Americas and Eastern Civilizations. Adapted from: http://intra.burltwpsch.org/users/rlee/apworld.htm. How do gender relations develop in early Chinese civilization?.
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In addition to the political and philosophical changes of the Warring States Period, there were also changes in the family and in gender relationships. In place of the clan-based kinship structures of the earlier period, the three-generation family became the fundamental social unit.
Little is known about the roles of women before the Warring States Period, although it is believed that women played public roles as shaman.
However, by the time that Confucianism became codified, the patriarchal family was solidly in place. Confucianism established the importance of hierarchy, and in the family, the dominance of men over women. Fathers held the supreme authority over the family, arranged marriages, and were free to sell the labor of family members. Men were permitted to have concubines, but only one wife. The most important duty of the wife was to bear male offspring to continue the family and honor the ancestors.
The concept of yin and yang represents the balance of the natural order. All things in the cosmos are in balance, much in the same way that men and women play complementary roles in the natural order. The male is the yin principle of active, bright, and shining. The female is the yang principal of passive, shaded, and reflective. The male is the sun, and the female is the moon, equal parts that combined make up the whole day.
For at least fifteen thousand years, people of the Americas lived in isolation from the rest of the world. This isolation distinguishes American development from the world’s other major cultural regions.
They had to face the challenges of their environment.
It has been suggested that the peoples of the Americas had fewer potential domesticates to work with than the peoples of the eastern hemisphere, and that the potential north-south orientation of the Americas made it more difficult for domesticates and technologies to travel.
In the Mesoamerican and Andean regions there was domestication of plants and animals, the development of trade, and the development of technology, which led to the rise of social and political complexity.
In Mesoamerica, corn, beans, and squash were domesticated, leading to dependable agricultural surpluses and resulting in craft specialization and social stratification.
Another development was the mining of important minerals such as obsidian, jade, and quartz.
In the Andean region the environment was a diverse combination of mountain, arid coastal plains, and dense interior jungles.
In the Andes unique artistic and craft specializations developed.
The domestication of the llama (the only beast of burden in the hemisphere) was important to the transportation of goods from one part of the region to another and also stimulated production.
The domestication of maize, quinoa, potatoes, the coca, and fruits, in addition to the abundance of fish and mollusks on the coast, provided a dependable food supply.
This diverse and reliable food supply laid the foundation for urban life and an integrated economy.
Many peoples in antiquity believed that the gods controlled the forces of nature and shaped destinies.
One way of communicating with the gods was to practice divination, thereby interpreting natural phenomena as signs of the gods’ will. In China, the shaman would read oracle bones, often a tortoise shell or shoulder bone of an animal.
They would heat the bone or shell and when it cracked they would read the message from the spirit world. In Mesopotamia one common form of divination involved the inspection of organs of sacrificed animals.
Other types of divination involved following the trail of smoke from burning incense or examining the patterns of oil when thrown on water.
These ancient diviners asked questions, predicted the future, and observed the astronomical constellations.
Remnants of this system of prediction and destiny remain in modern astrological practices, such as the daily horoscope.
The Zhou defeated the Shang around 1100 B.C.E. and built their empire on Shang cultural foundations. In order to legitimize and strengthen their claims to the Shang domain, Zhou kings devised a religious system where the chief god was referred to as “Heaven,” the king was the “Son of Heaven,” and the king’s rule was a product of the “Mandate of Heaven”—heaven’s ultimate authority to choose the king.
The Mandate of Heaven proclaimed that kings would have the backing of the gods, but only as long as they were wise and principled guardians of the people. Incompetent or otherwise unfit rulers—as the Shang had supposedly been—would have the Mandate withdrawn and be replaced.
Compared with that of the Shang, Zhou religion was more accessible to those outside the ruling elite.
The result was a separation of religion from politics, which allowed the development of important largely secular philosophies during the Zhou period.
The most prominent of those philosophies was based on the ideas of Confucius.
Confucius developed a doctrine of duty and public service that became the most influential philosophy in China. Confucius combined ancestor worship and the assumption that hierarchy is the natural order of the universe. He emphasized that everyone in society had a role to play with prescribed rules of conduct and ceremonial behavior in order to achieve societal harmony. He believed that, like a moral family, the government should be based on ren, or benevolence. His teachings emphasized benevolence, justice, loyalty, and dignity.
The Daoist (Taoist) took a very different approach to social harmony. The Daoist believed in passivity and taking minimal action. The Daoist understood that the world lacks any real meaning or absolute morality so all that really matters is the individual’s understanding of, and efforts to live in accordance with, the “path” of nature.
Both provide structure for order and emphasize compassion and a direction for ethical behavior that may have been more desired in an era of disorder and destruction.