Chinese Civilization and It’s Characteristics!
The people of ancient China were free from external influence. They contributed for the growth of a civilization which was indigenous.
The characteristics of this civilisation have been discussed below:
Art of Writing:
The people of China developed their own system of writing. At first, they drew small pictures on bamboo slips to express their idea. These pictures were known as ‘Pictogram’. With the progress of time, further improvement was made on pictures. Now pictures expend the idea regarding an object like fruit, serpent, river etc. or time like the dawn, noon, night etc.
This expression of idea was known as ‘Ideogram’. In the last stage of the improvement of the system of writing, the Chinese people took the help of sound to represent a picture or idea. That was known as ‘Phonogram’. After memorising many symbols, it was possible to write. The Chinese writing was different.
They wrote the symbols from top to bottom on thin bamboo slips and each slip was like a page of a book. At a point of time, the Chinese people used around 55,000 symbols. Around 4000 of such symbols are even used today in China.
Pen and Brush:
The Chinese people first invented bamboo pens for writing. They wrote on bamboo plates by these pens. Later on they began to write on silk cloth by using brush and ink. The brush was made of camel-hair. They prepared one type of coloured liquid and used it as ink. In this way, the Chinese people learnt to use pen and brush.
Ink and Ink-pot:
The flame of fire coming in contact with earthen pot created black particles, at its back. The Chinese collected these black particles and added gum and water with those black powder and prepared ink. This coloured liquid was kept in an ink pot. In the later stage, the Chinese people mingled such black powder, gum and water and prepared a mixture.
They dried up this mixture by keeping it under sunshine. When it became hard, it was broken into small pieces and preserved. Such small pieces were dropped in water. When these pieces dissolved fully, ink was prepared and used. They added flower perfume to the ink in order to make it fragrant. Thus, the Chinese people prepared ink in this process and preserved it in ink-pot.
The Chinese people are the first inventor of modern paper. Necessity is the mother of invention. To write on bamboo plates and preserve them for a long time became difficult for the Chinese people. They thought other way for making this process smooth. So, the Chinese pounded the barks of trees, rags, grass etc. and added water and gum to the pounded-materials and boiled the entire solution on fire.
Then they dried it under sun and prepared paper. Around 105 B.C., the Chinese had invented paper which was their greatest contribution to the history of mankind. Later on the Arabs learnt paper-making process from the Chinese people.
The people of ancient China had created a vast treasury of valuable literature. Although, Si-Whang-Ti had ordered for the destruction of ancient literature of China but he had also tried his level best to create new literature in China. Among the ancient literature of China. ‘The Song of the Old Farmer’, ‘The Son of the Felicitous Cloud’ and ‘The Five Classics’ are very famous. The greatest poet of China was Li-Tai-Po who produced 30 epics.
Another famous poet of China was Tu-Fu whose writings contained romantic ideas. That is why he was regarded as the ‘Keats of China’. In the First Century B.C. Su-Ma-Chin wrote the first history of the land and became a famous historian. Besides, the Chinese wrote several books concerning song, science, religion and philosophy.
Many such books have been preserved in the imperial library of China which throw light on the creative writings of the Chinese.
One does not know much about the education of ancient China. It is known that during the reign of Chu dynasty, education flourished in China. During that period emphasis was laid down on education from bottom to top. Primary schools and high schools were established in villages, colleges were established in district level and the only university was established in the capital for bringing excellence in education.
Education was imparted in the field of literature, Mathematics, warfare, chariot driving and so on. A student was inspired to build good moral conduct and lead sacred life through this education. There is no doubt that the Chinese were determined for the formation of a peaceful, healthy and law-governed society through education.
The ancient Chinese achieved excellence in the field of education. They were apt in arithmetic and geometry. They developed a lot in the field of astrology by observing the position of planets and stars in the sky. By sixth century B.C. the Chinese had acquired knowledge on solar eclipse and lunar eclipse. They prepared calendar and counted year, month and day. They invented 16 musical instruments including drum water clock and lute.
Medicine and Surgery:
The ancient Chinese were well aware about different limbs of a human body. They fully knew about the function of heart, liver and bile- cell. They knew how to treat fever, diarrhoea, weakness and blindness. They prepared powder from animal bones and used for treatment of various diseases.
