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AP World History Essay

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Changes and Continuities in the Development of Government from 8000 BCE to 600 CE in China

China experienced a development of government from stateless agriculture societies and tribal governments to centralized rule with strong bureaucracies between 8000 B.C.E. and 600 C.E. However, the underlying concepts that formed the government, hierarchy and patriarchy, remained unchanged.

Around 8000 B.C.E., human beings entered the Neolithic period and the Agricultural Revolution began with the appearance of the first domesticated plant and animal in the “Fertile Crescent.” This domestication required far more labor force than the hunter-gathering society did. As a result of the Agricultural Revolutions, early settlements without government organization gradually developed into a more complex society. The tribal government consisted of administrators and strong male warriors and hunters, with large population concentrated in one relatively narrow area for growing crops, such as Jericho in the Middle East. These kind of Neolithic cultures, as well, developed in East Asia.

By the second millennium B.C.E., civilization based on agriculture had appeared in the northern river valley in China. The first dynasty, the Shang Dynasty, emerged in approximately in 1750 B.C.E. in the Huanghe River Valley located in the East China plain. The Shang Dynasty was succeeded by the Zhou Dynasty in approximately 1000s B.C.E. Due to the technological limitation of transportation and communication, the governments of Shang and Zhou periods was not centralized but depended upon local feudal artistocrats, or “zhuhou’s”, who enjoyed considerable autonomy and amassed large tracts of lands, wealth and military force. Consequently, many of these administrators were became independent rulers and developed their lands into their own kingdoms, which weakened the centralization of the Zhou family and caused long-term political fragmentation.

After several hundred years of political fragmentation during the Warring States Period, all of northern and central China was unified by Ying Zheng, who later called himself Qinshi Huangdi, literally the “First Emperor” and established the Qin Empire in 221 B.C.E. Although it only lasted 14 years, the Qin Dynasty was of great significance to history as it laid the foundation for the basis of centralized rule and bureaucracy used by later governments of China for two thousand years. Qinshi Huangdi enhanced his power through a series of policies including eliminating the old landowning aristocracies who controlled resources for possible rebellions and instead, administered the empire with local officials who reported directly to him. He also standardized laws which reinforced the administration, constructed vast road systems for military movement and access to distant parts of the empire, developed a universal form of writing and language for more efficient communication and administration, and maintained strict control over ideologies that posed as potential threats to the regime. With these policies, Qinshi Huangdi became the first emperor to successfully create a centralized empire in Chinese history. The empire establishing the governmental basis of China, however, was oversized. As a result, it soon collapsed after his death.

Nevertheless, the centralized system of governance did not collapse, but rather became consolidated in the Han Dynasty during the rule of Wu, a great and energetic emperor who devoted himself to the expansion of territory and centralization of the power, between 141 B.C.E. and 87 B.C.E. With the material and political foundation set by his father and grandfather, the ambitious Wu, was able to consolidate the power into his hands with a series of effort, similar to Qinshi Huangdi. He started a series of war expanding into both southern and western China. Moreover, he began to attack the Xiongnu in northern frontier instead of appeasing them as the first emperor of Han, Gaozu, did decades ago.

Wu also established a far more complex bureaucracy which consisted of a variety of officials responsible for different issues. These officials were managed by two prime ministers who were responsible for civil service and military affairs. The two prime ministers were supervised by another official so that none of them would be able to accumulate power and wealth to suppress the emperor. An examination method was utilized to select talented young men for civil services. Therefore, intelligent and talented men were gathered to support the central government. In addition to the military actions and official systems, a more crucial policy for centralizing the power and reinforcing the status of emperor was done through the promulgation of Confucianism, which emphasized absolute obedience toward the elders and higher classes, and hierarchy and honor of appropriate behavior.

The regional division of the Han Dynasty territory was considered to be one the most efficient in Chinese history. The entire empire was divided into approximately hundred provinces (jun) and each province was divided into ten to twenty cities (xian). These administrative divisions enabled crucial regional policies to be implemented effectively. Therefore, the central government was able to govern effectively. Although the prime ministers still held considerable power at this time, the government of China had been rather centralized and the bureaucracy had been well-developed.

