hardly ever had a day off. Peasant men worked in the fields and had to tolerate harsh conditions. They worked through the burning heat of summer and the extreme cold of winter. The harsh conditions could also spoil their crops and land, which has consumed most of their time. If the crops were spoilt, poor families had very little to survive on during the winter. If women wove and sewed cloth, they could help provide clothes for their families and they could sell any excess items to earn more money. Even the poorest peasants had to pay taxes, even if their crops were not successful. This left many families, during the winter months, with little to eat. 

Artisans were part of the normal class and included painters, carpenters, potters and jewelry makers. Artisans made more than farmers but less than the merchants. They didn’t have a good social status but they were respected for their skills. Metalworkers became very important during the Han period. Metalworkers produced weapons and many useful everyday objects, like cooking pots. Weavers worked with silk, which was very valuable.

The merchant class included traders, animal breeders and money loaners. Merchants were thought of as the lowest social class in ancient China. Even though they have a low social status, some merchants became very rich and lived in luxury. .During the Han dynasty, some merchants became so rich that they might have been a threat to the emperor and the nobles. The richest merchants attained their wealth by investing money in land and properties. Several merchants, though, were not as wealthy. In order to limit their wealth, merchants had certain restrictions placed on them. Such restrictions included paying heavy taxes and being sent away to join the army.

Slaves had existed in ancient China, but they made a very small percentage of the population. Some slaves were relatives of criminals while other sold themselves or their children as slaves if they were very poor. Ancient China appears to be very serious about social classes. In fact, I think everybody’s lives ruled around their class.

Most of the children in ancient China never got a chance to go to school at all. They had to work hard in the fields, feeding the animals, weeding the vegetables, planting rice, or taking care of their little brothers or sisters. But if you were a boy, and your father could have spared you from the fields, he would send you to school. Beginning in the Han Dynasty, many schools used to be free, and the emperor paid for their fees. If there were no schools in your village, you might have had to go live with relatives or with strangers in another bigger town. Boys would normally start school when they were six years old. Primary schools were very small, and only had one teacher for the whole school. There was one chair for the teacher, but all the boys had to sit on stools. You were supposed to go to school every day, without weekends, from 6:00 in the morning until about 4:00 in the afternoon. They didn’t have math lessons, or science. You learned how to read and write, and then you memorized many pages of Confucian philosophy and learned how to write essays and poetry, and how to paint pictures. Then, you stayed at this school until you were sixteen or seventeen, which is when you are ready for the first examinations.

Education in China was quite important, since it was what their futures depended on. If they were not educated, they would most likely work at farms, or work for others in a low social state (if they were not rich). When they are educated, it gave the people a chance at having a better life. Maybe they would be assisting the royal families, and not as a slave. They could be advisors, or maybe even teachers. I think they needed education quite a lot, in order to be anything big in life.

I think ancient China is very interesting and complicated. I think the past was quite hard as it seems most people, if they are not rich or don’t have any royal relations, don’t get any special treatment, in fact, they barely get and good treatment at all. They had seemed to have lead interesting lives and have various beliefs. Their civilization lasted for a very long time, and they have a very developed society ever since it had started.


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