Chinese Dynasties and Kingdoms, Essay Example

Question A:1

The Relationship between the Barbarian Nations and China

During the earlier times, Chinese empires thought that they were surrounded by barbarian people and cultures. The Chinese contact with the outside world can be dated as early as the 1st century BC. In this regard, such contact is attributed to paying tributes to the empire and reaffirming of their superiority. Nevertheless, the Great Wall to some extent served as a restricting force to the outsiders. According to Oborne (29), the Chinese considered their culture unique and superior in relation to that of the outsiders whom they termed as barbarians. Chinese contact with the barbarian nations can be traced through several dynasties until it intensified in the 16th century during the reign of Qing. The traditional Chinese enjoyed a superfluous and rich culture that was not only manifested through material power but also through their worldviews and ways of living.

The proceeding contact that emphasized the beginning of the Chinese contact to the outsiders was perceived as a learning point as barbarians came to appreciate the extent of the Chinese expansion. The Chinese rulers were utmost mesmerized as the barbarian nations sent their people to pay homage tribute to Son of Heaven. In exchange, these people were sent back with different types of goods to accord their rulers of their recognition of the civilized China (Oborne 28-29). In addition, Fogel and Zarrow elaborate that the barbarian nations move into contact with the China was perpetuated by the need of the former refining lest they disintegrated and declined in the future during those earlier times (85). The authors also stress that the ideologies of the Chinese were a compelling factor as the barbarian nations were seeking impetus ways towards expansion.

The advantages of the relationship

On one hand, the relationship between the barbarian nations and China led to the rise of concepts which at some point elucidated that those Chinese rulers who learnt the rites of the barbarian people were treated merely as barbarians. On the other hand, those barbarians who downed their culture and adopted the Chinese rites were otherwise considered Chinese. The pragmatic demarcation between the civilized China and the uncivilized nations is an important part of self-identity of the Chinese that ran through the reigns of the pre-dynastic Kings Shun and Yu, who are considered legends.

The strategic position of the coast of China proved beneficial as the barbarian nations began their trading ventures. In addition, the enlightenment period that had been experienced by the Western nations reckoned for the search of new raw materials and a market base for the produced goods. The increased trade transactions with foreigners led to China to open up to the world nations who often perceived as barbaric. One significant advantage of the unfolding relationship with the barbarian nations revealed the ignorant and negative perception China had over the foreign nations. In this case, the relationship between China and the outsiders led to the former realizing that there was no might distinction of their civilization as compared to the barbarian nations (Wu 149). In addition, they were introduced to the realities of the world as for the first time they were presented with a world map.

Even though the foreigners were often limited to their trading transactions with the Chinese, more gates opened were opened, and China exposed to the world. Whereas China gained popularity since they possessed the raw materials sought after by the foreigners, they were categorically unified as they got access to ships and effective guns. Nevertheless, the relationship between the barbarian nations resulted in dire negative consequence; the relationship offered China long term advantages in the long run. Adopting western technology plunged China into debts but in the long term industrialized was embraced. Contact with the world also accelerated the spread of modern, diverse Chinese languages, culture and people.

Question B:1

Contrast of how life was during the Sung Dynasty and Three Kingdoms

The Sung dynasty is perceived important in the history China as breakthroughs in terms of culture and knowledge were achieved. According to Dumoulin, Heisig and Knitter (243), these dynasties were divided into two crucial parts; the Northern Sung (960-1126) and reputable Southern Sung (1127-1279). During this golden age, the Sung Dynasty boasted rapid and prosperous sound economic growth. Both Northern Sung and Southern Sung portrayed established economies with the latter specializing in agricultural production of food using improved technology. Life in the Sung Dynasty was perceived to be prosperous albeit the difficulties faced during its reign decline. The scientific breakthroughs were the epitome of the tremendous growth of this dynasty that was coupled with several inventions including; gunpowder and the compass (Lee vii).