The greatest contribution of the Chinese to the world civilisation anaesthesia. Through it they made a patient senseless and operated in his body. Later on, this anaesthesia was used in case of surgery as is today.
Art and Architecture:
The achievements of Chinese in the field of art and architecture are laudable. To protect China from the attack of the Hunas and Tartars, emperor Si-Whang-Ti had built the Great Wall of China. The great wall was 2250 in length, 20 feet in breadth and 22 feet in height. A fort of 40 feet high was constructed at the distance of 130 yards from the beginning of the wall till its end.
There was provision for staying of 100 soldiers in each fort with their arms. Of course, Si-Whang-Ti had been criticised for the construction of this wall by using the prisoners of war and labourers without paying them any wage. Still then, the Great Wall of China is regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
He also built many bridges, roads and dug many canals. In the second century B.C. a new era began in China in the field of art and architecture. During that period many tombs were constructed in China. Different scene like fighting in the battle field, hunting, animals, chariot, procession of men etc. engraved on the walls of these tombs speak highly of the art and architecture of the people of ancient China.
The Pagoda of China is unique in the world. It is a glaring example of Chinese architecture which draws the attaintation of the people of the world.
Glass, Pottery and Silk:
By second century B.C. the Chinese had already known about the use of glass. They prepared various household articles and equipment from glass. They used Chinese clay to prepare pottery of various types. They painted different pictures in pottery. The Chinese were number one in the production of silk. The Chinese silk had a great demand in Greece, Rome, Crate and other places of the world.
Mariner’s Compass, Gun powder and Tea:
The ancient Chinese people were first in many fields. For the first time the invented Mariner’s Compass which helped the sailors to determine the direction inside the deep sea. The magnet inside the compass indicated North and South direction. The gun powder was another great invention of the Chinese. In due course of time, this gun powder determined the course of history. Tea was another new discovery of the Chinese. Today it is used all over the world.
System of Administration:
The system of administration in ancient China was unique. King was the head of administration. He regarded himself as the son of god. No cabinet or council of minister was there to interfere in the administration of the king. His order was regarded as law in the country. Inspite of all these, the king was not tyrant. He resorted to many welfare projects for his subjects. Thus monarchy in ancient China was based on morality.
Trade and Commerce:
The Chinese were equal with other countries of the world in the field of trade and commerce. They carried on trade and commerce with the help of camels on land and ships on the sea. The Chinese artisans and merchants were organised in guilds. Silk, tea, gun powder, porcelain, paper, playing cards etc. formed the articles of export. Shell was used as currency upto 5th century B.C. During the rule of Shi-Whang-Ti gold was used as currency. They became prosperous by external trade.
The religious firmament of ancient China was far extensive. The Chinese were worshippers of nature. They worshipped the earth, heaven, sun, moon, stars and other aspects of nature. The earth god was named as ‘Si’ and the god of crops as ‘Chi’ by the Chinese. ‘Shangti’ was another famous god of the Chinese. The Chinese worshipped their ancestors by organising family feasts.
They did not offer any prayer to help the dead; rather they believed that the dead would help the living. For a long time these religions practices prevailed in China. In the sixth century B.C. drastic change came in the field of religion. The reformers like Lao-Tse and Confucius emerged in China who changed the religious outlook of the Chinese by their reforms.
Lao-Tse is regarded as the first reformer and philosopher of ancient China. He was born in 604 B.C. at Lisiyang in ‘Ku’ district of ‘Chu’ kingdom. His earlier name was Li-Erh. Later on he became famous as Lao-Tse or the ‘Old Master’. The tyranny, injustice and the moral downfall of men dwindled is mind. In order to save men from further fall, he wrote a book entitled ‘Tao-ti-king’ which means the ‘Virtuous Path’.
His teachings were known as ‘Taoism’, ‘Tao’ means path. He was in every sense, a pathfinder. As his teachings resembled with that of Gautama Buddha so he is called as the ‘Buddha of China’. For his deep philosophical knowledge, he is regarded as the ‘Plato of China’.