In 220 C.E., however, the Han dynasty ended due to several rebellions organized by the lower class, who were discontent due to the fact that most of the farming lands were possessed by the wealthier upper-class. China then entered a period political fragmentation and chaos lasted for more than three centuries when each government of the several states were unable to take control of the empire because of the decline of centralized rule.

The next unification did not come until late sixth century, when the throne was taken by Yang Jian, a powerful general of one of the many states in that period in 581 C.E. A more mature bureaucracy with systematic election of officials by the civil exams and official systems with elaborate division of responsibility was established and perfected after 600 C.E. during the Tang dynasty when China reached its peak. The conflict between the emperors and the prime ministers continued and the emperors succeeded in suppressing the prime ministers by separating the prime ministers’ administrative power to a council consisted of officials responsible for six different bureaus. Two other officials responsible for decision making and decision examining were set to balance the power of prime ministers. The centralization of government and the development of bureaucracy reached a significant point during Tang dynasty and the Tang dynasty became one of the most powerful and prosperous empire at that time.

Despite these transitions toward centralized and bureaucratic government, with both unification and fragmentation, the dominant ideology of the government has always been hierarchy and patriarchy, which was probably also one of the reason why the government developed to be increasingly centralized. The East Asian civilizations are all based on agriculture which acquires intense physical works. Therefore, men turned out to be more important for production of food and other resources essential for survival and became dominant over women, later possessing the social standing of governors and administrators consisting the government systems. Besides, agriculture is also the reason why landownership became the scale for wealth and social standings, resulting in the hierarchy when the inequality of amount of land people own grew. The later adaption of Confucianism in Han dynasty which underlined the importance of obedience and hierarchy and the adoption of Buddhism after the late-Han dynasty by the governor, which encouraged people to give up desire also left an impact on the concepts of hierarchy and patriarchy

From 8000 BCE to 600 CE, China experienced a development of government from stateless tribal society to increasingly centralized administration and advanced bureaucracy while keeping a dominating ideologies of patriarchy and hierarchy. The unchanged ideologies and the developing form of governance were impacted as the concepts emphasizing obedience and hierarchy urged the government to be increasingly powerful and centralized whereas the rulers and governors utilized the ideologies to draw and gather more and more power.

Often, African Americans become the main characters of video games, and the only things they do there are thefts, violence and sex. In the same time, people who are fond of spreading stereotypes in fact know nothing about African Americans and their lifestyle. The media helps cultivate a lack of understanding of African Americans thereby only increasing the number of negative stereotypes. The case of Brown vs. the Board that appeared in 1954 showed the phenomenon of so-called “internalization of stereotypes”. The Supreme Court came up with the decision that “separate but equal” clause was unconstitutional as it violated rights of children by separating them by color of their skin. During the experiment when two dolls, with black and white skin, were shown to black children, and children were asked to point what doll was nice, pretty, smart and clean. As the result, most children pointed to the white doll.

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Works Cited

  1. Bulliet, Richard W. The Earth and Its People: A Global History. 5th Ed., Advantage ed. Boston, MA: Cengage Wadsworth, 2011. Print.
  2. Lv, Simian. Zhong Guo Tong Shi. Nan Jing: Jiang Su Mei Zhu Chu Ban She, 2015. Print.
  3. Qian, Mu. Zhong Guo Li Dai Zheng Zhi De Shi. Beijing: Jiu Zhou Chu Ban She, 2012. Print.
  4. Bentley, Jerry H. Traditions & Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. 4th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2008. Print.
  5. Henshall, Kenneth G. A History of Japan: From Stone Age to Superpower. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Google Scholar. Web.
  6. Huang, Ray. Zhongguo Da Li Shi. Beijing 1st. ed. Beijing Shi: Sheng Huo, Du Shu, Xin Zhi San Liien Shu Dian, 1997. Print.
  7. "HistoryWorld Timelines." HistoryWorld Timelines. Web. 27 Sept. 2015. < East Asia timeline>.
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