The Sung Dynasty not only enjoyed the rise of early literature intellectuals, but also numerous artists who boasted the traditional Chinese paintings. The emperors who ruled in the Sung Dynasty respected and promoted painters of that time. For example, Zheng (7-8) reveals that even the emperors professional artists, led by Hui-tsung (1100-1125). On one hand, the breakthroughs witnessed in paintings led to printing of not only the paintings but also books. This further led to the embrace of education in the Sung Dynasty as both Northern and Southern Sung promoted the pursuit of intellectualism and knowledge. On the hand, peace persisted in the dynasty as other accomplishments such as industrial food production in the manufacturing sector were achieved. Sung Dynasty has also been recognized by many people as the leading dynasty in China’s civilization. The people of this dynasty were introduced to the use of paper money. Subsequently, this opened up China’s involvement in foreign trade (Lee vii-viii).

Despite the Sung Dynasty drawing too much attention from scholars, the Three Kingdoms also received attention as it nurtured great rulers. The Three Kingdoms in China rose after the decisive Battle of Red Cliffs immediately after the reign of the Hans Dynasty. This move was propagated by warlords and protagonists Cao Cao and Liu Bei (Leffman, Lewis and Atiyah 509). The Three Kingdoms were, namely; Wu, Wei and Shu (Sullivan 92). Although the Three Kingdoms were marveled and prized because of their great rulers, it was later identified and termed as a period of disunity. According to Lafleur (28), the reign of the Three Kingdoms was also termed as the period of division (220-589). This was because of frequent civil wars that left people in fear. Additionally Cao Cao and his successors failed to unify China and rendered the Kingdoms with frequent unrest.

The reign of the Three Kingdoms also saw corruption cases rise particularly in the Shu Kingdom. Lafleur (28) stresses that Wei’s failure in fighting other kingdoms did not bear fruits of unification rather it led to further disintegration. The waging of war between the kingdoms led to the increase of suppression cases by the rebels. Another inhuman act that persisted in the Wu kingdom implied that those who dared oppose the ruler were either brutally killed or exiled for life. It is in this respect that the Three Kingdom’s rule was described as the bloodiest.

It is therefore imperative to note that life was better in the Sung Dynasty during the reign of emperor Sung T’ai-tsu who greatly championed for literacy in the dynasty. Subsequent emperors; T’ai-tsung and Chen-tsung also devoted their efforts in enhancing what had earlier been established which led to the dynasty flourishing for a very long time (Gregory and Getz. 20-21). Unlike war that persisted in the Three Kingdoms, the breakthrough in science that saw inventions in the Sung Dynasty such as the compass indicates that life was comfortable in this dynasty. The improvement in agricultural technology was instrumental in the production of abundant food for people in this dynasty. The Sung Dynasty was, therefore, a better place for everybody who wished to pursue important objectives in their spheres of life. Such people included; merchants, artists, academic intellectuals, soldiers and farmers.

Work Cited:

Dumoulin, Heinrich, James W. Heisig (translator.), and Paul F. Knitter(translator.). Zen Buddhism: A History. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2005. Print.

Fogel, Joshua A, and Peter G. Zarrow. The Idea of the Citizen: Chinese Intellectuals and the People, 1890-1920. Armonk, N.Y: M.E. Sharpe, 1997. Print.

Gregory, Peter N, and Daniel A. Getz. Buddhism in the Sung. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2002. Print.

Lee, Thomas H. C. The New and the Multiple: Sung Senses of the Past ; [the Conference in Which These Papers Were Presented Was Held in January, 1997 in the Bahamas]. Hong Kong: Chinese Univ. Press, 2004. Print.

Leffman, David, Simon Lewis, and Jeremy Atiyah. China. London: Rough Guides, 3rd edition, 2003. Print.

Oborne, Michael W. China‘s Special Economic Zones. Paris: Development Centre of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1986. Print.

Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. Berkeley, Calif: University of California Press, 4th edition, 1999. Print.

Wu, Guo. Zheng Guanying: Merchant Reformer of Late Qing China and His Influence on Economics, Politics, and Society. Amherst, N.Y: Cambria Press, 2010. Print.

Zheng, Dekun. Studies in Chinese Art. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1983. Print.