His teachings were as such:
(1) The entire world rests on spiritual power.
(2) It is managed by the direction of a great power.
(3) It is better to be detached from worldly affairs.
(4) One should lead a natural life. Unnatural or artificial life is a hindrance on the path of progress of a man.
(5) One should not acquire knowledge through education. Both education and knowledge are unnecessary for men.
(6) Man should lead a general and noble life because it helps to establish peace in the society.
(7) Man should be contented with whatever a little he gets because it frees him from desire and prompts him to lead a simple life.
(8) Man should not be attracted towards power, wealth and position.
(9) A great part of virtue is not to be greedy or attached towards a particular thing.
(10) It is wise to remain away from the society and lead a virtuous life.
(11) Instead of hatred, one should love a man.
(12) The life of a man becomes perfect when one is adorned with the qualities like serving the mankind, true thinking, toleration, responsibility etc.
(13) Lao-Tse told—”Silence is the beginning of wisdom. He who knows ‘the way’ does not speak about it; he, who speaks about it, does not know it.”
The teachings of Lao-Tse brought revolutionary changes in the field of religion in ancient China. Many followers of ‘Taoism’ kept themselves away from the society and led a virtuous life. With the progress of time, many superstitions entered into Taoism.
Like Buddha, Lao-Tse was worshipped as god. This undermined the importance of Taoism. However, the teachings of Lao-Tse had influenced the Chinese society for a long time.
Confucius was another great reformer of ancient China. He was born in 551 B.C. in an ordinary family of a small village of the ‘Lu’ province (modern shantung). His childhood name was Kung-fu-Tse. After the death of his father, he grew up under the tender care of his mother. He married at the age of 20 and left his wife at the age of 23.
He established a school and taught his students about history, epics, poetry and virtuous qualities. He was appointed by the Chinese ruler as the Governor of Lu. By the time the royal officers and nobles of China were leading luxurious life. Confucius was perturbed by this. He served the people and was admired by them. Later on, he became Chief Justice and Prime Minister. This made many nobles and officers jealous of him.
So, he resigned from his post and travelled throughout north-eastern part of China and preached his idea. His teachings have been reflected in ‘Five Classics’ such as—‘the ‘Book of History’, ‘Book of Poetry’, ‘Book of Changes’, ‘Book of Spring and Autumn’ and ‘Book of Rites’.
His teachings are as such:
(1) Character is the best wealth of man.
(2) A man should acquire the qualities like good behaviour, honesty, sincerity, politeness and modesty.
(3) The children and wives should pay respect to their parents and husbands respectively.
(4) The ruler should govern their subject, like their own children.
(5) A man will be regarded as a coward if he does not perform a deed which he considers right.
(6) He said—”what you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.”
(7) The true duty of a state is to guide and goad its subjects on the path of virtue rather to bring them under its clutch by exerting fear of law and punishment in their mind.
(8) One should love all but should maintain friendly relation with equals.
(9) One should pray and worship the ancestors.
(10) One should not disbelieve the persons appointed by him. In retrospect, one should not appoint a man whom he distrusts.
(11) Changes are not to be welcomed. One should regulate himself on the basis of old laws and practices.
(12) Everybody should earn fame by performing good deeds.
The teachings of Confucius were not simply religions doctrines; rather, those were the reflections of the total personality of a man. He tried his best to elevate the administrative procedures rather than bringing degradation in it. That is why he was called as an ‘Accomplished Sage’. He was loved by all in China and people called him as ‘Uncrowned King’.
Mencius was another great Philosopher of China. He was born in 372 B.C. He taught largely on state administration and economy. He advised people to practise the teachings of Confucius. He told that the duty of the state is to serve the people. He advised people to lead a moral life. He called up on the people to revolt and depose the kings if they failed to govern benevolently. He died in 289 B.C.
The contributions of ancient China to the history of the world were varied. The Great Wall of China built was Si-Whang-Ti was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Chinese were first to invent paper, gun powder and mariner’s compass. The teachings of Confucius, Lao-Tse and Mencius attracted the people of the world. The contributions of the ancient Chinese were simply marvellous.